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fullsizeoutput_2f09My grandkids stopped in for a long visit. They are little tykes, just 6,4, and 2. Anything that Grandpa does that is just a wee bit funny, starts them giggling.

When they arrived, they ran into my arms for a long hug. Of course they took to their age and all talked at once. My Grandfatherly skills kicked in and I agreed to everything they were all saying.

If I had to I could deny everything and blame my bad memory or horrible hearing. Don’t worry, I would fulfill all my promises as they reminded me of each guarantee that we had discussed. In the meantime, their memory was worse than mine.

They each scampered around the house. This was their first time to our home. It was an endless array of new rooms, fascinating decorations, new toys, tons of niches waiting for the imagination of children.

I warned them that I had a helper upstairs. He was a friendly plumber making sure everything with water was functioning well for our very loved guests. “Be on your best behavior,” I urged them, “You don’t want to scare him.”

“Where is he?” they forced a calm on their faces and into their voices.”
“Oh, he’s upstairs. I believe I hear him in the bathroom that y’all are using during your visit. If you want, go on upstairs and say ‘Hello.'”

They scurried upstairs and I waited for the discovery. “Oh, Goong Goong! You’re funny!”

That’s the best reaction to a simple welcome for three lives that I love beyond words. Giving them a moment of levity after days of driving half way across the country to visit was special. Hearing these little lives laugh is more than a sound. It is the reverberation of the soul.

photograph by brucefong photography

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Have you ever wondered who the crazy guy is who set the alarm clock at 3:20AM with an ETD for 3:55AM? Yeah, it was me. It would take an hour to hit my rendezvous point and then to head to Galveston Island for a day of fishing with a buddy.

Once the two of us adventurers hooked up we loaded up our gear into his car. Then, it was another long drive to our next stop, bait camp. This time our long stretch was filled with great conversation.

A pint of live shrimp would do. Yes, we stood in line behind a dozen other hearty souls. Everyone was ready to chase their evening meal and fill their freezers with great food for the next several months.

We drove our vehicle on to the automobile ferry. The day began to wake up while we leaned over the rail and enjoyed the cool breezes and sounds of calling seagulls. Today the rising sun captured the silhouette of a shrimp boat trying to make a living for its captain and crew.

Hard work and daily work and very early work is the life of a shrimper. They were smart men, experienced men, and persistent men. Yet, they were at the mercy of how God orders the cycle of life of the decapod crustaceans. Some call them the broader category of these creatures: Caridea.

Fish like to eat them, so they just serve a particular purpose for me. We have often joked that we could quit fishing on a lousy weather or bite day and just cook and eat our own bait. No matter how many times we joke about it, we still laugh.

Now, it was time for us to cast our lines. Our first efforts paid off. Fish tugged and pulled. They tried to get away but when they took our bait, their destiny was sealed.

The few hours that we invested in the morning were filled with fun moments of fighting fish, marveling at the variety of species, and taking in the sunrise when we had a moment to reflect on the Creator’s provision both for food and for serenity. It was going to be a good day, a very good day. Any day starting with fishing made the day excellent and filled up the beginning week with only more good served up by the generous hand of the Almighty.

photo by brucefong photography

IMG_2894.jpegWhen a sight makes my eyes bulge, it’s worth a long look.

My friend’s ranch is a great place to relax and let the anxious feelings that build from perpetual responsibilities drain into the soil of Texas. Burdens concerning the lives of people, choices determining the future of our organization, and little foxes nipping at the grapes in the vineyard reach a critical point early each Spring. My calendar reminds to schedule vital down time in the woods.

The cool of the evening promised a good night’s sleep coming in a few hours. Quiet sounds of the country replaced the constant buzz of people, machines, and city noises. Birds chirping, the breeze soothing, and orange sun settling down on the horizon, performed their excellent massaging of my soul.

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Near the border of the ranch property, I found a perch that was elevated off of the ground about 8 feet. I climbed the ladder and settled into a comfortable folding chair. Now, I could enjoy the theater performance of the creator’s sunset. It was going to be beautiful.

