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In my years of enjoying the movies, horror flicks never appealed to me. I’ll even admit to looking away when horror trailers are a prelude to the movie that I pay hard earned money to view. Certainly, I am not going to pay money to voluntarily be scared.

Today is the day after a hard-fought election. The vitriol has been unparalleled in modern history. Certainly, in my long life on earth I have never personally lived through such a contrast of political views.

Spin is the norm. Now, spin is difficult to distinguish from out-right lies. When lies are repeated often and loudly, it is very annoying.

Logic is lost to bias as well. I have read too many arguments that attempt to explain positions, identify groups, dissect biases, and categorize truth. Will our strong preferences erupt into angry violence? I hope not.

My words will not do much to sway opinion, wills, or preferences. But, that is not my objective either. I have a single mandate from the one that I follow. In obedience to that highest calling, I have a singular message of love. Ah!


Christmas 2014 077

My life has been embroiled with leadership roles for most of my adult life.  The challenge to unite people, square off with great threats, achieve great gains for the organization and to resolve to press against the ever-present vehemently vicious critic are all a test of the metal that a leader is made.  Reading and watching great leaders in action inspires me to keep leading with determination.

One of the great leaders in my life time has a Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.  Visiting this museum and library of this leader was on my life list.  I was able to check it off with great satisfaction.

After entering the gorgeous grounds with breathtaking views, I remember pausing long at a portrait of President Ronald Reagan as he walked down one of the halls of the White House.  There is something special about leadership that can never be taught and this President possessed it in generous quantity.  It is called “leadership presence.”

There is very little about “leadership presence” that is external.  Instead, it is what exists in the soul of the man or woman who drives their choices, directs their initiatives and most of all manages the values the define their leadership commitments.  Reagan’s beliefs marked his life and leadership.

When a leader faces pressures and attacks, he or she must be able to draw from their own convictions to make choices and decisions to protect and advance the best interests of the organization that they lead.  That is what leadership is.  Anticipation and reaction based upon a consistent set of values that others can follow and embrace.

The influence of this President was also balanced with a whimsical ability to engage the lives of international leaders from around the globe.  His control of power was never carelessly dismissed but blended with discernment, resolve and vision.  He thought the best of this nation and devoted himself to lead it to become better and more positively influential in the world.

If blessing is accompanied with responsibility, then this great leader acted well in light of the extraordinary blessings given to the nation by Almighty God.  He could win the respect and cooperation of the opposing party, sooth the angry critic or stand stalwart against the belligerent opponent.  President Ronald Reagan was a uniquely effective leader and one of the most remarkably gifted Presidents in our nation’s history.

photo credit: brucefong photography

The grounds of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley were warmly welcoming.  All of our now adult children joined us for this first-time experience.  Our first grandchild added a lot of joy to this visit.

It was breathtaking to take in the expanse of the 100 acre mountainous Southern California setting.  The land for this special memorial center was a private donation.  We paused several times to enjoy the vistas before we ever entered the library.

Our family gathered around the elevated bronze sculpture of President Reagan that greeted all guests.  His cheerful smile made me smile with all of the confidence that he poured into his leadership of our great land.  I remember the confidence that I hoped my children would someday sense as young Americans.

Inside of the museum we sat down to view a welcome video with words spoken by Ronald Reagan himself.  He told us of his intentions when he first stepped into the office of the President of the United States.  They were historic inspiring words.

His hope was to restore the American spirit.  He knew that the problems facing the USA were grave.  Our national economy was in trouble.

American morale was dangerously low.  Hope in the American dream was waning. Our national election gave Ronald Reagan our trust to change things back to the exceptionalism that was woven into the very fabric of this great country.

At the inauguration ceremony Reagan’s swearing in was done using his mother’s Bible.  Today that Bible is encased in the library opened up to 2 Chronicles 7.14  ”If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal the land.”

His mother inscribed in her Bible a thought for the day: ”You can be too big for God to use, but you cannot be too small.”  Did she have some inclination that this would help chart the course for her son?  It is a valuable piece of wisdom for any who would enter a position of notoriety and influence.

With every display and around every corner there were insights into what made this man into a remarkable leader.   Reagan would realign America with the great blessings in its founding.  He would also influence the world to find a better course toward peace.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4620Pastor Gregg Matte sensed a deep-seated burden from the Lord.  He has been challenged by the Spirit to make prayer a reality in his personal daily practice for over the last year. In his intercession God impressed on his heart a rallying of the pastors of our city to gather and to pray.

