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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

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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

IMG_5813There is an amazing engineering feature in Houston.  It is called the Buffalo Bijou.  This is a creek for most of its existence, meandering from downtown Houston due West and into the region of Katy.

Katy is my home town and the Buffalo Bijou is familiar to me and my fellow residents.  We appreciate this cavernous grassy canyon snaking through our community because it is a constant reminder that it is ready to take away the deluge of water that visits our part of Texas several times a year.

When there is no rain and the weather has no prediction of precipitation, I along with my fellow Texans overlook this massive amount of real estate.  Green grass lines the banks of this very large creek and overpasses allow traffic to flow unimpeded.  But, it is always ready.

Most of the year a small creek travels through this piece of land.  The slow-moving waters do not cut much of a trail through the dirt.  Most adults could easily leap over the creek without much effort.

I bicycle along this body of water and marvel at its great expanse.  For miles my bicycle wheels roll along the cement trail that lines one of its banks.  Several times I cross a bridge to keep my journey going.

But, then there are those storms, those Texas-sized storms that drench our home with lots of water.  Drains, and canals flow into the Buffalo Bijou.  It comes quickly and flash flood warnings dominate the airwaves to keep people away from flooded areas.

Torrents of water turn a normally calm creek bed into a raging river.  In a short period of time a calm quiet creek fills up that entire flood plain and muddy waters threaten to lap against the massive concrete bridges that gives people safe passage over the rising waters.  I paused for a picture and to marvel at what makes people feel so small and helpless.

When God turns on the spillway of the heavens and stalls the weather front to hold a pattern over Houston, we hunker down and hope for the best.  Neighbor encourages neighbor.  It is the way of the image of God seeping through the desperation of men who find themselves in need of a helping hand.

Good engineers designed a lot of Houston to weather such moments.  I am grateful to those very good planners who looked beyond the pleasant sunny days.  Their planning for these occasional horribly rainy days has given me peace.  I thank God for them!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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

FullSizeRenderGetting up and getting going to depart for our workday commute takes a lot of gumption.  There is the inevitable magnetism of a comfortable bed that is tough to escape.  The ease of staying put all curled up and tucked in is very inviting.

Nevertheless, will power and responsibility win the day and soon we are washed up, fed and loaded up for our 24 mile commute.  Rolling into traffic reminds us that we are glad that we did not procrastinate.  Already, traffic beginning to build up.

The vast majority of Texas drivers are polite and safe.  Usually, there are a few who got up late and are in a big hurry.  They take advantage of everyone else as they zip in and out lanes.

So, the rest of the courteous drivers, shrug their shoulders and drive on to their destination.  Maybe that is why the Lord blessed so many of us with a sensational sunrise.  It began slowly but steadily.

In the East there was a glow on the horizon.  Someone could have mistakenly thought that a massive fire was lighting up the sky.  In some ways the sun is a fire-ball but off of our planet and orbiting in space far away to keep us from burning but close enough to provide light and warmth.

The Creator was amazing in the proportions of distance and angles to best show earth how His design was stunning.

With more and more miles falling behind us, the glow ahead grew and splashed against the dark sky of the receding night.  Like the dismissal of an undisputed champion, the night is not even missed.  Instead, the crowds of commuting humans have to smile at the free light show that is capturing the skies.

Bright yellows lick away the night.  Then, glowing oranges take the broad brushstrokes of the low hanging clouds.  Reds trim the front assault of the orange strokes.

There is nothing human about this display.  Everything about it is heavenly.  Both in expanse as well as in dynamic shifts the hand of God shows off His creative display.

For all that we commuters tolerate for the sake of life and duty, we do get this occasional treat.  The Texas skies seem to be prepared canvas for the intricate creative strokes of the Almighty.  It both takes your breath away and gives you a reason to keep on breathing at the same time.

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

FullSizeRender-3For a little time the big city is hundreds of miles away.  Instead of horrific traffic, jam-packed calendar and unexpected problems that needed solving I could relax and rest.  The venue for this renewal of my spirit is Wyoming.  People are fewer and further between than the bustling metropolis that I call home and make an honest living.

Here the airport closes at 8:10PM. Wild animals graze right on the city limits. People smile and nod a greeting to you in the local variety store even though you have never met.

The sounds of a small town are different than the city. Here you can hear yourself think. The conversations that you have with other people are carried on with mouth and ears.

In the morning I got up early. I wanted to see the sun rise. It was splendid. Colors and hues modified by the minute.

Rays from the rising sun chased away shadows and promised warmth for every living creature. Like a spotlight that was caressing the landscape of the vast Wyoming plains, the sun pulled back the curtains of the night showed off what the Creator had done here in this gorgeous state.