That’s when the heavy hooves trotted in a growing crescendo behind me. Whatever it was, it was big. Slowly, I turned my head toward the thudding sound.

At a lilting quick trot a Watusi cow came into view around a low growing tree. It emerged from the guise of the boughs uninterested in a puny human. Instead, it had caught the fragrance of corn feed laid out for its evening snack.

She was followed by three other cows of lesser stature. They were huge animals with a powerful gait. The earlier decision to ascend to my perch was a very good decision in hind sight.

IMG_2899But, there was more. These four cows were merely the vanguard. The real beast made his way to the corn feed. He was massive.

My guess is that he would weigh in at 1400 pounds. His body mass clearly made him the dominant bovine. He was the bull.

As impressive as his bulk was, I was lost in the size of his massive horns. They were so large that the word “hoax” did enter my mind. When it strolled down the two track, it kept a cadence to the rhythm of his swaying horns.

I had no words. What a sight. I gazed in wonder at these Ankole-Watusi of unusual size. The Creator makes so things really big.

photos by brucefong photography

 

Unknown-1Walking up on an unsuspecting magnificent beast in the woods is not new in my experience. This has happened for me in many places and many times. But, the moment is never ordinary.

The Texas morning sun welcomed me to a new day. I was up and washed up before the sunrise. This way I could be walking in the woods and feel the splendor of a new day awakening.

It wasn’t long before the vestiges of the human settlement disappeared behind me. A few more steps and the trees and brush swallowed me up. Now, I was alone in the woods.

Something was running through the grass. There was more than one. I stopped and smiled.

The sounds confirmed that the scurrying was a pair of squirrels. They were doing their Spring thing. Yes, Thumper had it right. These little energetic rodents were “twitterpated”. Up a tree they raced. Dodging limbs and knots they disappeared in a thick clump of leaves.

My walk continued. Maybe I was lulled into carelessness. Frankly, even if I were ready, the explosion of a herd of pigs makes most humans quick to jump.

A 90 pound sow raced out of a brush pile. She was slicing through the grass, mowing everything down in front of her. A passel of cute piglets squealed, snorted, and grunted trying to keep up with momma. It made me laugh on many levels.

As that brood of pork disappeared into the tall grass, I froze. Maybe it was experience, maybe providence, or maybe hope made me do it. But, movement to my right directed me peer through the wall of flora.

It wasn’t the wind moving branches. Instead, several brown mounds in the grass a mere 50 yards away came into focus. The movement that started this visual moment was a massive set of antlers on the King keeping a steady eye on his harem. That gigantic crown  swayed gently but powerfully in the shadows cast by the trees.

The wind was in my favor. Plenty of trees gave me good cover. I moved silently to cut our distance in half.

Our creator masterfully designed this great bull, powerful, massive, and courageous. He rolled his head enough to rest his right antler on his back. It gave him a steady rest for his head and powerful neck. He was resting. I had enjoyed him enough. It was my cue to disappear and leave this herd undisturbed.

photo by brucefong photography

 

IMG_3208My family rendezvoused at a beach house on the Pacific Coast. After I climbed out of the car, I was captivated by days long ago. This wonderful journey was once common on my schedule, when I lived in the West.

This is a special treat. It brings back great memories. My plans changed with this nostalgic vacation.

Once the family was settled with luggage and rooms, I grabbed my book and stepped out on to the balcony of the second floor. Naturally, I paused for a moment to remind myself why I was there. The sight was gorgeous; but there was more.

A comfortable chair beckoned me with silence but with a promise. The ease would be much more than just what I felt. I even caught myself smiling.

Settling into the comfortable cushioned chair, my legs naturally lifted on to the equally as comforting ottoman. My book opened to my furthest progress. There was no diminishing of my smile.

While the words begged to be read. I instead lifted my eyes to watch the rolling surf. Synchronized with that sensational view was the sound.

Hearing the roar of the mighty Pacific was hypnotizing. It was instant relaxation. Nothing demanded concentration, intentional planning, or obligatory activity. Just listen and the rhythmic beating of the surf melts away all concerns.

