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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_1426We were created to live according to a cycle of work that takes a break from the daily routine and then rests.  God designed creation to function with a Sabbath rest included in our weekly routine.  There is no legalistic basis to rigidly observe a specific day of rest any longer but the principle of a day of rest has never been rescinded in the Bible.

My calendar is typically very full.  My normal work week starts early and ends late.  A two digit-hour work day is more usual than not.

Most of my colleagues rarely see my routine.  I will pass multiple shifts in a single day.  Often when I see them, I simply flash them a smile.

My years on this earth have taught me a lot about myself.  I can actually feel the need to find a respite.  An urgency of the soul whispers that I must look for a break and get away.

Once I scheduled time-off in my calendar, I guard it.  Just committing to an appointment gives me the final measure of endurance to finish my schedule.  Then on the appointed day I am packed and off to a destination to rejuvenate my soul.

The morning of my single day of revival began long before the sun came up.  All of my gear was stowed where I could retrieve anything that I would need for my day of solitude.  At a rendezvous point, I met my guide.

Robert pointed me to my destination.  He gave me the lay of the land.  Now, I could hike and roam and explore what the Creator had left for us to enjoy.

The sunrise was glorious.  It was like coming alive after a long and arduous workout.  Relief was welcoming like releasing the barbell at the end of a rigorous training session.

Our sun lit up the woods where I wandered.  Green grass, healthy trees and a backdrop of an endless sky with crystalized clouds surrounded me like a canopy easily designed by His creative finger. A natural smile erupts on my face while I pause from my hiking and take in expanse, beauty and wonder of His creation.

If you haven’t been in the habit of working hard for six days and then resting or doing something enjoyable for a seventh, then give it a try.  After a while the rhythm of life will make you far more productive and deeply appreciative of the life you live. Really!

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_1287Have you visited the mighty Pacific Ocean?  It is unforgettable.  There is something remarkable about this massive body of water and how it impacts the land that is home for all of us human beings.

Countless people flock to the shores of the saltwater expanse.  They play on the beaches, marvel at the power of the shifting currents, take advantage of the teaming life below the surface and find an incomparable respite every evening when the sun sets with a unique masterful display of color.

There is something else about the ocean that leaves a mark on our human memories.  Along the shores, up in the hills are the vestiges of another power common on the ocean.  It is the wind.

Temperatures shift and start the air moving in powerful layers from one direction to the next.  God set this in motion with the creation of the world, currents not just in the waters but also in the air that keep alternating directions.  It is the wind.

Tall fir trees with trunks gnarled, bent and twisted by the constant blowing of the winds stand in groves along the coast.  They give me pause. Each one has stood against the threats to level them. Storms and daily pressure have left their mark but the trees still stand.

The scars and wounds add to the beauty of the fauna that decorate the hills along the edge of the Pacific.  It is amazing that they have survived.  While many gaze at the vast oceanic vistas, I for one turn away and soak in the scenic sculpture created by the winds and the strength of life in the trees.

This forest of trees almost appears as an army of sentinels slowly making its way to the sea.  The onslaught of the sea winds have taken their toll on the tree features and come to a truce.  Each force standing at the edge of the battle lines respecting the right of the other to be present.

The ocean coughs up its winds and the trees bend their boughs.  Yet, the roots grip tightly to the soil and will not release further ground.  It is a scene of power and persistence.

God created this dynamic picture of life.  Nothing is static when it is truly living.  There is always growth, always movement and always change.

Keep on living and keep on with growing.  Change as necessary.  But, hold on to what is important.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

FullSizeRender-7Our ATV was bouncing like it should.  Gary was racing through the fields because he knew every pothole and gully and tree row.  Ahead, he spied his tour highlight on the front 40.

The sound of rich green well-watered Texas grass brushed against the chassis of the ATV like waves under a sailboat.  “There!” Gary sounded the discovery.  “Under the trees,” he added to the alert.

He deftly guided the ATV to a stop as we saw animals scurrying in the shadows of a deep draw, crowded by trees.  Once movement stopped, we started again, this time slowly into a gully, negotiating the descent with care.  Up the embankment on the opposite side we cautiously crept over the top and came to another stop in the rich pasture.

Ahead, gracefully moving as a herd aware of the presence of humans but certain that the distance was a safe margin, a herd of elegant Blackbucks meandered out of a row of trees.  One dominant buck was directing  its herd of doe.  It was the closest I had ever been to this exotic wildlife animal outside of a zoo enclosure.

Karl and Beth’s Texas ranch served as home to several gorgeous species of wildlife.  It was a privilege to feast my eyes on this majestic animal that God created.  They are fast, graceful, intelligent, agile and colorful.

In this herd the buck showed off its long, thick and perfectly formed spiral horns.  His coat covers his top half in dark brown, almost black.  God contrasted that with a white underbelly and chest.

Its face sets him apart with both eyes encircled with white patches.  When it stares at you its nose is also ringed with white.  Out in the open the colors seem aesthetically balanced.

Yet, take that same animal and let it melt into the woods and it disappears. God created these magnificent animals with both beauty and practicality.  The Blackbuck is no exception.

While the male stands out as bigger, decked with powerful horns and marked with distinctive colors, the doe are different.  All of them are light brown, slender and ready for flight.  They are different but the same as their dominant leader.

Smoothly, they glide through the pasture like they are gently carried along by the Texas breeze.  We quietly watch and marvel.  Then, they run and disappear as if by a wave of a massive magic wand.  God created a masterpiece and He let us watch them.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderA new friend invited me to enjoy a few days on his ranch.  It was a welcoming invitation that my inner pioneering spirit could not refuse.  Life had built up a myriad of stresses to strain the reservoir that was holding back the enormous bulge.

Before the dam could burst I was on the road for some solitude.  As the miles melted behind me the relaxation already began an amazing sense of relief.  Rejuvenating waves of pressure oozed away and a contentment with a smile emerged in its place.

I dropped my gear off in my room and wandered through the muddy path to meet Paul.  He and I smiled.  Even though it had been some time since we first met, we talked about our last adventure together like it was just a few days in the past.

Paul waved me off and told me to go out and enjoy the ranch.  Now, we laid out a quick strategy.  My camera was in my hands and my boots took me to where I would see the wildlife that lived on his land.

The hot Texas sun was dropping low, just caressing the horizon. Diffused light laid a gentle hue on the grounds around me.  In the tall grass I could see trails of animals that knew these woods much better than me.

As if appearing at the wave of a magician’s wand, a beast strolled into view.  It was a fabulous Corsican Ram.  On its head was a 3/4 curl of powerful horns.

Its coat was Palomino over the top but the underbelly was in a contrasting black.  Speckles of black patched its face.  This ram showed no fear.  But, it did not know that i was present, perched on a platform five feet above the ground.

Every part of this male animal was muscle.  Scratches and scrapes on its horn told of past exploits where it had squared off with lessor rams, beat them into submission and carried on with the spoils of the annual rut.  His offspring would someday wander these woods as well.

The Creator designed this fighting machine.  He proportioned it to launch its entire body into a butting of heads.  Now, it was looking for food, to graze on while one human nearby snapped pictures to remember the moment.  I always think of the word majestic when I see and ram with powerful curled horns.  What comes to your mind?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderThe sun broke through the rain clouds.  A vigorous storm drenched the ranch just outside of Gonzales, Texas.  The Ranch Boss and I were riding the range on his ATV.

Four wheel drive did not even hesitate at any barricade whether water, mud or wash.  We bounced over the terrain looking for any work that his ranch hands needed to add to their work lists.  In his mind he had a checklist that he made notations on a scouting trip like this.

One alert was his animals.  There were a lot of beasts on his acreage.  Some of the animals were tough and could withstand almost any kind of adversity.

There were other critters, however, that had some vulnerabilities.  They were smaller.  A predator would easily choose one of these animals for a meal than the beasts that could defend itself in woods.

While we scanned the acres for problems from the storm, we also looked for anything unusual.  The “Oh, oh” that the Ranch Boss uttered caught my attention.  When I looked at him, he just pointed up in the sky, “Gotta believe the birds.”

He threw his ATV into gear and spun the steering wheel.  Our casual scout now had a specific objective in mind.  The vultures spelled death and that was never good news to a rancher.

We bounced through the woods.  He dodged fallen logs, bogs and massive trees.  Our forward progress came to an abrupt end.

The muddy ground made us skid for a long stretch. When we came to a halt, the Ranch Boss did not need to say much.  We both were socked in the face with the wretched stench of rotting flesh.

The vultures have been specifically designed by the Creator to clean up the woods.  When an animal dies, they find it.  Together a flock of these powerful creatures eat up the rotting flesh with relish.

The flies and the maggots wrap up the details.  There is no more need for human intervention.  This is one ranch critter that will no longer roam in the fields.

We made a hasty exit.  What God had design to finish up the circle of life we left to operate without disruption.  Fresh air was just a 50 feet away.

The birds signaled other birds in the area to join them.  These feathered scavengers attracted more of their kind.  A great flock gathered and told any who could see that their morbid work was almost done.

Houston commute sunriseThere is never a repeat or warm up or left-over sunrise.  Like snowflakes there are never any two that are identical.  Instead, each one is a unique combination, a mysterious blend that spreads the picture around and makes each one tailor-made for that particular day.

This time it was not only the colors that were sensational, it was also the perimeter features that made the sunrise pop out of the horizon. It was not only about the colors but it was also about the clouds in the sky.

Do you see the contrast?  God gives the sky texture.  The clouds are close by but the sunrise is a long way off. The light of the morning is overtaking the clouds that ruled the night.

The world was once shrouded in an uninviting frightening stillness of aloneness, abandonment and anxiety.  But, it is quickly dissipated.  It is diluted to the point where we wonder how we ever were fearful or hopeless.  Life is just like this.

