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IMG_1119The long drive to this specialty store needs some planning.  It is towards downtown.  A quaint shopping area has a number of shops that catches the eye of my bride.

Today we chuckled on our walk toward “her store”.  “There are no stores for me anywhere near here.”
She spoke sympathetically, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
But there was something a little brief in her comment, especially as she stepped lively into the destination store of her choice.

She disappeared among the merchandise and the other customers.  My sole objective was now to find a comfortable chair.  Two men occupied the sofa.  Another man was perched on one of the rolling step ladders.

There a few yards away, around a few rounds of hanging garments, tucked in a room filled with mugs, dishes, utensils and kitchen items was an empty are chair.  My brow furrowed, hands balled up and my steps were directed, intense and determined.  That was my chair and no one was going to beat me to it.

When I arrived safely and unchallenged, I paused next to my discovery and gazed around to ensure that my possession was without threats or competitors.  Then, satisfied that I had mounted a successful offensive to claim this territory, I eased my finely tuned body of aching bones into the welcoming comfort of a chair made for Bruce.  Comfortable and ready for a lengthy stay, I pulled out my cellphone to decide which game I would play while patiently waiting.

Time passed, games got boring, emails were all completed and texting was done for the day. Leaning back I wondered what else I could do to pass the time.  That’s when empty wine bottles caught my attention.

Someone had a clever idea to add color, dimensions and arrangement to the store.  From the ceiling the artist or decorator had hung bottles from string.  The arrangement was simple, uncomplicated and orderly.

I was drawn to the display.  God made us in His image and aesthetics is a value He instilled in us.  At first I took a picture of the display as it hung as one of many decorations around the store.

Then, I paused and looked up from the bottom.  Tilting my camera at an angle for an unusual perspective, the dimensions and depth gave the photo very good appeal. After all, it did pull me out of my comfortable chair.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_2599My smile erupted on my countenance when we were escorted into the dining hall.  We had served with gusto through a week of speaking, ministry, fellowship and worship.  Our team was joyful and in a mood of celebration.

Our hosts had their culinary staff create a feast for us.  It was part of their expression of love and gratitude.  We were blown away.

An Asianesque theme was mixed in with a Polynesian flair.  I had to read the menu to figure out what the courses were.  All I know was that it was delicious!

Tasting good is only part of it.  The presentation was spectacular. Even seashells decorated the table.  Special decanters were used to serve the beverages.

There was a wonderful variety of food.  A crispy outer shell surrounded sticky rice.  I had seconds.

The main dish was a medley of tofu, seaweed, pork and vegetables.  Freshly brewed tea was perfectly blended with tropical fruit and chilled for the sensation of marquee ice tea.  Others had personalized French coffee presses for the Java option.

Our host thanked all of us for our part in the program.  His gratitude made us all feel honored to be there.  We debriefed on the wonderful week of ministry and we lauded their team, their staff and volunteers for a refreshing week for all of us.

My bride and I finished our speaking events.  We were tired but deeply fulfilled that we could be there to serve.  Then, we returned to our room.

IMG_2597When we entered, she was laughing.  I hurried in to see what was stimulating her funny bone.  Without a word she just pointed and kept on laughing.

I grabbed my camera and photographed the creation of the housekeeping staff.  There on our freshly made bed was a towel art.  They had taken the ordinary towels and like origami they shaped these run-of-the-mill towels into a lamb.

That is a touch of class.  These staff members do not have to do the extras.  Yet, they smile, greet us cheerfully, went out their way to wait on us.  This creative artwork was the climax of a wonderful week.

Whether it was splendid meal, a special towel art, a cheerful greeting or extra attention in their service to us, we were delighted to smile back, thank them profusely and do our part on the speaking side and deliver the Word with passion and precision.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_1936Air travel tests the creative resolve of all who live part of their lives in the air.  There are forces that seek to drain every brain cell from your cranium as soon as you schedule a flight into your smart phone.   As remarkable as efficiency experts have arranged parking, mass transportation, check-in, food courts, shopping options and even airline travel clubs, the waiting, the lines and the loading do very little to advance the human spirit.

I enter a travel mode and bring several tools to make a trip productive.  My laptop is always with me.  If I can find a desk, then I pour in a couple of hours of writing.

Then, I bring my e-book.  It is loaded with several reading options.  Some are recreational, like great fiction.  My favorites are Westerns or espionage.

Of course I bring my list of e-books on Leadership, History, Bible and Biographies.  I try to make sure that my Kindle is powered up to last the entire trip and back.  The many miles of travel is matched by the many pages that have been read.

My ancient i-pod still makes trips with me.  It has my music.  I sprung for a folding noise cancelling headset.  Once I turn it on the drum of the loud jet engines is nullified.  It is so relaxing.

Nothing beats the mind that God the creator gave to us.  The observations of the unique and the curious abound in air travel.  If we let the numbness of travel wear us down, we miss some fascinating visions for the sponge features of our brain.

My gait was focused.  I was on my way to catch the train that took all of us passengers to the terminals where our waiting jetliners were being serviced.  Other passengers were crowded around the corner in front of closed doors.

I paused at the wall that they had all passed.  It had a window that looked down the track of the rail system that scores of travelers were waiting to board.  The train was not there yet.  I then was in no hurry.

Instead, the light played on the glass.  Designers seemed have known that this would happen so they added a simple piece of artwork with two concentric circles.  Soon the perfectly balanced vision of man-made etching on glass and the sun’s presence was engulfed by a robot train arriving to pick us up.  It was a fun moment of a routine picture, tunnel vision.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Houston is my home.  We are the fourth largest city in the good ol’ USA.  That means that there are a lot of people here.

