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Green BookCuriosity drew me to see this film. The trailer caught my attention several times. It was odd that no one in my circles had been talking about it.

Nevertheless, my far-from-perfect instincts would prove worthwhile on this occasion. I saw the movie on an outbound business flight. It moved me.

During a typical working weekend, I found myself reminiscing over episodes from the story between Dr. Shirley and Tony. Some of those thoughts were reflective. Others were humorous. Yet, others found me marveling.

I deliberately chose to watch the movie a second time, just a day later, on my homeward bound flight. Certain that my initial reflections were reenforced, I recommended it to my wife. We watched it together. That was my third viewing in a week’s time.

When the key characters lived through many life moments, tension ratcheted up. Each individual, except Dolores, had glaring shortcomings. Bigotry was layered in both men. Insecurity leaked out in triggered scenarios. Scarred personal identities became more apparent over time.

Comic relief eased the natural uncomfortable crescendo in this racially charged story. Repeated moments similar to these took a quiet but powerful tone. Relief emerged as transformation. Personal prejudices genuinely eased as friendship emerged. Acceptance was easier than could be imagined. Courage was shared, winning respect. Long suffering grew stronger.

We could only wish for this story line to be repeated as a national or international phenomenon. At least it was true for these two men. It was after all a true story.

Maybe the truth in story on film will touch others to wonder about the possibilities. Perhaps more friendships will stir because of it. Friendship is a powerful human link. There are subtle movements of love, Christmas, letters, and romance that add dynamic texture to the narrative.

I for one could applaud this film and highly recommend it. The story is sure to touch the souls of many. Quite possibly could it shrink the ugly tide of racism to a noticeable degree?

Obviously a film cannot do much to transform the landscape of wicked human behavior. But, people might be attracted to the hope of such change and join in it themselves. Who knows what miraculous moments can happen when genuine friendship discovers true love and righteous people mix it up with a true story.

photo credit: Google image

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SarasotaIt is the day before I step on to a stage in a church where I have never been. Most likely I will never return to this church in the years to come. Such is the pattern of this unique speaking circuit.

I am a preacher. There was a calling in my life when I was in college. God moved in my soul to step out in faith to be a teacher of his Word.

Yes, I have always had a day job. More accurately it was a regular job.  Many times it was related to the church or supportive of the church.

Then, the invitations came. Churches needed a retreat speaker. Pastors needed a Sunday pulpit supply. Conferences needed a keynote speaker. Organizations need someone to speak at their annual convention. Every request was an honor.

By far the most were one-off invitations. The friendships that were begun ended with an email exchange, an occasional Christmas card, and once in a while a renewal gathering in some city far away from home.

This weekend is another one of those special honors. Hundreds of men are gathering at a church tomorrow. They are hungry for a word that will stir their souls. Many will come searching but will not have the words to express that longing. It will be up to me with the help of the Holy Spirit to put words to those feelings.

I am looking forward to that task. It is the greatest privilege to be a part of the eternal work of the Spirit of God and to realize that it is happening at the moment that it is. Nervous? Eager is more like it.

Google image

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

We don’t have time to add concerts into our jam-packed calendar. But, we make time. It is worth it.

Getting up close and personal with gifted artists is the focus on experiences that enrich life. There’s no use staying busy if there is no room to enjoy the life that we are living. Just to exist has its merits. But, experiencing life beyond just existing is sensational.

IMG_2700Andrew Petersen came to town. He was our guest artist for our seminar students at DTS-Houston. This was a gift for our hardworking students as a respite in the final semester of the academic year. 

It was a closed-audience concert. We were able to get very close to the performance. None of us left with any disappointment. Rather, we unanimously sensed the satisfaction of an intimate ministry served to our souls.

Peterson wove his personal story into his songs. He interacted with the audience, asking for favorites. His personal banter made this concert extra special. 

Then, Steven Curtis Chapman also came to town. That was an open concert. He took the stage trotting on to an enthusistic ovation. 

Unknown-3His story unfolds in his songs too. What God has taught, provided, and enriched his life were episodes pervasive in his music. All of us laughed, wept, and wondered as he spoke as much as he sang.

On the drive home, my wife and I conversed not just about SCC’s music but even more about his story. We felt the deep challenge. Live music is so effective. Listen and live is the beautiful impact from the stage.

photo by brucefong photography

Unknown-10The season has begun. It happens this same time every year. People look forward to it. Businesses gear up for it. Celebrations are planned around it.

You can even dress up for this kick off. It seems like every where you turn people are getting into the spirit of this annual spectacle. Of course the sight, smell, and taste buds join in the chorus.

No, it’s NOT baseball. Nor is it March Madness. Churches get involved but it is not a religious holiday.

It is crawfish season! Yes, MUDBUGS. You can do it yourself if you have a pot big enough for these morsels. Helpings are measured by the pound.

Make no mistake about it. This is not fine dining. You can’t worry about the splatter or the residual that is leftover. A serving of crawfish is as much about the experience of eating. It takes some effort to enjoy this meal.

Some of my West Coast friends shake their head as a refusal to choose this cuisine. TheirUnknown-11 brief curt rejection is punctuated, “Too much work!” It takes some effort but if you are enjoying the company of good friends and the conversation is extraordinary, then this is the perfect meal to enhance the talking around the table.

Just do it outside. It is an expressive kind of dining. Spilling, splattering, popping pieces around the area is a part of it. Make that a part of the sharing. Lay out a drop cloth on a picnic table and dump the entire pot of mudbugs, corn on the cob, red potatoes, and garlic sauce on top of it.

Pull up a chair. Tuck in a napkin in your neck. Laugh, tease, tell stories, and love on your family and friends. This kind of crawfish feast will be the memories that makes life worth reliving.