I remember loving this amazing atmosphere. It is a wonder that I had forgotten how relaxing this phenomenon is. No wonder this is a fixation for vacationers around the fruited plains.

Need to relax? Go visit the Pacific Coast. Take a good book, drink in the sounds at God’s 24-7 free spa.

Actually, let the sounds engulf your tension-filled life. It will unknot your soul and smooth out your spirit like few experiences can. The Mighty Pacific promises to mellow you out.

photo by bruce w. fong photography

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photo by BWFong

Our morning stroll abruptly stopped. The brisk cool air was heating up fast. Houston is like that.

In our minds the destination was paramount. Add some steps to our day and then head home before the temperatures got into the bake-range. Houstonians survive the summer that way.

This moment was different. We could add a few minutes to our new-day stroll for this purpose. “Cute” is an easy choice to prolong our walk, even on a day when temperatures threatened to soar into the record books.

A ring-tailed lemur was catching its morning rays. It must be still be “ok” temperature-wise since he has a permanent fur coat and we humans were created with a water-cooling system for such days as this. I much prefer the “dress-for-it” option than the “one-clothing-fits-all-weather” designation.

The lemur big eyes met ours. There was no fear indicated on its end. We were just filled with curiosity on our end. What a fascinating creature the Creator formed in this special animal. Better than a picture or video, seeing one of these special animals face to face makes me appreciate the wonder of creation.

It spied some of its fellow lemurs. There was some chatter going back and forth among them. Maybe they were talking about the humans who paused in front of their paddock.

Do lemurs have a sense of humor? Ha! I chuckled thinking that they may be telling jokes about the Homo sapiens. Maybe “cute” or “wonder” never made it into the lemur conversation.

The sun shifted as it kept climbing to its apex for the day. Uncomfortable heat drenched my bare arms and legs. It was time to head home.

Our visit to our zoo was coming to an end. The lemurs comical look was our finale. Smiles lingered with thoughts of these comical creatures in uncomfortable fur coats on another hot Houston day.

photo by bruce w. fong photography

FullSizeRender-2This was going to be a particularly difficult day.  Pressures at work, a long line of demands had been queuing up for months, responsibilities were pushing the limits of our sanity.  My bride and I were comparing notes and it was going to be a tough day to start the work week.

On top of our regular routine we have a major trip coming up in a matter of weeks.  Details of overseas travel are horrendous!  We had to find time to invest in that preparation.

Departure times and dates are already getting tangled in our scheduling.  Today we would have to make sure we made those adjustments.  Double booking ourselves is an inconvenience for everyone and could easily undermine our efforts to be effective at all of our responsibilities.

We both heaved a deep sigh of dismay, loaded up our car with our bags for our day and drove off into the dark morning for our long commute.  My thoughts were lost in our need to get over the financial hump of needed changes, travel expenses and time investments.  If I could I needed to think about relieving my bride of the pressure she was feeling.

Now, we discussed possible drastic changes in our circumstances.  What dramatic changes could we live with if that meant the relief of life pressures?  There were no easy answers.

Then, we rounded the arching on ramp to the Interstate freeway.  The Houston eastern skies were waiting to cut short the threatening discouragement.  In front of us the Creator was putting on a show.

Clouds burst out of the east, pointing to the west.  Behind those finger shaped clouds were the indescribable colors of the divine palate, splashing reds, oranges and yellows in balanced effect.  Blue skies in the background were pushing the loud colors , pressing the daylight splendor.

We both smiled at the interruption to our concerns.  The God of all gods was breaking into our worrisome souls.  It was sensational sunrise.

He was starting the day off with a splendid artistic masterpiece.  In massive swathes of colorful strokes that were changing by the minute, we could only watch as He finished up the waking of a new day.  No words but just splendor.

We got the message.  What did we really have to worry about if He was in charge?  Now, we had a day to look forward to instead of dreading.

photo credit: yvonne fong photography

 

IMG_2165When I checked the weather, the data took my breath away.  Today was a scheduled bicycle ride day.  In Houston the weather for bike riding makes year-round peddling a possibility. This news, however, could toss a wrench in my day-off plans.

