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IMG_3884Do you like hoards and hoards of people trying to do what you are trying to do?  When the sun is hot, the temperatures are soaring and the lines form like a funnel each time you want to take in a special moment on a vacation that you have saved to enjoy after years.  Fuses are short even at the “Happiest Place on Earth”.  Grouchy people come with the program bursting with people on a mission.

A snarly husband with irritation dripping from his steely voice, “What did you lose?”
Desperately slapping her pockets, checking her purse, searching her bag a woman exclaimed, “Hold on.  I’m looking.”
With an escalating volume out of control, the man shouted with a growl, “Tell me!  What did you lose?”
Desperate and trying to find whatever she had misplaced, she blurted out, “My wallet.  I lost my wallet!”

By now everyone around that small patch of shade were looking up.  We were all looking on the ground, checking the bench and even slapping our own pockets.  Clearly there was sympathy for her and a frantic effort to stay the pending eruption written in red on that man’s face.

Just in time she announced, “I found it!”

A wind of crowd relief exhaled.  That man just turned on his heels and stalked away.  The family gathered their personal items, huddled together and followed after the heated furor of the family.

Quickly all of us in the crowd stepped back into our world of ease.  Everyone loses it some time under certain circumstances.  Most of us have the dignity not to hang our laundry in public, however.

We loved our visit to Disney World.  Yet, we encountered a few who were grouchy, a small number who were rude and very few who were pushy.  Humans get a little testy when their circumstances are not  ideal.

When the temperatures soar, so do the frayed tempers.  During the crowded spaces and slow-moving lines people do snap at others.  No matter how broadly Mickey smiles and cheers, someone is going to be unhappy.

Humorously, grumpy people want others to know how unpleasant they are feeling. Broadcasting their ill will seems to be a necessity for them.  Blaming others or making others feel badly is like a calling in life  for them.

Sometimes we are best just to keep quiet.  Other times we can smile back or send a cheerful way.  We cannot change the whole world but maybe we can infect a few with wonderful happiness.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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IMG_3408Some time in my past a revolution took place.  I was completely unaware of this swirling massive historical moment in my culture.  It made me feel out-of-touch.

My awakening took place in a moment in time.  There was a need for me to shop for a new pair of kick-around shoes.  They would be for times when the weather was hot and shorts were in order.

Color was a feature that did not particularly enthrall me.  I just wanted these new shoes to match the colors of Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall.  What surprised me was how much my expectations were to be stunned and shocked.

Normally, aesthetics are not a forte of mine.  I leave color choices to those who have a knack at design and color coordination.  These people never cease to amaze me.

They explain why they chose certain colors to match with others and it perfectly makes sense.  Or least I am so confused I nod in agreement just to expedite the conversation.  After all, grey and black are colors too are they not?  Even fancy color names can handle the never ending conversations around design.  Names like gunmetal, battleship grey or raven black make a lot of sense to me.

My hunt for a new pair of kick-around shoes began at the local sporting goods store.  When I arrived at the Men’s shoe department, what filled up my senses almost took my breath away.  Colors of the rainbow stunned my visual senses.

Frankly, I looked for a sign to verify that these were in fact men’s shoes.  Every color especially bright and pastel selections dominated one shoe or another.  Florescent colors were very evident too.

Maybe the bright colors were to shield your eyes from the prices.  I wanted a new pair of shoes not a second car.  Who on earth can budget for shoe money like these?

Dominant colors were not the only surprises.  Pastels were all over the selection grid as well.  Pink was even a highlight for some shoes.

It took a while for me to find some options.  Two sales personnel asked if they could be of assistance.  They were young kids asking out of obligation.

“Point me to the MEN’S black shoes with silver highlights,” I requested.  They both looked dazed as if I had asked them to solve the problem of world hunger.  Oh well, after poking around I found my new shoes in basic silver with black highlights and in my size off in a lonely section of the store.  They were not on sale.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3403Hey, where are all of the men?  There are no masculine types in the photo. After a quick scan of the store, there were no men in the store.

Did you notice the product line?  Yep, they are purses, bags, handbags and of course matching accessories.  Nearly all of the designs are flowery, bright colors and other difficult to describe patterns.

It is close to camouflage but also not close at all.  Urban camo does not fit the description either.  Some of the items are monochrome but they are rare.

Yes, this is a store designed for the fairer of the human race.  Women flock into this boutique shop.  They enter the store with enthusiasm, touch every item on sale, try them over their shoulders, in their hands or clasp a clutch purse.

I am hiding in a corner near the exit.  Oh, yeah, it has a bench that gives me a place to relax.  It is also a haven for two other men who are waiting.

There are no mannequins in the store but the three of us could serve that purpose.  We are still.  No sounds emit from any of us.

