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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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

FullSizeRenderEach time God moved me from one ministry to the next I made the same petition through prayer.  I asked God to give me a love for the city and direct my steps to encourage others and impact the lives of people. Now, He has had me here in Houston for three years.

Our prayer was the same.  When my bride and I drove in from the West, we asked God to give us a love for the city.  As time has progressed we are falling in love with Houston more and more.

Each day as I began my hectic schedule I pray again that He would direct my steps to encourage others and impact the lives of people in this fastest growing city in the USA.  Over 2,000 people move here every week.  The prosperity of the state and the flourishing business climate of Houston attract thousands.

Some of the largest churches in the nation are here in Houston.  They span denominational lines as well.  When attendance exceeds 2,000 we all stand amazed!

Now, each morning my bride and I make our commute into work.  On one of the off ramps we are often greeted with a great view of the Houston skyline.  It reminds us to pray for and love this city where so many people reside.

In the greater metropolitan area 6 million people call this city their home.  Truly this massive population  represents a great field that is white and ready for harvest.  The Gospel is not just a fad for people who concentrate on talking, this is a place where the Good News is shared and lived out.

As the sunrise lights up the city, I rehearse my duties.  People fill up my calendar.  Students, colleagues, visitors and guests are spaced apart from each other’s appointments so that I can give them the attention that their interests deserve.

His brush strokes are colorized, better than the real buildings of colorless concrete and dull building materials.  It is as if the Creator is blessing the city with a touch of His creative hand that man cannot come close to matching on his own.  That contrast is fine by me.

A new beauty is ready to bloom in our city.  When the Father decides to bless our city with a special touch of His gracious hand, Houston will forever be changed.  Lives will take a new eternal course and the new life in their hearts will spread to family, friends and colleagues all because of love.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone 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

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

Every news media outlet was buzzing over the release of the movie “American Sniper”.  Some touted it as a fantastic portrayal of patriotism, liberty and American pride.  Others vehemently condemned it as an exploitation of war or a misrepresentation of snipers as heroes when in the warped opinion of the critic they were in fact cowards. A few even claimed it was of such poor cinema quality that it did not deserve any attention at all.

Admittedly, I was shocked by the animated negative opinions.  Now, I believe that in a nation that protects the freedom of speech, these critics have a right to their opinion.  What was stunning to me was that these vicious views would be directed to oppose such self-sacrificial lives.

I was reading the book when the movie debuted.  Through each chapter I was tracking with Chris Kyle’s life, moments of maturing, struggles with family and horrific episodes in the battlefield.  War was not glorified but devotion, commitment, family and country were.

Clint Eastwood directed the film.  I thought that he captured so many moments of fear, frustration, courage, conflict, joy, encouragement and family.  In a matter of seconds Eastwood told the story of many pages with a single take in the film.

Despite the critics I learned about a man whose sacrifice and skill keeps my liberty safe.  My life has been protected by Kyle’s service.  I for one am very grateful to him and to his family.

I am left wondering how a movie theater in the second week of its release is so full.  If there are pundits out there who insist that we believe and adopt their negative and critical spirit, then why are so many turning away from their stinging words and going to see the movie?  In my mind there are many Americans who love this country and lift up the military with respect and appreciation.

It was not just  the courageous deeds of Chris Kyle on the battlefield.  His wife Taya sacrificed too.  Her steady care for their family during Chris’ deployments were a testament to the family courage.

She was there to help Chris find a way to let go of the war.  It had so captured him that the commitment to let it go and really return home was a much a part of the message of the book and film as was his faithful service.

I heard Taya’s moving words at Chris’ memorial service.  They touched  me as did the movie.  Thank you to the Kyle family for your service and sacrifice.  God bless you and God bless the USA.

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

Cannon Beach Parade 2011 007 Everybody loves a parade.  That age-old adage of Americana does not need proof from statistics or polls or historical analysis.  Instead, it is a phrase that describes a universal truism; this country has a pride about it that is felt by the citizens who line the streets of parades in rural USA and major metropolitan cities.

When the drums start their rat-ta-tat-tat and the brass blare out a Souza march and the sirens of the local fire engines sound their presence, the people along the parade route rouse themselves with expectation.  Children began to dance naturally.  Sweets are rationed out by parents.

There is plenty of applause from the adoring crowd.  It is an American custom to enjoy a parade.  Traditions flourish with the marching units all directed by the parade marshal.

One such tradition is the lead unit escorts the color guard.  The American flag leads the parade.  Veterans carry the stars and stripes.  We honor them and they honor our national symbol.

In the days gone past, the people often stood when the colors marched by.  Some covered their hearts with an open hand.  Other marching units waiting for their turn to enter the parade stand at attention and salute the honor guard as it passes in review.

Grey hair spills out from the hats of the veterans.  But, they are not just the elderly doing what no one else wanted to do.  They are the heroes of the past who risked life and limb to fight an enemy who threatened to take away our freedom.

Now, as survivors and veterans, they meet with fellow soldiers.  They encourage each other through life.  For the rest of their lives they are lifted up as the best representatives to carry the flag that they carried in battle.

Does everyone really love a parade?  I do not know any hard percentages or numbers validated by one of the Big 5 accounting firms.  However, the notion that a parade is filled with the cheer of fellow Americans who risked everything so that we could have a parade is enough for me.

I marched in my share of these grand displays.  Some were small town homey gatherings.  Others were filmed in front of a live audience for national television.  In every case it was a privilege to feel that we are a nation under God who appreciate our liberty won and protected by our veterans.  Thank you to each and every one of you.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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

 

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