He sent out an invitation for pastors to meet for prayer in his office on a Thursday in November.  The simple agenda was to prayer together for the city of Houston.  Remember this gathering for pastors and ministry leaders was planned a month and a half in advance.

The week of the pre-planned event, the city of Houston became world news.  Houston’s mayor had sent out a subpoena to five local pastors.  Each of these ministers were ordered to hand over all sermons that spoke on homosexuality or mentioned the mayor.

The Christian community was shocked.  But, they were not shocked into compliance or frightened into submission.  Instead, the pastors rose up and stood together.IMG_4619

Senator Ted Cruze joined the pastors who gathered in Pastor Gregg Matte’s office.  He never knew that this was part of God’s providential plan.  But, the time was perfect.

The media came to cover this galvanizing event, historic in American church history.  Pastors normally humbly compliant and supportive of our God-ordained governmental officials, drew a line in front of their pulpits.  No governmental intimidation or control over the message of God delivered in the name of His Son would be tolerated.

IMG_4621Over 50 pastors packed into Pastor Gregg’s office.  He directed the prayer session to pray for our mayor, protect the church and move on the local government to rescind their directive of control over the pulpits of the city.  We broke up into groups of 4-6 and prayed up a powerful time of intercession and supplication.

After an hour of prayer we moved downstairs to stand in solidarity before the news cameras as Senator Cruze addressed the media.  Clearly he spoke courageous words of freedom, liberty and religious autonomy. God’s servants had a right to speak the words of God without governmental oversight or control.

God’s calling was the sole directive in the words spoken in American pulpits.  Furthermore, it was a liberty written in our own Constitution.  The scene of pastors from different denominations, various ethnic backgrounds and multi-generational was powerful.

They stood together with the common bond of Christ among them.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4020My visit to this remarkable place was not brand new.  I had been here once in the past.  A year ago during the opening month, I was here with the pressing crowds.

This time the visit was much more enjoyable.  The lines had shrunk to our scheduled window printed on our tickets.  We wanted to catch a look at the additional wing of the George Bush Presidential Library.

On our first visit the crowds had packed the museum.  We skipped the Oval Office wing due to the very long lines.  This time we got to the museum close to the opening hour.

We skipped the opening sequence of pictures and videos.  43 traces his entry into the White House.  He shares the events that shaped his Presidency.

The next stop was the initial years leading the nation.  Laura’s focus on literacy and George’s past with baseball was fun.  We lingered here again as we did during our first trip.

IMG_4021When we rounded the corner determined to visit what we missed a year ago, our swift walk slowed to an eventual halt.  In the center of the display were some of the twisted I-beams retrieved from the rubble of the Twin Towers destroyed during the 9-11 attack on our country.  Pictures, videos and audio presentations swirled the deep feelings from that horrible day.

The words of President George Bush defined so much of his leadership and one our nation’s rare moments of unity.  Together we drew together as a nation.  Politics were quieted.

Yes, the haranguing between Washington D.C. professional biased parties drummed the cadence of a nation that would stand together against an external threat.  Our nation even gathered for prayer and services that called on the name of God.  Hymns were sung.

Evil people who launched a wicked lethal attack against innocent civilians had polluted the soil of our nation with their dastardly plans.  Terror had taken advantage of a free nation and free people.  There was no bravery or chivalry by these who stole, plotted and murdered.

My eyes scanned these old pieces of twisted steel.  I listened to President Bush speak to our nation and the world.  He spoke on our behalf and promised to do his duty to bring all of our nation’s strength to bear against the cowards who unleashed an ugly cowardly act of war on our country.

Always remember.  This picture of steel will be in my mind forever.  My spirit is stirred.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Cannon Beach Parade 2011 020Today Old Glory takes center stage.  She is ready and fills her role with vigor.  As a symbol of sacrifice for freedom, stanchion for liberty and beacon of hope these flags will flutter throughout our country and call all of us citizens to celebrate what we all enjoy today.

This is a good celebration.  It is a needed recognition.  During this special day the elements of a divided people quiet down and what we share in common rises to the level of attention.  Each of us is reminded of why we can share great cheer.

July 4, 2014 could be a low water mark if we let it.  When trouble surrounds us, danger heightens or distractions claim more notoriety than they deserve Americans can discern and decide.  There is no quit, no “give up” nor any “throw in the towel” in Americana.

Blessing has been imbedded in our nation’s very core.  No one claims that we are better than any other people or country.  However, we humbly acknowledge that we have been given great privilege.

