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IMG_5688This month we honored the “mothers” in our life.  That is a special calling.  They experienced so much pain and trouble over the years of practicing motherhood.  Yet, they covered it up with the joy of pouring into our lives.

Now, on this special day of our year, we treat them with celebration and delight.  Flowers, candy, presents, service, spoken words, time for a phone call, treating them to a special meal and an endless number of ways to bring her honor.

Our children are all far away, thousands of miles away. They would all contact her with excellent expressions of gratitude.  But, she would miss them all.

The planning of a special day was up to me.  My smile and my mind were in synchronized harmony.  There were no surprises, just delightful fun.

It all began with making her breakfast.  The menu was not fancy but it was special.  We enjoyed the delectable meal and of course, I did the dishes.

She had some free time.  Then, I took her to a movie.  The film was an action adventure with a special twist to honor a late actor who passed away during the filming.

We talked about it on the way home.  Both of us remarked about how well done the honor factor made the film special.  As people of faith we connected immediately to this actor’s reputation of faith as well.

The special day came to a close in church.  We love our church and pastor.  The worship was encouraging and the sermon was very up-lifting.

She elected to make dinner.  It was her standard offering: fantastic, delicious and filling. This woman has done a brilliant job with all of her chosen duties to family.

We who have been blessed by her service and love.  Looking back and recounting her contribution into all of our lives seems endless.  Our children especially have rehearsed her mothering now that they are adults.

Instead of looking for ways around her watchful eyes, they now see the values that she was pouring into them.  Now, their values that they have chosen to live by have many roots in what their mother had taught them.  They are amazed, pleased and also grateful for what mom invested in them.

On this day, Happy Mother’s Day, Yvonne.  You have done a faithful job of rearing our three little ones into taking their place as outstanding adults. Well done!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone 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

Special Allotments

Joshua 18-20

Part 3 of 6

 

Joshua was a beneficiary of the Land as well. Once all of the tribes were served first, then was also enjoying an allotment. The Israelites acted together in giving him the land.

 

Their purpose was not out of their gratitude or respect. Instead, they were acting in obedience. God had instructed them to give Joshua a portion in the Land. Their obedience became Joshua’s blessing.

 

God’s will is for those who represent Him and lead His people to be cared for by the people who benefit from that ministry. This model is one that is not limited to the Old Testament. By application God will still be honored today when the Saints care for their leaders.

 

Whenever I left a ministry, those whom I served honored me with a celebration. The warmth and expressions of love and appreciation are treasured moments. Words, embraces, handshakes, whispers of appreciation, gifts, mementos and reflections were priceless gifts.

 

Grateful people are a portrait of the Savior’s love. From a heart of devotion there is care and real life. While parting is such sweet sorrow, the blessings of ministry are a glimpse of heaven’s rewards.

 

More later…

IMG_3108This is a special season of the year.  We laugh when a turkey is gobbling up a storm.  Children dress up in costumes made from brown paper grocery bags always wins a smile.

There are images of a perfectly aromatic turkey with all of the trimmings highlighting its presentation.  The horn of plenty is seen in advertisements, grocery story decorations and even on an occasional greeting card.

My fellow Americans are planning gatherings with loved ones.  Family is a big deal during this holiday season.  Invitations have been sent out. Menus have been divided up and everyone is planning their favorite recipes.

At work Human Resources has announced the hours for this special week.  Paid day’s off for salaried workers is deeply appreciated. Some have tacked on personal time in order to make a long drive or a flight during off-peak days.

Our Thanksgiving will be quiet this year.  We are going over to the new home of some very good friends.  All of us are separated from our families this year.  They are too far away.  However, I am thankful for friends.

My work requires me to be here on Saturday as well.  It would not be worth the expense to make the long trip to family.  Nevertheless, I am thankful for a job that I love.

This Thanksgiving we will communicate with our family via email, texting and maybe even Skype.  It will not be that same as being there in person but I am thankful for amazing technological communication options.

My checklist for the home is very small now.  Most of the major home improvement necessities have been completed.  I am thankful for a house that we have been able to transform into a home.

