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Three days lay ahead of us.  Driving is not a favorite pastime of mine, so I have to plan and endurance schedule.  15 hours of driving make me pause long and hard.

Now it was time to get out my internet map planner and figure out reasonable distances to travel up to my final destination.  If I could drive an average of 5 hours per day, then I could manage.  My travels would target Westcliffe, Colorado.

We left Houston and planned to arrive in Ft. Worth, TX.  It was tough for me.  I got so sleepy when we started.

Then, I got sleepy after lunch.  Rats!  I should have eaten less or even skipped that noon day meal.  Now, I broke a lifelong habit of fasting from coffee.

Twice in my life I had consumed a cup of coffee.  Once was when I was in finals week during college.  Late night studies strained my consciousness.

Another cup was downed during graduate school finals week.  Yuck!  It tasted so bitter.  I didn’t like it.

After those two episodes, I did not try java again.  People have always looked at me in disbelief.  All five of our children drink coffee but neither my bride nor I do.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Sleep drove me to pull into the Golden Arches.  I stared at the menu not knowing what kind of coffee to order.

Finally, my eyes landed on “iced coffee”.  Hey, maybe that’ll be a good option for me.  When the McDonald’s worker asked me what I would like, I took a stab into the dark and order some flavored iced coffee, regular size.

We hit the road again and I sipped the beverage.  Yuck!  Memories of the same bitter flavor came flooding back.  The good thing was that I did not like the drink at all but the reaction was strong that I wasn’t sleepy any more!

That hotel was a great sight.  Sleep and a restful stay gave me renewed stamina to start driving the next day.  With one day of struggle under my belt the second day came easier.

Texas scenery changes every hour.  The elevation and the flora and fauna give the journey an amazing kind of fascination. Early struggles of tough driving moments were behind us and now long hours of driving was part of my conditioning.  Our road trip planning was paying off as a great journey.

 

Austin & San Antonio vacation 2013 154

Psalm 42

“For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. 1As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 4These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. 5Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed† within me? Put your hope in God,† for I will yet praise† him, my Savior and 6my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. 7Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. 9I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” 10My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 11Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

This popular psalm of encouragement has cheered the hearts of the saints through many generations.  I include myself in that population of believers who have had their souls stirred by these inspired words.  There have been low points in life when mean nasty people or painful circumstances have clouded our view of eternity.

Then, this psalm fills our mind with a redirection to thirst after His presence in our lives.  With His company we find a solace that salves the hunger and quenches our thirst.  The deer that is in the image of the psalmist may very well be the Fallow Deer.  It is indigenous to the Israel.

The Fallow Deer with its spotted, chocolate, black or white coat is a beautiful animal.  It can run at spurts of speed up to 30 mph.  Striking palmated antlers are sported by the bucks of the herd.  Think of this deer when this psalm crosses into your mind.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Christmas 2014 078There is an amazing blend among brilliant engineers, skillful craftsman, highly trained pilots and a country that stands behind them all.  I had read about President Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One as a part of his Presidential Library display but I had no idea that it was on the inside.  When the doors opened and there it was I was impressed.

The wing tip was just out of reach.  But, the marvel of aeronautical physics was not elusive.  To imagine that so much metal and so much weight could actually fly was mind-blowing.

In this aircraft the President of the United States and his first family would swiftly travel from one key event to the next. Those who designed this aircraft did a great service to the Reagan’s.  Safety and efficiency are all over this airliner.  Its sleek appearance was also reflected inside in the accommodations.

What we do not see are the marvels of structure under the skin of this powerful airplane.  The electrical maze alone that was carefully crafted so that it would not only be dependable but also durable makes me shake my head in wonder.  Men and women who were very good at what they do, implanted their pride in the construction of this fine product.

Pilots and their crew were meticulously trained.  They would after all be the frontline to serve and protect the President of the United States of America.  Each of these personnel would be trustworthy, diligent workers and loyal to the nation and its highest office.

Jelly beans were prominent in the plane.  There was a cheer in Reagan’s life and those around him felt it, joined in on it and appreciated it.  For him personally the jelly beans helped President Reagan stave off the cravings from the habit of cigarette smoking that he had overcome but kept on keeping at bay.