The temperatures were down to 45 degrees.  In Houston terms that is very chilly.  A 5 mph wind calculates into a wind chill of 42 degrees.  On a bicycle with the increased riding speed of 15mph that would feel more like 40 degrees. Brrrr!

Now, it was time to think and remember where I stored my cold weather riding clothes.  40 degrees is about my limit for comfort when it comes riding a bicycle outdoors.  Anything colder means that I have to carry an ice pick and stainless steel flask filled with hot chocolate.

My base layer was set.  All of the gaps for exposed skin were closed up.  Good socks fit into my riding shoes.

My riding jacket was ideal for this kind of weather.  Of course my long finger riding gloves were essential.  My last item, however, eluded my searching.

That is one of those rarely used items that you relished on your last cold weather ride.  But, my short term memory was no better than my long term memory on this search mission.

I looked in boxes upstairs, downstairs, garage, closets and miscellaneous containers.  There sure are a lot of miscellaneous containers around our house.  Each one is filled with really useful and valuable stuff.  One of these days I am going to sort out and organize all of it.

So, I paused to think.  Where would I have put that one last cold weather piece of clothing.  Ahah! With a quick step into the garage and a look inside my gear for motorcycle riding, I pulled out that special items, Balaclava!

No, it is not a Middle Eastern dessert.  There are no nuts or honey with this piece.  Instead, it is made from bamboo, making it tough.  It is light weight and just enough coverage to make it comfortable for my head not to freeze during a cold weather ride.

Now, I was ready.  I pushed off and settled on to my bicycle seat.  Soon I was getting into a rhythm for riding.  The exposed parts of my face felt the chilly temperatures bite into my tender skin.  But, the specialty clothes that I wore kept me very comfortable.

It was a reminder that the world that the Creator gave to us has its down sides.  But, with some great choices a careful pattern of dress could easily protect us against the elements.  Keep on enjoying His presence and the good feeling of a brisk morning ride.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

 

 

 

IMG_5785Stormy weather has been inundating our state.  Torrential rains doused our lands with cloud bursts, accompanied with lightening and thunder.  In an instant, our three lane streets turn into one middle lane bordered by swift streams of water looking for a place to go.

Not everyone is blessed to live on high ground and in a planned community that installed public utilities to direct massive amounts of water away from homes.  Our drainage system and open culverts keep our community safe from flash floods.  Yet, our hearts go out to those living near the swollen parts of the San Jacinto River and Trinity River.

Thousands have been evacuated from their homes.  They have been given shelter by family, friends, neighbors and churches.  Muddy currents have swept away property, soil and vehicles.

Gratefully, public servants have been on high alert.  They have responded to cries for help.  Alert and courageous, they have ventured boldly into rising waters to rescue lives of people, pets and livestock.

South of Austin, our state capital, hundreds of homes have been washed away.  Whole streets have been wiped out and only slabs remain where houses once stood.  Lives have been lost and many are missing.

On a busy travel day for the gathering of families for Memorial Day, we all fear for those whose loved ones are unaccounted.  Flash floods and water over roads catch the most alert drivers by surprise.  Six inches deep is all the water that is necessary to carry away a small car.

My telephone sprang to life on Sunday morning.  It was not a text, email or phone call.  An emergency alert came through loud and clear.

Tornado Warning: flashed on my screen.  This was not a watch but a warning.  Added to the alert was an order to seek safe shelter immediately.

Thankfully, the warning was only for the next 4 minutes.  I could hold my breath, pray, rest in the LORD and stay safe in our home.  No tornado appeared; we were grateful.

Even as I write this another severe thunderstorm is blowing over our home.  We can feel our home shake when the thunder claps overhead.  The rain pounds against our house like a machine gun spitting out rapid fire rounds.

Yet, the God who created our world is protecting all whom He blesses with favor.  His power is far greater and His mercy is even more generous than a flash flood.  I will put my faith in Him.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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