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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

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IMG_5341The 2015 Houston Rodeo was in full swing.  Saturday was all about the Finals.  Champions were being crowned in all of the classic Rodeo events.

Not only did the champions perform at their highest level, they were rewarded with the grand prize of $50,000!  Thanks some great prize money for these cowboys and cowgirls.  Lives were being changed with a single check that came because these winners were two tenths a of a second faster than their nearest competitor.

Friends and family were huddled together in the stands cheering on their loved ones until they were hoarse.  Tears and hugs were shared all around when the final scores were displayed on the jumbotron.  This was the climax of a yearlong season for many of these cowpokes.

Yet, everything paused for a special introduction.  In a spontaneous moment of an unplanned introduction, the announcer informed the audience that he had just been informed that a special guest had arrived among them.  The cameras trained in on the special couple.

Nothing in the program gave a hint that he would be a special guest.  No script had his name on its list.  Camera crews were acting serendipitously.

President and Mrs. George H. Bush were in section 110 in the first row, closest to the field.  The camera broadcasted their smiles as they pointed at each other and their cheer were sincere and full of joy.  The entire stadium was on their feet and applauding with enthusiasm.

I was surrounded by people of all ages.  Young adults and retired folks as well were all sharing in a special moment of honoring a man who had led them as their President.  Guys were whistling and girls were screaming.

This unplanned moment of tribute was memorable.  No one demanded a counter, an explanation or another  view.  Instead, the announcer chimed in, “Now, there is an honorable man.”

41 was smiling and waving to the appreciative crowd.  There was no false humility or arrogance in his countenance.  I saw a man who loved the people he once led and an appreciative leader who just enjoyed the moment of being admired and loved by the people of Texas.

That is a rodeo for you.  The people here not only love God, they love their country and the people who serve it.  If you miss the love of country and the joy of the God who has blessed our country with extraordinary favor, then go to a rodeo and enjoy it all over again.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_4366Friday night was reserved on our calendar.  When we approached the weekend we talked over our plans, reviewed the events and talked about how meaningful these days would be.  Then the making of a wonderful blessing began.

Friday night was a highlight for us.  We headed out on time to beat the traffic.  Our destination was a simple eatery on the other side of the freeway from our church.

Tonight we were going to the celebration of the ten-year anniversary of our pastor and his family at our church.  It is amazing to consider an entire decade of service for our pastor and his family.  He even stuck around when he succeeded a three decade stint by his predecessor.

Thousands of cheerful supporters filled the church building.  The worship was powerful.  Love was all over the place.

When our pastor was invited up to the platform, the applause was enthusiastic and sustained.  His smile was broad.  His family was basking in a massive display and expression of love.

For a moment I felt for all the pastors who have never experienced that outpouring of devotion.  They have served faithfully only to be beaten down by those who criticize, hold secret gatherings, complain anonymously and mete out miserly compensation.  Do not be one of those.

Nevertheless, these shepherds tirelessly serve, constantly study and face heartbreaking moments where they were the sole source of encouragement.  Their faithfulness slipped by the notice of most and was remembered in detail only by God.  He knows all and never forgets.

There are always those who point to bad ministers.  However, those few are small in number compared to the neglected in ministry.  Encourage your pastor, give your heart to him.  Yes, discern wisely but embrace him with love and encouragement.

We had great conversations with people around us that evening when we honored our pastor.  His personality has been pervasive in our lives.  Warmth, welcome and cheer are ways that he addresses us and so we do the same with each other.

God is blessing our pastor with a powerful ministry in our city and beyond.  His teaching is Biblical, balanced and practical.  People take notes and live what they taught.

Gifts of affection were bestowed.  Flowers filled the arms of his wife.  Each of his children enjoyed holding on to a special memento.

Humility, humor and honesty marked his words.  We love our pastor and his family!  Encourage your pastor and watch what God will do.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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I have enjoyed the thrill of visiting several Presidential Libraries.  The newest one to open is in close proximity to my home.  President George W. Bush’s Presidential Library is located on the campus of SMU in Dallas, TX.

There was a time when I was younger that I thought that the greatest privilege in the world would be to serve as President of the United States of America.  After all I love leadership, I want my life to make a difference for others, my patriotism for this country is off the charts and I have given my whole life to benefit the lives of other people around me.  Over the course of decades I have served others no matter how difficult the challenge.

As I strolled through the exhibits and contemplated the facts of history, it became very apparent to me that the task of running this nation requires something beyond what is humanly possible.  No one in their right mind who cannot stand up against the negative onslaught of unchangeable minds would do this job.  Power and privilege is a difficult match against the constant scrutiny and immense implications of national and international demands.

I stood a long time in the library gazing at this seal.  It stirred in me another level of respect for what 43 did for our nation, the dignity with which he performed it and the class with which he treated the office.  No, I no longer think of wanting to serve in the office any longer.  My youthful aspirations have taken it off my life list.

Yet, what an amazing country the USA is.  What a remarkable honor to be the single representative of this seal of the great nation.  It is a symbol of all that has been exceptional and will continue to be exceptional about this democracy created under God.

Yes, I still love this country.  I relish the privileges that each of us enjoys as citizens.  While this office will never be mine apart from these occasional historic visits, I will long dwell in my thoughts over the burdens that 43 carried for us all.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

 

Honor is not common among our complicated narcissistic culture.  This treasured and noble term describes the heart of a selfless person who would suffer sacrifice before allowing a fellow to be hurt, abused or left helpless.

Many of our military still know this word.  It is not just part of their vocabulary but it is their identity.  A code governs their choices and their decisions.  Honor is at the heart of who they are.

Those who have honor are faithful people.  They exude loyalty.  Betrayal is never a consideration.

Judas had no honor.  After generations have passed he still ranks the highest as the most notorious of betrayers of trust.  To turn on someone who trust you is despicable.

On one of the year we formalize those that we celebrate because of the honor that they lives their lives.  Our military and veterans have given up so much for the liberty of us all.  Tough choices, personal sacrifices and often intense suffering came with the territory that they chose to walk into for the benefit of the rest of us.

Thank you!

Our simple task as fellow Americans is to remember.  Just knowing what they did for us.  Over the generations they fought bravely, died gallantly and experienced trauma so that our freedoms could be preserved. 

Thank you!

When the orders came for our troops to enter into battle, they said Good-bye to family, friends and loved ones.  When transports took them to their mission assignments, they no longer looked at themselves but instead to the task at hand.  Collectively their service to their country benefitted each of us.

Thank you!

On this day receive our thanks.  But, also let us momentarily contemplate your past patriotism.  It is your honor that we long to remember. 

Thank you!

As a tribute to your American spirit we join with you in celebration of all that God has blessed our nation.  Through you we can thank God for the lives that we are free to live.  We worship freely and treasure our individual pursuit of happiness because you lived a life of honor for so many.

Thank you!

When words are callously scattered about with diluted meaning, you redefine one of our most treasured terms.  The honor you illustrated with your life gives us fresh meaning behind the definition of that special word.  You lived with honor, you battle with honor and you gave us a reason to celebrate with honor. 

Thank you!

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

Criticism is a reality for those who dare to step up into leadership.  Accusations fly from the opposition camp.  The objective seems to be to discredit people who once held positions soon-to-be-vacant and seed the atmosphere with doubt over the next human to fill that gap.

This is true in our political season.  There is precious little that is commendable when it comes to the ugly strategy of character assassination among the political pundits.  The self-righteous judgmental disposition of those eager to influence the favored and disfavored is piled high ad nauseum and quite frankly wearies the soul of good people.

As accusations fly, innuendo multiplies and mud slings wildly, I imagine the hurt that falls on the souls of the innocent.  The spouses, children, friends and honorable bystanders become victims of the vicious and dirty-minded.  It is ugly.

The nature of an accuser is a filthy examination.  Why do people find it necessary to throw dirt?  What’s eating at their lives that drive them to hurt others?

When I was growing up, it was a bad thing to tattle on someone else.  But, back then the shady character of the nosey and those flinging criticism about someone else was established.  Today, the one who points the finger gets a pass or at least the benefit of the doubt that they are telling the truth.

I have looked into the shifting eyes of accusers.  They are obsessed to justify their subtle violence.  Most of the time they even attempt to fortify their dastardly deeds by playing the victim.

Then, I look into the eyes of the accused.  There is hurt, helplessness and bewildered.  Reason, logic and truth are elusive when the emotional drive of the accusers reveal their singular desire to inflict doubt, cause suspicion and raise questions.

Critics are not complicated.  They are simply base beasts.  The only truth represented in their lives is exaggeration.

Admittedly, they have a grip on some truth.  But, it is not worth the damage that they often cause.  It is called “piling on”.

Before long the truth is replaced by suspicion.  The shocking allegations are a downer.  Accusers don’t accomplish much with their lives that rival the pain that they impose on others. 

Why people get off on being a negative influence as their greatest contribution to life is a mystery.  The good thing is that true integrity is not the same as reputation.  Politics, it is so frustrating!

photo credit: google image

Our staff gathered for a typical weekly meeting.  We had a free flow of ideas as we anticipated the end of the year coming quickly.

The pattern in recent years was for our three largest ministry areas to have their own appreciation events.  Volunteers would gather with others in their field of service.  But, it was time for a change-up.

We would pool our resources and plan one large gathering for everyone who volunteers to celebrate our commitment with each other.  Our collective perception was to encourage everyone with a synergistic event energized with our entire volunteer team.

The restaurant was secured.  A planning team made the details happen.  The night of our banquet to honor our volunteers arrived.

Scores of people crowded into the banquet hall.  The atmosphere was celebratory.  We laughed, teased and talked up a storm. 

There was a program of sorts but not really.  The evening was about the people.  Those who serve to make Sunset Church hum were the stars.

We enjoyed a ten course meal.  Early on the cold meat appetizer plate disappeared when hungry eyes saw the delivery.  Prawns and deep-fried milk followed and met the same welcoming disappearing act.

Who doesn’t like Peking duck?  The tender morsels of roast duck are deftly de-boned and presented with an unmistakable aroma along with steamed white bread for a sandwich to water the mouth akin to Sylvester the cat’s “sufferin’ suckatash”.  A dash of hoisin sauce and a sprig of scallions adds to the traditional celebratory mood.

Minced duck, steamed crab and deep-fried flounder follow in quick succession.  The flavors erupt like a night of fireworks on the fourth of July.  Truly this is a banquet, a feast.

There were a few words spoken.  They were not many but they carried the same theme, “Thank you.”  We wanted all of the volunteers to know how much they are appreciated.

Hours of labor are devoted to make this church function smoothly during the year.  The doing by the people involved is part of our identity as a church family.  In the name of our Savior Jesus Christ we work side by side to serve the lives of others.

The total number of our volunteers rivals the attendance of our church.  It is a high percentage of our people who can name a ministry in church that they have.  Thank you, SC volunteers for your labor of love!  You are appreciated!

photo credit: brucefong photography

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