Whenever I am in a jetliner and that massive amount of weight with equipment, structure and passengers takes off, I continue to marvel at the laws of physics.  God established them.  They are dependable.

When a special passenger is on board, we trust those same laws and the skills of those who follow those laws for a safe flight.  This display of Air Force One is a reminder of how important safety is, how trustworthy are the laws of God and how those who depend and obey Him will be blessed.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_5066It was not that long ago that I would cringe whenever it was time to head to the gas station.  My full-sized pick-up truck only went 17 miles for every gallon of gasoline that it consumed.  The ride was amazingly comfortable but it required 31 gallons of fuel which added up when prices were hovering around $4.00/gallon.

On a long road trip a gasoline stop was a major financial decision.  Who wants to take out a second mortgage just fill up your tank?  Fifty bucks is a lot of money but that is only half a tank of gas.

When the tank is run down to the blinking warning light, my wallet screamed for mercy.  The numbers on the gasoline pump kept rolling and turning.  Some gas stations had to install new pumps to accommodate a three digit purchase.

After years of struggling through the necessary inevitable decision I traded in that favorite rig for another.  It was hard to let it go.  Like most guys who own a truck, we love our faithful stead.

It did not take long, however, to enjoy the downsized version of my new compact truck.  Now, my pickup truck is delivering 23 MPG.  That is a huge difference.

When I roll into the gasoline station, my financial advisor is no longer rendezvous with me to check for inadvertent gasoline drips lost on the pavement.  No longer does the gasoline attendant dress in a tuxedo.  Charitable organizations are no longer holding out gas cans to be filled in lieu donations.

Recently, I was shocked to see gasoline prices drop below $3.00 a gallon.  That brought some immediate relief.  I could actually pay cash again!

Then, the prices caught popular attention on social media when it dropped below $2.00 a gallon.  We were all filling up and wondering what in the world was happening.  When something makes the “trending” list of social media, we all pay attention.

The latest prices are still capturing out attention.  At $1.77 how can we possibly go any lower?  It sure feels good in the pocket-book.

For all of us who scrimp and save and spend frugally, this is a little windfall that makes our busy lives find a little respite.    It is sometimes the little blessings that bring amazing relief.  We have lived so long under gasoline prices that have turned us into grumpy people.

God is watching over all things.  Even the simple things like the cost of fuel.  Counting our blessings includes the smallest things in life.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

1237515_10152571662945975_7245741172097343646_nWe are two thousand miles away from our grandson, our only grandchild.  Ministry is my calling and profession, which does not allow for a lot of extras for frequent flights across the country.  When we do go it is a treasured journey filled with invested moments of smiles, laughter and deepening love.

The marvel of being a grandparent pushes my personal spiritual pilgrimage as a follower of Christ to a new dimension.  For years I soaked in the intricate lessons from the Scriptures about a three generational legacy, a vertical legacy.  Pouring into our children was a blessing but now considering being a part of the spiritual vitality of a third generation is mind-blowing.

For sure when God gave us the great news of each child being conceived and then born, they were sensational moments.  Adding “parent” to our resume is an unparalleled delight and privilege.  The next step to sharing in the next generation is one that we are far removed yet deeply engaged.

Playing with our grandson stirred new moods in my soul.  How could be that I could be so much in love with a human being with whom I have never even had one measurable conversation?  When our grandson first hugged my knee, I  knew that affection could be immeasurably more stunning than the joys of marriage or parenting.

Now, every day while thousands of geographical miles away, my bride and I look hungrily into cyberspace for new pictures and videos of our little guy.  We are always tickled when we receive and email invitation to “Skype” with our grandson.  This latest one was a memorable treat.

He has learned sign language along with his growing months toward conversation.  On this cyberspace conversation our kids asked our grandson to show the sign of a “baby”.  He cradled his two hands palms up together and rocked them back and forth.

It was cute.  Each time he has communicated with sign we have been impressed.  But, we were not prepared for the next presentation.

Our kids then asked him to show where the baby was.  He immediately pointed to our daughter’s womb.  Oh, yeah!