Someone may have hurt you deeply.  Your sorrow was unrelenting and excruciating.  Inside you were about ready to give up.

Yet, something gnawing in your soul urges you to press on.  A light glimmered in your spirit reminding you that God was still there.  When people failed you, God was powerfully present and He chased away the darkness.

Once the light comes you feel rejuvenated.  Courage was restored.  Those who had done their worst were no longer capable of doing any more.

It is time.  Get up.  Dust yourself off.  Wipe away your tears.  Leave those who have done evil behind.

God is not finished with you yet.  The truth has kept you buoyed up and now that the night has expired you are still standing. Yes, there will be other tough moments in life.  God has told us that trials will come.  They are designed for correction or edification.  Maybe there will be a little of each.

Whichever the case God does not hurt for pain’s sake.  He is ready to lift you up and carry you along. God is about blessing not hurt.

When my day starts and a gorgeous sunrise greets my commute into the office, I receive it a testimony of God’s greatness personalized just for me.  You can do the same.  Every sunrise is new, different and big enough for all who will accept it.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderWhen my alarm clock starts its gentle marimba tune, our bedroom is very dark.  Our human activity kicks in and we share our bathroom to get ready for the day.  Like preprogrammed robots we move about the house with a well-planned and well-rehearsed routine.

While it is still dark outside we load our vehicle and start our 40 minute commute.  We travel down I-10 and join 100,000 other vehicles who are also starting their day.  Our journey is so much easier than so many since the two of us qualify for the High Occupancy Vehicle lane.

All of the vehicles have their headlights on.  At this early hour it is like driving at night.  There are plenty of street lights but having lights on is a safety measure so that others can see us.

But, the night never lasts forever.  Instead, as certain as we are about life’s most important standards and guarantees, a sunrise is going to happen.  When it shows up, it will chase away the darkness as if it was melting butter on a hot pan.

The sky first becomes lighter.  Shades of grey appear as if the sky is being diluted from its pitch black domination. Then, on the horizon there is a beacon of orange light.

Our commute is progressing well while the show on the horizon stage is unfolding.  There is no stopping it now.  Day is on its way.

Grey skies burst into an orange pallet of brilliant color.  Fiery red blazons the horizon.  Rays of yellow blast out from where the sun is moving with deliberate unhurried speed.

When darkness shrouds a spirit to hang with gloom and doom, the light is overpowering.  Hope is restored.  Smiles have a reason to emerge with determination.

Headlights from so many vehicles no longer dominate the scene.  Instead, every driver, even the grumpy ones, have to gaze to the horizon and at least appreciate it if not mentally breaking out into a happy dance.  The Creator who repeats this performance with grand elegance never charges a fee.

Can you imagine?  The most splendid show is absolutely complementary.  Seating is never a problem.

When life gets tough and circumstances get rough, remember how you began your day.  Love the promises and the truths that are wrapped up in the grandeur of that stunning light show.  God did that to remind you that He is real, He is here and His love for us is unending.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Christmas 2014 053Someone decided to add color to the garden where guests would first walk on to the property.  Whoever chose these lilies did a splendid job.  They caught my eye.

This was not at the entry to a green house.  The environment was not controlled except by the Creator Himself.  He directs the sunshine, the temperatures, the winds and the insects.

Possibly this flower was delicate and vulnerable.  Lilies at least appear fragile. Horticulturalists smile and shake their heads.

The amazing appearance of these radiant blooms belies their durability.  They exist in hostile climates.  With rambunctious critters all around them and harsh weather pounding on them they display their brilliant colors and deck the environment with variety and cheer.

A nameless Master Gardener planned this display.  He or she saw in their mind’s eye and then created the flower garden.  Just as they had envisioned it, the plants grew and sprouted their flowers.

Like a composer writing a masterpiece, the gardener watched the colors burst out in their planned order.  Texture, shades and expanse detailed the arrangement of plants reward the eyes of visitors to a symphony for a season.  Waving a trowel signals the preplanned display.

God made the order.  Man observes the pattern.  Master gardeners note the matrix and reproduce it with a personal touch.

Whoever this gardener is, captured my attention.  I paused.  I admired.

Then, I took a picture to forever remember the radiance of this moment.  This flower was simple.  There were not a myriad of colors in it, just a few.

Nevertheless, I like the simplicity.  Symmetry was present like all lilies.  It mirrored one side to the other.

All of the stamen had the little variation of color.  The pistil was ready to receive the pollen.  Each of the colored pedals waited to attract the insects that would assist in making the pollination a reality for future plants and blooms.

And the cycle would go on and on.  As the seasons marched by the flowers of these gorgeous lilies would reappear, multiply and spread the beauty for passing eyes to see.  There is no touching allowed, just gazing and letting the fragrance remind us what God has planned for those who take the time to relax and enjoy His creation.

Are you in too much of a hurry to smell the flowers?  Then, you might be living life too fast.  Pause when you see the colors of the Creator and drink in His creation.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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