God likes it when we seal the deal with each other by breaking bread. In this case it is cracking shells. But, the satisfaction on every level is at its very best. Try 2 pounds and soon you’ll be up to 3 and loving everyone and every bite.

photos by 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

Unknown-1How long does it take for a local church to plan an annual Missions Conference?

Clear Lake Chinese Church of Webster, TX first reached out to me in July 2018. Their pastor told me that they had been planning their 2019 Annual Missions Conference for March, nine months away. I had to keep scrolling through my calendar to see if I was free to accept their invitation as their keynote speaker.

Before I accepted the invitation, I have several decided practices that must always precede my official answer. I don’t mean to sound super spiritual but I do pray about such invitations. Really.

My prayers for God’s guidance are not new. Regularly, I am praying about opportunities to serve the Lord who gave me a life-long calling for ministry. During these times of intercession I am asking for peace, enthusiasm, and guidance.

Then, I seek the counsel of my personal team. These are a collection of amazing and godly people who help me with varying perspectives. We discuss details. For example, where is the venue? How many times do they want you to speak? What is the purpose of the gatherings? Does the theme fit within your area of specialization? What is the demographics of the expected audience? Do the logistics lend themselves to your current obligations and commitments?

The final decision to accept or reject speaking invitations is ultimately left in my hands. However, I know that when I include these others in my decision, it automatically garners a huge amount of prayer support when I do accept these engagements. To end God’s sovereign administration never ceases to amaze me. He knows when my calendar if open. By far I accept more invitations than I send my regrets.

UnknownOver nine months I read with interest how the church was formulating their Missions Conference objectives. They wanted to have their church family challenged to “Reach the Nations in their City.”  Wow! That theme captured my heart.

Plotting out my study time in the course of fulfilling all of my current duties as the Dean of DTS-Houston, I made notes, studied exegetical issues, considered theological lessons, matched clarifying illustrations, and prayed for a powerful and clear presentation for this conference. During the course of our communications, I ascertained the receptivity of the audience, imagined definitive niches of people types, wondered at how the challenges of the Mission objectives could be presented to each season of life.

The time came. The introductions were given. I stepped up on to the platform and months of preparation unfolded. We connected. By God’s grace some amazing life-changes will be new habits of life for many.

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.

 

Version 4

Courtesy on the road is a Texan marvel. I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.
The past state of my birth and many historic life chapters is also known for its aggressive drivers. It is not a casual activity on the Left Coast. Rather, driving is a demonstration of status, a way to flaunt social success, and to make sure that attention is arrested from the common folks.
To use the turn indicator is an invitation to be victimized. It’s a consistent habit for me. Of course I check my mirrors before I use it. I have experienced the consequences it too often.
When I merge or change lanes and use my turn indicator, I have seen traffic behind me actually accelerate to crowd my move. Once in my chosen lane, the driver behind me often is growling aggressively at me. My move apparently inconvenienced him.
I have observed that many vehicles on the road have broken turn indicators. Those drivers move with dominant intent. Small gaps, barely a car length, become targets for the pushy drivers.
Here is my most peculiar observation. One of the more expensive auto makers doesn’t even install turn indicators in their vehicles. Of course I would never want to disrespect that brand but the common initials of these premium automobiles make them the choice of a person wanting to shout “success”.
They power their way down the freeway, dodging the rest of us as if we are a nuisance. Some times we all wonder or at the very least wonder if those drivers want us to see their brand while being cut off or passed while we motor our way at posted speeds.
Texans are very different. I remember my first days on Lone Star freeways. When I engaged my turn indicator, cars slowed down to let me in. I was shocked. Then, I smiled.
Now, I enjoy the pride of a people who are all plagued by heavy traffic. My neighbors still use courtesy to let other drivers make their way through our ribbons of asphalt. All y’all use your turn indicators out there.
photo by bruce w. fong photography

UnknownMy adopted home town of Houston is huge sports city. After all, we have 6 million people who call Houston “home”. It’s also the fourth largest city in the USA. Our fair city only trails New York, L.A., and Chicago in population count. It leaps to second place as an entertainment center, just behind New York City.

In addition Houston leads the nation with its harbor, amassing more international tonnage than any other port city in our great country.  Houston is also the most ethnically diverse cities in the USA. Add to these notable items, one of the leading medical centers in the entire world and the city rises as a world-class city.

Can you imagine all of the related conversations that fill up the air space in city limits? Nevertheless, like the rest of the country, honest, helpful, edifying conversations have taken a massive hit. Argument and disagreeable conflict have replaced honest dialogue. People are readily offended and quick to disagree.

Sports is an enjoyable alternative. Within the massive geographical region of Houston, there is a camaraderie supporting our sports teams. At least that is true as long as they are winning.

Right now, is professional basketball season. The Houston Rockets are doing well at the moment. Superstar, James Hardin, just tied the legendary Wilt Chamberlin for 40 successive games with over 30 points. That’s just “Wow!” Basketball is not even my favorite sport, but I marvel at such skill and of course smile when a Houston team is making that kind of international news.

May I observe a contrast on these two arenas of conversation? Politics and related issues generates anger, even hatred. We can’t carry on a descent conversation in that realm because the ire erupts into insult, offense, and bitterness. At least in sports within a fan-base there is a collective and collaborative interchange of delight, agreement, and celebration.

To keep this spirit of cheer alive I keep my personal minion close by and decked with an appropriate sport cap. Right now, my smilin’ minion is sporting a Houston Rockets cap. He makes me chuckle whenever I see him, hear his buddies over the media, or read a cartoon. My smile reminds me to always keep conversations civil, helpful, and edifying. Let’s hear it for uplifting conversations!

photo by bruce fong photography

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