This recognition is American exceptionalism.  We did not generate it ourselves.  It was given to us and we are grateful.

When blessing is a part of your life you do not flaunt it or insult others because of it.  It is what we elevate as a fuel for our humility and generosity toward others.  Furthermore, we correct those who mistakenly criticize it as arrogance.

The USA has been shown great favor in its history.  Great people, stunning circumstances and remarkable turn of events in history have no explanation other than the unmistakable intervention of God’s gracious and kind hand touching our country.  Who would not celebrate such goodness?

Our recent history has tested our great nation.  Trouble in the world has hurt American families.  Squabbles among those in a position to lead have discouraged many.  Debt has loaded the minds of the responsible with concern.

Yet, this nation has not buckled.  It has not given up.  Voices have not been silenced.

That is why we can still celebrate today.  Liberty gives allowances for those who have different ideas.  Freedom means that contrast in initiatives can be explored.

Our vote gives us the variation of choice.  Exceptionalism shows us how strong the fabric of our people is when the breadth of pursuit is allowed to express itself.  We respect the rules and laws that give others a chance.

Nevertheless, the people keep speaking up.  The moorings of liberty have limits.  Tolerance is not acquiescence.

Keep strong America.  Gather your strength once more.  Hold on to the treasure of blessing.  God gave it.  Let this gift be at the heart of keeping us strong.

Happy Birthday, USA!

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_1780Several people gave us directions to our faraway destination.  We politely listened to everyone’s contribution.  There was no shortage of advice on what route to take.

Getting us out-of-town was not much of a problem.  All of the directions had similar turns, landmarks and freeway numbers. I have lived in Houston for 8 months and know which way to go to leave town.

Arriving at the precise destination was a little more tricky.  People gave us three different towns to enter into our GPS.  I tried all three.

My GPS did not recognize any of those addresses, nor did it link any of those towns with is store house of geographical sites. I was getting a little confused.  Finally, we opted for an intersection that we knew we needed to find and make a Westerly turn.

I was thoroughly enjoying our country drive.  We were travelling in a Northerly direction toward Livingston on Highway 59.  The Houston flat lands transformed into undulations.

Pine Forests grew with every passing mile.  Wildlife began to make their appearances.  The sun danced between the boughs of the trees.

We turned on to a Highway just like the primary instructions guided us.  Our Texas paper map matched our bearings.  Soon we would see our destination on the left, the Southern side of the road.

Our arrival time left us with a lot of extra time.  Knowing that we had time to enjoy our surroundings, we continued West.  That is when I dramatically slowed down, safely coming to a halt in the tiny parking lot of a peculiar building.

It was like we were thrown back in time.  I fully expected that a hitching rail for horses once was out in front of this U.S. Post Office.  A blue drop box was on the corner of the highway, giving locals a landmark to get ready for the turn.

Of course Old Glory flew proudly on the flag pole.  She waves over every US Post Office building.  It is as much a landmark as a symbol of our great nation.

The rustic clap boards that gave this historic building its Western charm show the weather from decades gone by.  Now, a modern ramp to satisfy A.D.A. requirements is part of the facility.  The front covering is warped giving personality to this structure.

Maybe the barred windows tells of its wilder days.  Without any fanfare or neon signs, it has a business sign and its obligatory zip code.  Charming, simply, charming.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_1717April 15 is not a favorite date on anyone’s calendar.  It is more than a deadline.  It is more like a doomsday foreboding boogeyman ready to pounce.

D.C. doesn’t help.  All of the vitriol on the Hill annoys most of us hard-working Americans.  Those are the guys using words to confuse the general public to hide raising taxes.  Hey, how come all of us are watching our expenses, cutting back on vacations, scrimping on trips to save on our expensive gas bills while the lifestyle in D.C. is booming?

Well, whining doesn’t help change the government.  It does give a lot of relief while collecting receipts, reconciling documents and double-checking deductions.  My calculator is solar-powered, so at least I don’t have to pay for new batteries.

Most of the year I spend a great deal of energy on being positive.  I look for reasons to be cheerful.  Joy is under some rock out there.

Preparing my taxes is simply a matter of addition.  It is a lot of addition.  Piles of receipts have to be organized and tabulated.  No one else can do it. It’s a solo task.

During the year I try to keep organized.  My file system is ready to catch a handful of receipts whenever I throw them in my cabinet.  I graduated from separate shoe boxes decades ago.  Nevertheless, the sporadic task is very similar.  Now, with the deadline within sight on my calendar I plod on through my addition like a weary traveler slogging it through deep Michigan snow drifts.