A moment of truth stares at me.  My bride comes up to me with arms loaded down and both hands filled with accessories.  She asks me for my opinion.

I gaze into her eyes and attempt to discern a clue, any clue.  “Which ones do you like?”

Inside my soul I bolstered up the enthusiasm and pointed to one of the items that she held.  “How about that one?” I managed to blurt out.  “Hmmm, but that would mean that I would have to find another purse to match it.” Guessing again, “Maybe that one?”  Again she thoughtfully commented with clear aesthetic skills that were foreign to me, “Oh, I don’t know if anything matches that bag,” she responded, obviously puzzled by my suggestion.

Of course if those two random choices of mine did not match anything else, I wondered why she showed them to me in the first place.  That is a dangerous question to contemplate for very long.  At least I was bright enough not to verbalize that inquiry.

It is enough that did my manly duty and offered a suggestion.  She put those bags back on their respective shelves.  I had successfully contributed to the shopping experience and moved us closer to the check-out line. Yay!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3314It is Stephen’s 50th birthday.  Being a half centenarian means maturity, experience, impact, establishment, success, promise, hope and joy.

Very special gifts must be carefully planned.  No one “needs” gifts when they turn 50.  Adding to the collection of other stuff does not need to be the focus.  However, what’s a party without gifts?  This day calls for a personal work of creation that is fitting of the new season of life.  It is that special.  Such a gift must be thoughtful, fresh and full of meaning.

I had those inspiring stimuli in my mind when I visited our local discount store.  There I roamed in the various departments collecting items that would form into a sculpture worthy of this once in a lifetime landmark.  If an item lit up my face, added to the vision forming in my mind, and especially made me laugh, then it passed the sniff test and went into my shopping cart.

“Back at the ranch” I unpacked my discoveries and went to work on the assembly of the unique presentation.  First, the heart and soul of this sculpture was the cane.  It was a red, white and blue telescoping deluxe model.  Certainly, it would depict the patriotic spirit of this newly minted 50 year-old.

Close to the cane’s handle was a combination bell and compass.  The bell can easily be operated with his thumb.  It serves as a friendly sound to signal friends and neighbors, a cheerful “Good-day!” sound.

Next, a rear view mirror is attached.  Of course it is multi-directional with unlimited adjustments.  The glass is a fish-eye style to help aging eyes focus on oncoming traffic.  Hanging on the stem of the mirror is the headlamp.  It really is a “head” lamp.  With the elastic band, he can strap his light around his forehead for night-time walking.

Just below the mirror is the advanced emergency warning system.  Some might think that it is just a horn.  But, they would be wrong.  When traffic is slowing him down a single blast of this instrument will clear the obstacles for a clear hobble home.

Finally, there is a sports bottle for a single dose of Ensure.  A bear bell hangs in a sack on the bottom of the stack.  Once it’s popped out it will jingle with every movement so that his wife will always know where he is.  The combination chain lock will keep this unique and practical sculpture safe for his own secure use.  Happy Birthday, Stephen!

IMG_3259As a not-infrequent-traveler, I often rent a car.  In a new city with appointments to keep and people to meet, that challenge is most conveniently met through scheduling a vehicle for my use in advance of a trip.  My growing user stack of identification card, usually identified as “preferred customer” status, has a handful of these automobile rental companies represented.

From past experience my office staff has even signed me up for a standing account with a few of these companies.  The competitive nature of this business is obvious.  Friendliness is all over the staff at these various venues.

Smiles and low-pressure are the watchwords at the pick-up desks.  Friendly conversation banter only follows when efficiency and swift service need a moment for the computers to catch-up with the necessities of registration.  Then, it is off to the car.

My favorite companies are the ones that send you to a line of cars which are all prepared and ready to drive.  They are grouped in categories of your rental agreement.  Normally, that refers to the size of the vehicle or the specialty of the car.

The last trip I wandered among the full-sized vehicles.  It was the best rental rate that was available.  All of the sub-compact and compact vehicles were already rented.

It was as if the vehicle winked at me.  Perhaps it was a twilight zone call in a stratosphere that only I could hear.  Yet, my choice was confirmed by my smile.  If possible I try not to rush the introduction.   My driving position have to be customized.  Wipers, mirrors and horn have to be identified.

My generation has to pause when the audio system lights up.  The days of having a simple on and off switch went the way of the Goonie bird.  Now, an entire panel colorfully offers complete entertainment.

Now, there is a small icon that makes me smile.  It is the feature that has become an all-time favorite accessory.  This simple switch adjusts the heated seat.

I turn it on.  Then, as the gradual heat emits it’s comforting and soothing waves of warmth, I feel good.  It calls for a moment when my eyes shut and I take in the welcome, relaxation and comfort that comes from the simple touch of a button.