Soon we will be able to travel to see family for the Christmas season.  The tickets have been reserved and paid for by now.  We are very thankful for hope, expectation and anticipation to be with family soon.

I walked around our yard and took care of a few minor problems.  My walk paused and I scanned over our abode.  This has been my favorite house that we have ever lived in since we married.

We have lived in four apartments and five houses while answering His call in our lives.  For a brief moment I thanked God for His blessings in our life. He has been wonderful to us and I am very thankful.  Nevertheless, I will sorely miss our family this Thanksgiving.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3074My thoughts this morning woke me from a good sleep.  It is Veteran’s Day.  Memories are preceded by thoughts of gratitude.

I am glad that I did not wake up in a country that is torn apart by war.  Outside there is peace that surrounds this house.  Explosions, gunfire, military aircraft are not filling the morning with the latest in armed conflict.

Instead, veterans lived through all of that on my behalf and on behalf of our entire nation in days gone by.  Many are still living through those tough times in faraway places, obeying deployment orders.  Here at home we awake to freedom because of the life of patriotism that others have lived on our behalf.  I nod in private realization that on this special day to honor all of our military, past and present, I am thankful.

On my mind is my late father.  He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  He was assigned to a military installation in the Philippines.  Yay, Dad!

Whether it was a parent, uncle, aunt, sibling or child, many dressed in a uniform for the duties and risks that keep us all safe.  Thoughts of them living and fighting for my freedom is on the forefront of my mind.  I am grateful.

Today, there will be many flags flown.  Those cloth emblems will flutter in the breeze, flap with the wind gusts and float proudly in safe skies because of veterans who served with honor.  They have made their families and this nation proud.

There is another symbol that will be highlighted today.  It is the cross.  This special sign is a wonderful hope that those who have passed on in battle or in life have not been forgotten.

An empty cross represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He died so that all may have the chance to live forever if they put their faith in Him.  That amazing truth gives us all hope in the final resurrection.

Families and loved ones have marked many graves with this symbol.  It reminds us that our faith in eternity is real.  Our Father in Heaven has given us encouragement to persevere and look forward to inevitable reunions with those who have gone before us.

It is a fitting reminder of the lives lived and the lives given so that each of us here can live with liberty and pursue the happiness that fills our soul.  Thank you Vets!  We are all very grateful for you.

Photo credit: brucefong cellphone 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

Jesus had left Galilee for the last time.  He was resolute to travel to Jerusalem.  While most in this northern region would go out of their way to avoid travelling through Samaria, our Lord chose just the opposite. 

When He entered a Samaritan village, the local population did not welcome Him.  That is astonishing.  He disciples were miffed and asked Him if they should call down fire from heaven to destroy them.  Jesus rebuked them and changed his travel to follow the border to the Jordan River.

On this detour ten lepers met Jesus and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  While Jesus had performed healing on lepers before with a touch, a word of healing or forgiveness, He responded differently this time.  Instead, He told the lepers to go and show themselves to a priest.

This is odd for such an action would only be done to verify a healing not to obtain one.  Yet, the ten without debate, reluctance or argument obeyed.  This simple response of obedience is key.

As a result of their following the Lord’s instructions they were healed on their way to the priest.  One of the ten who was healed immediately turned around and went back to Jesus to thank Him and praise God for this miracle.  We don’t know much about the other nine and what they did.

The single healed leper who returned to thank Jesus was a Samaritan.  He was from a people of mixed blood, ostracized by the Jews and rebellious against the laws of the Old Testament.  This man had two historical community strikes against him: no hope as a leper and no hope as a half-breed.

But, Jesus was pleased with his return.  While the Lord was clearly disappointed that the others did not return to say thanks, this one did.  He was the most unlikely to “get it” yet, he was the only one of the ten who did. 

Some may be tempted to assess this Samaritan as the only one who had real faith.  But, that may be too harsh from what the Scripture allows.  Certainly, this grateful man’s faith was highlighted,  commendation from Jesus is clear. 

However, perhaps the best lesson that we can take away from this passage is what the expression of thankfulness means to a born again believer.  Christians who are the recipients of God’s grace can deepen their fellowship with God through thanksgiving.  They capture the heart of God with their gifts of praise.

luke 17.11-19

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