Off in the distance are the Rocky Mountains. They are majestic even at this great distance. Snow caps all of the ridges and peaks that stand like a great wall daring anyone who really wants to go West but at their own peril.

High plains desert unfold in front of me. This vast land invites all sorts of wild creatures call this cave a home or that valley a place to forage for food.   The racing sunlight pours over the plains making shadows dance, leap and finally disappear.

The sky turns bright blue. A multitude of cloud variations scamper across the heavens. The wind kicks up and shows us why Katharine Lee Bates penned the words, “For amber waves of grain.” It literally looks like the grasses are like a seas of moving waves.

Breath deeply for a moment, hold that breathe of fresh air and then release it. A smile invariably follows after you exhale. God did something special when He made the expanse of the earth.

The Creator must have spent extra time here in Wyoming during Creation. It is a splendid place to remember how big He is and how small we are. If life is weighing you down, take time to look up and see what He has so incredibly made.

Photo credit: brucefong photography

Disney World 2014 191There are popular animals out of every collection of beasts on the earth.  When people crowd into a well designed aquarium, many linger at one display or another.  In a zoo it is easy to spot the popular animals because the lines are longer and they move so much slower.

When God made the animals He unleashed His creative side.  Each animal is a wonder.  However, some just make us gaze longer and smile more broadly.

Whether it is in a zoo, a wild game park or even in the African bush, one animal claims the popular appeal.  It stands out above the rest.  People always look up to this beast of the plains.

The ever tall and gentle-looking giraffe wins the nod.  There is no other animal on planet earth that looks like this.  They have the exclusive view of the Savannah.

Their elongated neck is their distinctive claim to fame.  Anyone in a game of Pictionary or Charades is smiling if they draw the card telling them to draw this picture or mime the name from eager house guests.  This is a slam-dunk winner for children learning about animals from board picture books.

Take those same children to the zoo and they need to file through their memory when identifying animals in real life.  But, the giraffe is an easy association for them.  They simply marvel at how tall these creatures are in real life.

Beyond its unique height and distinctive neck is its patchwork on its hide.  At first the pattern evades our attention.  It does what the Creator designed it to do.

Observers do not focus on the huge animal.  Eyesight naturally sees the breakup scheme and nearly miss the creature that is clearly taking up space.  Camouflage is the purpose and the purpose is achieved so well.

Its long legs give this animal the gait that suits its foraging.  In a gallop the giraffe looks ungainly.  Yet, it covers ground with enormous speed.

Perhaps its best asset with its height is a buffet that no other herbivore can compete.  The delectable leaves in the heights of the trees can only be reached by this tallest of plains animals of Africa.  They not only can eat what none others can reach, they have the vantage point to spot other savory options over great distances.

This is a remarkable animal.  It is not an accident of chance that it is like this.  Rather, it is the smile of the Creator, who knew what He was doing.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4327The retreat center was bustling with activity. People were pouring in for our annual new semester kick-off.  Some drove a mere hour and a half while others dragged in after a four-hour journey.

Coffee was the mainstay and magnet for human appeal.  Once a few sips calmed the nerves and settled the cravings, many grouped up for laughs and conversation.  But, not everyone was socially inclined.

An agenda was governing our gathering.  Planners and gifted administrators handed us all a packet.  A schedule outlined our activities for the next day and a half.

Before those hours began, I found myself attracted not by people.  There would be plenty of time for them.  Instead, a powerful appeal was a mere score of steps away.

I yielded easily.  Warmed and refreshed, the Texas lakeside view invited me to breathe in deeply.  Exhaling slowly felt very good.

Unaware that I had started smiling, that realization alone made me smile more broadly.  Creation has a way of engulfing us, not threatening our smallness but assuring us of something more secure and satisfying.  It was a little moment of blessing from the great God to a mere mortal.  I liked it.

IMG_4329Softly the wind moved over the waters of the lake.  It left a ripple across the glassy surface and picked up the reflective daylight, broadcasting the morning sky.  Gently there was a lapping of the moving waters on the shoreline.

Green growth of trees and shrubs found a permanent place around the water’s edge.  Roots drank in the plentiful water and gave their lives permanency for years of growth.  They broadcast a strong reminder that it is the water that gives life.

A powerful tree trunk framed the picture of the lake.  While the fluid lake moved and shifted, the healthy tree was stalwart and steady in its place.  The ground held it secure and it crept bigger and taller by incremental changes, adding hidden rings of history in its trunk.

The appeal of water gathered a huge variety of flora around its shores.  There was more than enough nourishment to keep grasses carpeting the surrounding edge.  Here the Master Creator shows off the variety of leaf shapes, textures and shades that on His palate.

Then, the water not only sustains the flora but draws in the fauna as well.  Birds, fish and animals wander in for a drink.  They lap up the sustaining nourishment and live.  There is something special about the appeal of water.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

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