Grand baby #2 is in the oven.  By God’s wonderful grace the third generation legacy will expand next summer.  Words will never express the joy of this anticipation.

The depth of blessing from our Heavenly Father are too generous.  The breadth of blessing is so great.  I am a very happy grandfather.

photo credit: KJB photography

Travel for ministry is not uncommon in my schedule.  Most of my time is spent in my home town but air travel is very visible in my calendar.  Yet, I still make mistakes.

Sometimes I forget to pack some necessities.  Once I forgot socks.  At other times I have forgotten toothpaste, toothbrush, razor or comb.

Now, I have a bag with travel items that I keep handy for all of my journeys.  So far I have not forgotten that bag.  However, I have forgotten to refill several of those important dispensers or replace those empty containers.

I have a check list that helps me.  A busy schedule keeps deadlines and departures on the edge.  The routine is getting honed to something that is common.

Nevertheless, no matter how hard I try there are danger zones primed for a mistake.  When I arrive at the airport parking, my individual world turns into an instantaneous stressful moment.  In front of me driver is unsure of where to park, slowing down an entire line of cars.  We all are waiting to move into a slot and jump on to the airport shuttle.

Finally, I get to pick a spot while the shuttle moves up.  Now, the shuttle and all of its passengers are waiting for me to climb aboard.  I grab my bag and don my backpack.  Then, I hit my remote to lock the truck and climb into the shuttle and we whisk off to the terminal.

The terminal is ahead while all of us are jostled around the tight turns to enter into the drop-off zone.  We are all reaching for our cellphones to check our gates.  That is the moment when shock and awe grip my heart.

I forgot my phone.

It is back in my truck.  When I left from home I connected it to the power cord to ensure a full charge for the journey.  The rushing around to catch the shuttle distracted me.

How can I survive without my cellphone for four days?  How would I double-check my schedule, call up my confirmation numbers, make appointments, send text messages to key people or take pictures of the weekend adventure?  This was a very unsettling discovery.

Yes, I prayed.  I asked God to calm my spirit and sort out this travel wrinkle.  Just like the Word promises, He gave me calm.

I smiled.  This would be an adventure.  He would be there for me and He does not need a cellphone to stay in touch.

IMG_4474Meet Norm.  He is a St. Bernard.  When he lumbers into a room, he goes wherever he wants to go.

Most of the time Norm moves very slowly.  He is a big dog and if he moved quickly there would be a lot of stuff that would go flying.  More than once I was whipped by his tail.

If something excited Norm and he launched into a frenzy, anything that was not nailed down would be in orbit.  Reclining across the room was no problem if Norm thought that I would grant him a good scratch behind the ears or a massage down his ticklish lower back.  In a matter of seconds he could close the distance between me and his  rug of choice.

Getting to see Norm was a bit of a journey.  United Airlines put me on a puddle jumper from Denver to Laramie.  It was a dependable aircraft but it moved faster than any dog, even faster than one as big and long-legged as Norm.IMG_4455

At the Denver airport I climbed aboard an Embraer 120 Brasilia.  It is a twin-engine  turboprop.  This spiffy commuter plane seats up to 30 people.  It has a top speed of 378 mph.

When the Pratt and Whitney engines fired up, the noise in the cabin bordered on being uncomfortable.  The vibration inside the cabin became very noticeable.  But, once the powerful engines lifted us into the atmosphere, the noise and shaking calmed down.

Swiftly the ground fell away.  From a stand still we were racing over the Wyoming prairie with speeds that would take us Laramie in just over 30 IMG_4447minutes.  That is very fast.

What is even faster is the Airbus 319 that whisked me away from Houston.  Crowding 134 passengers aboard and winging away at a blistering 511 mph, this jetliner left no doubt what speed is all about.  The comfort was splendid and the views were above the clouds.

From the bustling world-class city of 6 million people, to the quiet prairies of Laramie, Wyoming to the cabin where Norm rustled around, speed became less and less of an issue.  If Norm could shuffle around on occasion just to get more comfortable, then there was a lesson for me.  It was time to take a break from the busy life.

A fast-pace was no longer in order.  My heart rate seemed to enjoy the pace of the 8,400 foot elevation just fine.  This is relaxation at its finest: slower, more relaxed and restful…ah!  Thank you, God.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

 

Copy of IMG_4502Along the unimproved roads of the Vedauwoo National Forest are long stretches of boundary fences.  They are hewn from the local trees by skillful lumberjacks.  These boundaries are not elaborate but instead they are simple in design yet sturdy and durability.  Over the years they withstand the brutal weather of the Wyoming wilderness.

These territory markers captivate the eye.  I am drawn to follow their endless lengths  that disappear into the woods.  The forest swallows them up.

Tall grasses lick the lower rails.  Foliage from bushes, trees and weeds crowd the guardians of property lines.  Yet, with little maintenance these consistent fences just keep on existing, marking off territories and keeping mostly humans from trespassing.

There is a test from the wilds of the backwoods.  Can these man-made structures hinder the wildlife and make the existence of the wilderness fauna feel unwanted stress?  Will human intrusion strain the wanderings of the beasts of the field?IMG_4571

The prairie goat, Pronghorn Antelope, saunter up to these fences.  A herd of these goats then slip underneath them without hesitation.  They seem to big to manage this maneuver but having witnessed it many times I am a believer.

Deer hardly blink at these obstacles of split timbers.  They can leap over them from a standing position.  When God made these graceful creatures, He knew that a jumping ability as well as eyesight, olfactory sensory perception and speed were great assets to them.

Elk for massive and powerful creatures.  A fence like these can be jumped over or smashed.  They are creatures of determination and know where the bypass areas are.

IMG_4570Small animals like rabbits, badgers, squirrels or chipmunks use the fences as a hiding place or freeway or shady refuge.  None of these little creatures whine about any intrusion but instead accept them as part of the terrain.  Humans, who are created in the image of God, should be so flexible.

Time marches on and the weather beats against the wooden fences with every passing season.  Instead of wearing out the fences change color and sport a weathered look.  They actually look better and more fitting with the environment over time.

Man’s intrusion into the wilderness is not always bad.  They have been ordered by the Creator to exercise dominion over creation.  It is good and right when man enters the world of the woods and leaves a good trail of his visiting the wilderness.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

IMG_4503Sometimes we question our eyes.  That really can’t be true.  Someone must have set that up to fool us.

If a natural phenomenon occurs in nature but we just are not used to seeing it, we stare in unbelief.  When a wonder of creation invites us to examine it, we gaze and observe.  Then, we process what we are witnessing.

My ATV was in park. I had to stop.  The vision of the rock formation was so unusual. IMG_4542

It was large.  Yet, it looked like a giant child had a building block set and put together a few stacks of boulders and left to set what else might capture his fancy.  Boulders that had no other reason to be resting on the edge of another stone, ready to fall off and tumble-down to the earth looked like someone perched them there just to smile at the travelers who would stop and stare.

The formation was both majestic and symmetrical. Against the bright blue Wyoming skies its orange, rust and white colors gave a picture of a delicious dessert following a feast of a meal.  Smooth surfaces belied the effect of the wind and waters that beat against it for centuries.

IMG_4564On the ground were the turning aspens of the Autumn.  Deciduous trees gave green highlights setting off its sandstone neutral colors.  Lifeless tree trunks and skeletal tree trunks splayed their empty branches and limbs towards the sky etching a history that the harsh weather would take life as well as entertain it.

Some time when no human eyes or ears could witness a change, the wind, water or shifting of the earth would send some of those boulders tumbling to the ground below.  The sound of a small avalanche would echo in the woods.  A few animals would tense, flee and rest easy soon after.

The stones will stop rolling.  Dust will settle back to the ground.  Then, the shape of the formation will be altogether different.IMG_4567

Change comes slowly to rock formations.  God has assigned different changes to take place at different times.  No one can stop change from happening.

Life is like that.  Each day there are small shifts.  Eventually, a significant movement scatters all of the possibilities.

As life moves on, so change makes each day develop according the plans of the Almighty.  The result is amazing.  Other see and wonder how it all happened.  For followers of Jesus there is a simple smile and response, “It is the will of the Creator God.”

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

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