I am ready for my duties.  Life has found its balance.  This is my favorite vehicle option of all time.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3300The film Saving Mr. Banks is a movie about making a movie.  This literary technique helps tell the story’s lengthy intricacies in a movie-span of time. The choice of this double-layer of literary art also reveals the story of a story writer reliving her own past through the creation of a highly imaginary character, Mary Poppins.  The complicated life of the fictional character is being lived out in the star of the movie, Emma Thompson, whose performance is magnificent.

Walt Disney, Tom Hanks, has been pursuing the film rights of Pamela Travers’ stories for twenty years.  Travers, however, is stoic, staid, and stubborn.  She view the overly friendly Americans and the whole Disneyland style as unrealistic and highly improper.  Yet, her own financial woes force her to journey to Los Angeles to meet Disney and explore the possibility of a screening of her character, Mary Poppins.

Travers is at odds with every person she meets.  Her snobbery and unpleasantness rub people the wrong way as they cater to her every whim in hopes of securing the rights to make Mary Poppins into a film.  Slowly, the creative team realizes that Travers’ stubborn spirit is a protective attitude toward characters that are real people in her life, including her.

Trust is gained through creative efforts by Disney and his team.  She begins to see the happiness that can be realized in life.  Cautiously and surprisingly she is being won over to believe.

A deep offense, however, erupts when Travers hears of an animated sequence that is planned in the film.  She angrily departs back to England with her screen rights papers in hand.  Disney follows her across the Atlantic.

In one of the most powerful sequences of the movie, Disney talks candidly to Travers.  He tells her that she can trust him to handle her stories well but she needs to let go of her own past.  Then, he reveals his own disappointments as a child but how his art has set him free.

She releases the rights to her Mary Poppins to Disney.  It is a release that continues.  While watching the premier, Travers repeats her sequence of life, written on her face.  Offense by the jocularity of the film moves into emotional release as she witnesses the redemption of Mr. Banks, the personification of her own alcoholic father.

This was an amazing film.  I highly recommend it.  It was a deeply thoughtful and entertaining experience.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

 

IMG_3292My ministry duties were completed.  It was a busy time.  Over three days I spoke six times.  Even for the most enthusiastic speakers, that is a lot of effort on top of managing a full-time ministry.

After my finally presentation, I was feeling the joy and ease of a major task being completed.  Now, I could relax and feel the lightness of anticipating a trip home.  Maybe it was this weight being lifted that my spirits soared.

When I walked outside I was bundled up well.  For many years I lived in the cold climates of the United Kingdom and Michigan.  Those forays into the upper regions of the earth taught me how to dress for cold weather.

I was dressed in several layers of warm clothes.  My accessories kept my hands and head protected too.  Stepping out into the cold air was not a fearful act.

In fact when the cold air welcomed me, I was greeted by some special Texas rarities.  Snowflakes were swirling about in the air.  Large clumps of flakes drifted down and were collecting on the cold ground.

Meteorologists call these snow flurries.  They have a soft beauty about them.  In some way they are able to make the whole outside seem very quiet.

The child inside of me was awakened.  There was not enough snow to make a snowman.  Nor was there enough to make a snowball.  However, there was enough falling through the skies to try to catch a snowflake on my tongue.

It is a funny experience.  Chasing these gently falling crystals of water is entertaining.  Walking to the car of my host, I was darting after these drifting winter wonders.  My hosts smiled and commented about my behavior.

When a snow flake hits your tongue.  There is no taste.  However, you feel the cold speck on your taste buds.  It is fun.

I remembered a funny cartoon about catching snowflakes on your tongue.  It showed a boy gagging in a snow flurry picture.  The caption simply said, “When catching snowflakes on your tongue, make sure that there are no migrating birds flying overhead.”  I checked.  Before I began snagging the drifting flakes, I looked overhead and made sure that the skies were bird-less.

Have you enjoyed the delight of something simple today?  Do not let those easily missed opportunities get stifled from our busy lives.  Catch a snow flake on your tongue today.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3063My hand was aching while I took feverish notes.  I did not want to miss a thing. This was more than a formality to me.  I really wanted to learn.

Our instructor threw in a humorous anecdote.  The one place that you really don’t want to ride your motorcycle is to Costco.  Everyone laughed.

It made so much sense to all of us newbies to motorcycle riding.  Who comes out of the big box store and does not need a pick-up truck?  Two saddle bags that have a combined capacity of a few gallons does not fit the average trip to this store known for quantity.

That little quip many years ago came to mind.  I stopped at Costco with my pick-up truck.  Of course I was checking my wallet to make sure that I had enough money for the adventure.  Then, I laughed when I saw the motorcycle parked in the Costco lot.

The national motorcycle standard for safety is embodied in the certified safety course taught in most states around the country.  When I enrolled in the course, I was living in Oregon.  The waiting list stretched into at least three months.

We were welcomed to come to an earlier class and wait to fill in a “stand-by” slot if someone who did not show up left an open slot.  I tried that one time but their were five others ahead of me. There were four “no-shows” for that class.

This was a popular offering.  People wanted to earn their safety endorsement.  The statistics were clear.  90% of those who were in a motorcycle accident did NOT take this course.

Insurance companies supported this avenue of training.  They offered a discount policy for anyone who successfully passed the course.  The incentive is very attractive.  Paying less for the privilege or riding has a strong appeal.

This course taught me the right way to mentally enter the wonderful world of riding.  It also taught me the basic skills to handle my machine on the road.  Constantly my mind was focused on the instructors and the introduction to new ways of thinking and abilities.

In the classroom we went over the laws and the advice to keep riding safe.  We watched videos and heard from lifelong riders.  A helpful workbook kept us on track.

Life is a blessing when we can laugh at the small things in life.  God has not forgotten us.  Even a little laughter is a gift from above.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2948Yep, I am a guy.  As a guy I have an unofficial official “man-card”.  With this card we males can function with impunity when it comes to certain social practices or lack thereof.

There are several categories where these male operations occur.  Some are audible.  Yes, certain sounds are allowed and expected as natural.  They might embarrass the fairer ones of God’s fine creation.  Nevertheless, they are noises that the Good LORD designed in these amazing bodies of ours.  Instead of engendering frowns, gasps or the consummate rolling of the eyes, a smirk, chuckle or knowing nod are perfectly appropriate.

Then, of course the category of visual enhancements is a dominant part with approval by male card holders.  While there is a large margin for flexibility for men when it comes to aesthetics, certain options are universal.  Men love camo.

Recently, I sent a camo outfit to my grandson.  He is four months old but his overalls are perfect for any of his outings.  Of course I sent him a bib in camo to match his outfit.

Other than camo, combinations of black, grey or khaki work great as well.  Bold steps in color include blue, navy and maroon.  Pattern colors work as well as long as they are utilized in plaid.

This is a good time to correct the misunderstanding that a man card permits or approves of poor grammar.  It does not.  However, it does not disapprove of it  either.  After some snickering is released, then there can be some effort to correct any agreements, replacement of colloquialisms or sentence structure alterations.

Another correction that must be recognized with the application of the man card guidance is the matter of the color pink.  Pink is not the enemy.  There are plenty of pink camo patterns that are just fine.

Several items have pink highlights that only serve to enhance a product.  For example, there are rifles that have pink highlights.  Roll bars for 4×4 rigs are sometimes in pink. The list goes on.

It is not the color but the overall aesthetic motif.  Yep, real men have no fear even of the color pink.  In fact you can go to one of the major outdoor stores on-line and type in the word pink and pages of products come up including pink compound bow, pink folding knife, pink molded pistol case, pink monofilament, pink box of ammo…

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

DC 2 110On this day not many years ago, a special life was born.  She was the object of great joy to many who were blessed to have her in their lives.  Those lives are countless by now.

There was family of course.  Lives of siblings who share memories of laughter, growth, changes, joys, thrills, additions and wonderful adventures.  Multi-generations emerged and those who enjoyed an aunt and now great aunt added to the memories of a special life giving joy to so many others.

Then there were friends.  Loyalty, devotion, service, consistency and commitment are gifts given and shared with this special life.  Amazing discernment, wisdom and faithfulness were capstones of what many treasure from their days of friendship with her.

image (2)I was blessed to enjoy many days of falling in love with her.  Together we saw God bless us with many adventures in learning, travel, ministry and amazing blessings to both see and experience.  We did those together and they never would have come into my life without her as my bride for decades of joy together.

We were exuberant when God gave us our own brood of little ones.  Every day was filled with the superlatives of growing, laughing, cheering and loving on each other.  Tough times saw us tenaciously persevering together.  Joyous times found us laughing together.  Painful times saw us draw tight together in mutual defense.  That repeated word “together” has been following through years and years of trusting God together.

Over the years she has had students in Sunday School, private Christian school and public schools enjoy her skill to teach, unending passion to love and constant protection as she prepared them for life.  There were many hugs, treats, attention for anyone in need and persistent wisdom on how to live life better.  Colleagues in the hall of learning were also the mutual beneficiaries of a comrade in teaching, cheers for those difficult moments and always a listening ear for a little compassion.

This season of life has us in a sweet spot of service.  So much is beyond anything that we would have ever described or hoped to have dreamed.  Yet, it is wonderful because we are still sharing it together.

Happy Birthday, Yvonne!  I love you.  Enjoying life and HIs goodness together with you is an honor and an unending joy.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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