Often I pause and remember the great fellowship that those receipts represent.  Sometimes it was hanging out with a fabulous staff.  Other times it was spending time with people who were guests to our church, men to talk to about the next steps in committed living or encouraging members who needed some shepherd time.

But, alas, the IRS is not interested in the back story, they only want the bottom line.  There is a number that they want.  I want to give it to them.

Time to push on, add more numbers.  Summarize more categories.  Funnel numbers down to one final addition.

It will come.  I will get there.  Eventually, the organized files will spill out the final sum.

Hey, look at this.  I remember when we met with those people and talked late into the night.  It was fun, deep, meaningful…hey get back to addition.  The deadline is closing in.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Whew! It’s finally done.  The 2012 presidential election is now history and for at least four more years we don’t have to struggle to find a way to breathe under the bombardment of political ads. 

I haven’t met a single soul who is missing those commercials.  But, there are so many who are relieved that it is over.  Nevertheless, that ugly blotch of Americana is replaced by another.

Maybe it is the freshness of the vitriol that makes this campaign appear to have been particularly nasty.  No doubt at the height of the posturing by both leading candidates would make a visitor from another planet wonder if these are the two worst human beings on the face of the earth.  Of course everyone believes that it was the other side that started the attacks.

Two representatives from the opposing sides were on a post-election television show.  One asked the other if he had any regret for taking the “low road” during the campaign.  His quick response was to remain in attack mode and charge the other with being the mean-spirited one at an even lower level than he had ever recalled.  My only thought, “Oh, brother.” 

What is also difficult is to hear the rhetoric that follows a particularly vicious campaign.  Suddenly, the language is gracious, positive and endearing.  Promises to reach out, unify and grow that nation is filling the airwaves.

A change in rhetoric doesn’t erase a far more powerful element of believability.  Isn’t trust based upon a consistency of truth?  Suspicion, slander and anger are not the expressions of truth, are they?

It is not a matter of disagreement over issues that can easily maintain variations of opinions.  America is great enough to be the home of multiple cultures, perspectives, lifestyles and even religions.  But, unity is not about vilifying those who are different from us. 

For me it is a matter of Biblical values that must remain at the forefront of my choices.  God’s choice of what are the important matters is what counts for me.  Issues of life, righteousness and eternity are uncompromisingly a part of my choices.  Government should not venture into redefining what God clearly has laid out for us.

I love my country best through my loyalty to the one and only true God.  My faith in Him who has given me life is without compromise.  His truth, His love and His values are what I teach, believe and follow without compromise. 

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

For a long time I have hoped to visit a Presidential library.  History gets muddled in the spin from the media and pundits.  Citizens of our great nations are almost afraid to expression appreciation for any public figure, dreading the ire that will pour forth from the gaping mouths of throats dredging up junk.

Now, away from the limelight and living the quiet life of a private citizen, George H. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, is passing his final days with his family.  Volunteers at the library speak so warmly of this first couple.  A number of them called them “real” people.  They are touted as full of warmth and joy.

I asked the President where he turned for guidance during troubled times.  He told me that he turned to his faith where he never failed to find solace, courage and encouragement to keep on leading.  Personally, he added that it was family that counted the most.

Then, he also wrote clearly that he wanted to add friends to that short list.  He repeated the trio with confidence.  When times were tough he found that his faith, family and friends gave him all that he needed to keep encouraged to do his duty.  It was succinct and potent.

Thinking deeply, he quoted Lincoln, “Everyone who serves as President must spend time on his knees.” 

As the life of this remarkable man unfolded in his museum, I wondered how he would portray his failed attempt for reelection.  He had a great deal of success during his first term.  But, the odd third-party intrusion tipped the scale toward another winner.

Even in disappointment he said that he never looked on the Presidency as an entitlement.  He did his best, he was not successful at his reelection but he was not bitter.  Simply, he said they went back their house in Texas and kept on living and making a difference in the lives of people where they could.

Does humility count?  Can an effective leader be honorable both in service and retirement?  Once the political rhetoric dies down and people can return to their humanity, can good people still be good once again?

I have looked into the eyes of the critical, the wicked and the self-absorbed self-righteous who believe that their opinion has value and defines the truth.  But, once their worst is done, good people keep on making a difference.  They who are good keep on helping others.

photo credit: brucefong photography