New York leads the nation as the largest city with 8 million people buzzing around the Big Apple.  Los Angeles is second with a 4 million population.  Chicago is third with 3 million.  Houston takes the fourth largest census with 2.1 million people.

While our city is large in numbers it is also large in square miles.  Our numerous Houstonians are spread out over 8,774 square miles. That is a lot of real estate for a single metropolitan area.

My life is severely impacted by this massive concentration of humanity.  It is called traffic.  Cars crowd our roadways in huge numbers, people busily trying to get to their destination.

The night before I am mentally plotting my moves.  If I can avoid the rush hour I will do so.  That congestion danger zone starts just after 6 AM and continues until 9 AM.

Isn’t the solution simple? Go early.  Why not?

It’s not really too tough.  I shower in the dark, dress in the dark and then leave the house sleepy and visually limited.  Sure, I stumble here and there and mismatch my clothes however, people who know me assume that is normal not because I got to work early.

An early arrival gives me a chance to strategize my commute home.  This is a larger challenge than coming to work.  For some reason there are more cars going home than those who came to work on that same day.

Whining only makes the problem deepen.  Instead, I choose to accept the reality of the situation.  Several options are at my disposal.  Each one has come in handy.

First, there is my radio.  It has six presets on my satellite radio.  Each of those presets have several options on them as well.  Thirty-one choice of listening genre are at my fingertips.

Second, one of my favorite choices is the Bible on CD’s.  For as long as 45 minutes I listen to Scripture and meditate on its meaning in my life.  It’s tough to get grumpy with other drivers when you are listening to God’s Word.

Third, I have my cellphone.  Don’t worry, my vehicle is set up with Blue Tooth so I can talk hands free.  Everything can be done by voice command.  I am a mobile office taking advantage of the long commute.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

On a hot day there are always  options to fight the heat.  Creativity is only limited by desire.  A hot Texas day gives any human being a lot of desire to do something to survive the heat.

It is a human release valve too.  People feel better when they can let off a little steam with some kind of complaint.  The weather takes the brunt of a lot of human ire. 

When I lived in Oregon people always made comments about the rain.  The sun was rare, hidden by rain clouds.  They would joke  that no one in Oregon ever dies, they just rust away. 

Then, when we lived in Scotland, the conversation always took a swipe at the “drecht days”.  That’s the local slang for days that were cold and damp due to the blowing winds off the North Sea.  So, weather complaints are international to be sure.

Life in Michigan was no different.  There it was the winter that won the conversation marathon.  When snow fell in late November and never thawed until the next April, that was a long frigid spell.

But, while everyone every where seems to complain about the weather, everyone also stays put.  Here in Texas it is similar.  Locals get used to the humid heat and just cope.

Some times Houstonians head to the theater.  I’m speaking about the movie theater.  For hours air conditioning with a good show on the silver screen make us forget.

But, for all of us there is another southern favorite.  It has to be served at the correct temperature, however.  Something room temperature is totally unacceptable. 

At the local grocers there’s always a large bin full of these special treats.  Placement of this item doesn’t even make it into the produce section where it belongs.  Instead, they are placed right in the entry to greet shoppers.

People see these luscious green striped melons and there is an instant connection.  For $5 I throw one into our shopping cart.  It isn’t on our list.

When we arrive at home and download our groceries, this melon goes into the refrigerator.  There’s no exception to this procedure.  Serving watermelon that isn’t properly refrigerated misses the whole point of refreshment.

But, when it is chilled properly it is amazing.  Sliced creatively, it is God’s nectar for the uncomfortably hot.  It is a divine solution for the overly hot days of summer…slurp heaven’s chilled, sweet wonder.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

My fellow flyers are busy trying to distract themselves from the onerous onslaught of travel hours.  Some are able to be very productive.  I admire them.

Those who are hyper-into-work are usually high-tech equipped.  Their laptops are ultra thin, never need to be plugged in and the speed on their processing is blinding.

There are just as many using tablets.  They whip those babies out and their fingers are sweeping across the screens like an Olympic figure skater on ice.  A young suit flips the cover back over the unit like those old WW2 executives snapping their satchels shut.

Parents who are great planners have their children entertained with electronics.  Their offspring are watching movies, cartoons and playing games way beyond what I can even imagine.    The airport has a kiosk for modern air travel electronic gizmos to support the vast majority of gadget-minded sojourners.

I’m in the mix.  When I can get online I’ll call up my blog and pound out a new reflection.  It’s a great way to keep connected with so many.

When my computer can’t connect like it is struggling in Charlotte, I pull out my smart phone and catch up on email, text messages and notifications.  Some people probably don’t even know that I’m on the other side of the country when our emails or texts exchange at the speed of light.

Angry birds have helped me while away a few dull moments.  Westerns have kept me entertained with cowboys racing across the Old West, rescuing the weak and pummeling the wicked.  Prayers have always been a part of long travels; there’s a lot of need for praying!

My i-pod is a great companion.  Loaded on to this gem of a device are my favorite tunes.  My ear buds are high quality and give me a rich sound.

Whether it is Country, Worship, Pop or classical, my music makes the hard hours of travels manageable.  There is a soulful rest that comes from the world of music.  Sometimes thoughtful, other times challenging, once in a while a whirlwind of life but always powerful enough to direct my attention away from the empty world of simply waiting.

A traveler’s routine is all about being productive with hours that will line up and tick away.  If we grasp the opportunity and turn it into something productive, then our journey is well spent.  It’s not hard just relentless.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography