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FullSizeRender-2This was going to be a particularly difficult day.  Pressures at work, a long line of demands had been queuing up for months, responsibilities were pushing the limits of our sanity.  My bride and I were comparing notes and it was going to be a tough day to start the work week.

On top of our regular routine we have a major trip coming up in a matter of weeks.  Details of overseas travel are horrendous!  We had to find time to invest in that preparation.

Departure times and dates are already getting tangled in our scheduling.  Today we would have to make sure we made those adjustments.  Double booking ourselves is an inconvenience for everyone and could easily undermine our efforts to be effective at all of our responsibilities.

We both heaved a deep sigh of dismay, loaded up our car with our bags for our day and drove off into the dark morning for our long commute.  My thoughts were lost in our need to get over the financial hump of needed changes, travel expenses and time investments.  If I could I needed to think about relieving my bride of the pressure she was feeling.

Now, we discussed possible drastic changes in our circumstances.  What dramatic changes could we live with if that meant the relief of life pressures?  There were no easy answers.

Then, we rounded the arching on ramp to the Interstate freeway.  The Houston eastern skies were waiting to cut short the threatening discouragement.  In front of us the Creator was putting on a show.

Clouds burst out of the east, pointing to the west.  Behind those finger shaped clouds were the indescribable colors of the divine palate, splashing reds, oranges and yellows in balanced effect.  Blue skies in the background were pushing the loud colors , pressing the daylight splendor.

We both smiled at the interruption to our concerns.  The God of all gods was breaking into our worrisome souls.  It was sensational sunrise.

He was starting the day off with a splendid artistic masterpiece.  In massive swathes of colorful strokes that were changing by the minute, we could only watch as He finished up the waking of a new day.  No words but just splendor.

We got the message.  What did we really have to worry about if He was in charge?  Now, we had a day to look forward to instead of dreading.

photo credit: yvonne fong photography

 

IMG_2165When I checked the weather, the data took my breath away.  Today was a scheduled bicycle ride day.  In Houston the weather for bike riding makes year-round peddling a possibility. This news, however, could toss a wrench in my day-off plans.

The temperatures were down to 45 degrees.  In Houston terms that is very chilly.  A 5 mph wind calculates into a wind chill of 42 degrees.  On a bicycle with the increased riding speed of 15mph that would feel more like 40 degrees. Brrrr!

Now, it was time to think and remember where I stored my cold weather riding clothes.  40 degrees is about my limit for comfort when it comes riding a bicycle outdoors.  Anything colder means that I have to carry an ice pick and stainless steel flask filled with hot chocolate.

My base layer was set.  All of the gaps for exposed skin were closed up.  Good socks fit into my riding shoes.

My riding jacket was ideal for this kind of weather.  Of course my long finger riding gloves were essential.  My last item, however, eluded my searching.

That is one of those rarely used items that you relished on your last cold weather ride.  But, my short term memory was no better than my long term memory on this search mission.

I looked in boxes upstairs, downstairs, garage, closets and miscellaneous containers.  There sure are a lot of miscellaneous containers around our house.  Each one is filled with really useful and valuable stuff.  One of these days I am going to sort out and organize all of it.

So, I paused to think.  Where would I have put that one last cold weather piece of clothing.  Ahah! With a quick step into the garage and a look inside my gear for motorcycle riding, I pulled out that special items, Balaclava!

No, it is not a Middle Eastern dessert.  There are no nuts or honey with this piece.  Instead, it is made from bamboo, making it tough.  It is light weight and just enough coverage to make it comfortable for my head not to freeze during a cold weather ride.

Now, I was ready.  I pushed off and settled on to my bicycle seat.  Soon I was getting into a rhythm for riding.  The exposed parts of my face felt the chilly temperatures bite into my tender skin.  But, the specialty clothes that I wore kept me very comfortable.

It was a reminder that the world that the Creator gave to us has its down sides.  But, with some great choices a careful pattern of dress could easily protect us against the elements.  Keep on enjoying His presence and the good feeling of a brisk morning ride.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

 

 

 

IMG_1390Our realtor was our guide to our newly adopted megacity of Houston, TX.  We had no idea where to live or what to look for in local construction.  A vague budget was in our minds.

She showed us a house with all of the basic room necessities and good curb appeal.  Some of our wants were also on the list.  Most importantly the price was within our target range.

Yet, a price range for a couple like us that was devastated in the housing market crash didn’t have much to put down for a new home.  I looked at the construction issues with the very used home and figured out that the next decade of our life would be saving up to make major repairs on this fixer-upper.

Houston is famous for its heat.  Good windows are a must to fight the blistering temperatures in the summer months.  Keeping our air conditioning system happy was important.

IMG_1396The windows would eventually have to be replaced.  We had that in mind when we made on offer for the house.  Now, it was time to sign a contract and replace the windows with new ones.

Old windows are being torn out.  New well-insulated and excellent guaranteed windows are going in.  The installers are doing a superb job.

Half the windows are now done.  I can see clearly now!  The old broken seals and fogged up windows are going away.

The new glass is clean, clear and firmly mounted with strong heat resistant materials and block out unbearable temperatures. When the fogged up windows of our home make it impossible to enjoy the views it is sad.  The whole house feels ugly.

FullSizeRender-1Now, the improvement has given us a lift.  Looking outside is fun again.  Watching clouds float by and the daylight turn into night is enjoyable.

When we open the windows to let the cool winter breezes flow inside, the windows slide easily.  We don’t have to grunt and tug to get old corroded windows to scrape painfully across worn out tracks.  Figure tip control of well-made locks and well-lubricated tracks bring a great enjoyment to our home like few other purchases could.

Cost? Yes, it must be one of the most expensive home repair options that an owner must face.  We counted the cost, prayed over the options and even took on additional income jobs just for this very reason.  Then, God gave us His favor in an unexpected way.  He is good, all of the time!

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

 

FullSizeRender-4NASA is a bright spot in Americana pride and joy.  It never ceases to make me marvel when I walk on to the campus of this collection of very bright and dedicated scientists, engineers and astronauts.  Something precious about life and exploration meet on these grounds and stir the soul of every visitor.

There in the parking lot, far too massive for an inside display is a Boeing 747 carry the Space Shuttle on its back.  Before you ever buy your entry ticket, you are drawn to this scene-stealing display.  Everyone stops by for a look, pictures and a moment of awe.

Inside the Visitor Center NASA has made a spectacular display of their historic achievements.  Every American is a  part of it.  The spirit of the USA pervades every part of the exploration of space.

One of the permanent displays shows off the Gemini program.  Tiny capsules that crammed two astronauts into tight quarters and orbited them around the earth hang from the ceiling.  But, the display is set in the stars of our galaxy.

Countless stars twinkle and serve as an amazing backdrop for this space flight.  It is full scale and the dark hall makes you feel like you are orbiting with these heroes of old.  How clever were these scientists, how skillful were these engineers and how courageous were these astronauts.

Our space exploration seems out-of-this-world to us.  Yet, it is only touching the edge of the vastness of space.  Can human technology thrust us even further?

When the Creator made the heavens He did a spectacular job.  Its vastness speaks of His amazing power and greatness.  We can only marvel and worship.

When Orion launches, maybe I will still be among the millions on earth that will marvel at what America can do.  The greatness of our nation may consume me like all who will be riveted to their televisions, computer monitors and live stream radios to cheer on each inch of movement toward the next great objective in space.

America’s best is exemplified with these achievements.  Putting a man or woman on Mars is next.  Maybe the Orion module will hang from the ceiling in another part of this great exhibit some day.

Perhaps my grandchildren will bring their children and friends to this special place, gaze and marvel together.  Space is the last frontier.  It calls all who have adventure in their souls.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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The air in Houston is just plain HOT in the summer.  Temperatures soar into the high 90’s and stay there.  By the middle of the morning the nasty partner of Southern heat joins in the unpleasantries.  High humidity.

From practical terms we refer to such days as two shirt days.  I carry an extra shirt in my truck or make sure that one is handy in my office, neatly hanging behind the door.  On especially sweaty days I will head to the club, swim a half of mile and then take a long cool shower.

Time and appointments are not always friendly to a human seeking relief from the relentless heat.  There are moments when the air conditioning of my office, my truck or my home is like a refuge where island hopping is the standard fare for the day.  The temptation to complain is high but never recommended.

Instead, we Texans learn to put on a happy face and say something good.  “The humidity is good for your skin,” we laugh.  No one really believes this words but it certainly brings about a moment of laughter that brings just a moment, ever so brief from the brutal weather outside.

Duty called.  I needed to get to other side of our building.  If I had wanted to I could have keyed the entrance passed through several doors on my way to the other end of our campus.  Instead, I braved the idea of walking through our outside atrium.  It meant stepping into the outdoor weather, albeit briefly.

Steeling my soul, I opened the door and walked briskly through the garden.  Surprisingly, the temperature and humidity did not grip my breath away.  In fact the weather, while warm, was quite pleasant.

My steps slowed to a casual stroll.  Why wasn’t the torturous Houston summer weather strangling me?  I stopped and looked up.

A canopy green took the place of a human-made ceiling.  Trees nearly blocked out the sun.  Well-watered flora moderated the small oasis.  Here I smiled at the summer and thought, “A true respite is built into this building.”

I am going to like it here in our new campus.  This unexpected feature was value-added to our bustling campus of students digging into their graduate studies.  Stumbling into and onto this refreshing discovery made for a memorable day.

Do you have a place of relief from the summer heat?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_5676Houston is my office space.  It is one of the fastest growing city in America and it is the place where God has called me to serve Him.  Falling in love with a city is easy when the love of the Lord for that city has preceded me.

Yet, my professional occupation requires that I keep a direct channel open to Dallas.  That is where our headquarters is situated.  They make the major decisions and determine the course that I follow while serving here.

Periodically I need to be at meetings in Big D.  Getting to the city in the North is a puzzle.  That bewildering choice is due to the nature of flying compared to driving.

I could fly to Dallas.  The actually flying time is only an hour.  However, you know and every commuter knows that air travel is much more than actual flying time.

Houston is so big that it takes and hour to drive to either one of our two airports.  Of course when we all fly we have to arrive at the airport two hours early.  We need to entertain the security folks.

A little arithmetic makes the choice of the journey a puzzle.  To fly takes one hour to commute to the airport plus two hours early arrival for check-in and security and buffer plus the one hour actual flying time.  The total is four hours.

The drive time to Dallas and our headquarters is four hours.  When I fly I have to arrange for transportation once I arrive in Dallas.  If someone picks me up then I do not have transportation around the city once I arrive.

If I drive to Dallas, then I can also leave when I want, makes stops along the way and return when I want.  My seat is always comfortable and frequently my wife joins me so the company is exquisite.  Rest stops on the journey are also up to me.

One of the discoveries on this journey is the meal service en route to our destination.  Remember this is Texas.  In this part of the world BBQ reigns.

Half way between Dallas and Houston is a tasty BBQ location.  It has the unique traveling grill that often marks its location.  The designers shaped it like a giant single action revolver with the BBQ smoke coming out of the barrel.  You can’t see this when you are flying on a plane.

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

FullSizeRender-4Water, we need it to live.  Too little and our lives are in serious jeopardy.  Too much and the threat to lives is unbearable.

Texas is my adopted home state.  We came when a drought plagued this great land.  There was not enough water to transform the brown grass and cause the landscape to bloom.

People told us stories of the Spring when wildflowers and Blue Bells decked the hills and blanketed the meadows.  Now, with too many years of too little rain brown dirt was all that the great state had to show off.  Ranchers rationed water to their livestock and farmers judiciously grew crops based on what water they could secure for a meager harvest.

Now, the rains won’t stop.  The deluge from the heavens keep coming.  Our streets are flooded and the homes of too many are now soaked.

The tragedy of an Austin family that rendezvoused for a family gathering over the Memorial Day weekend threw me intoIMG_5781 a moment of quiet reflection.  A number of them were gathered in a house.  The swollen river rose and swept the house away.

How does life go on as usual after such a story breaks?  Many of those precious lives are still missing.  What of those who survived?  How do they ever pick up and keep going?

The faith of that particular family is their center.  They have turned to God for comfort and strength.  Prayer for them is not just a perfunctory euphemism, it is an expression of life, real life.

I am inconvenienced with the rain.  It reroutes my driving and it slows down my commute, but I do not have the grief of lost loved ones that weigh down my soul.  In my busyness I paused and prayed for them.

Many other stories of people whose homes were taken over by water make my inconveniences pale into insignificance. Flood waters did not invade my home.  They did not ruin the floors or furniture in my home.

FullSizeRender-3The filth in the flood waters did not litter my garage.  Muddy silt is not all over the floors of our home.  My vehicles are not ruined by water filling up my transmission or begin the rust process of a slow death to my car.

My fellow Houstonians and Texans have been devastated by the abundance of water.  But, I have been spared and for that I am grateful.  Together many of us will clean up, encourage and restore others who have been hit the hardest.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderEach time God moved me from one ministry to the next I made the same petition through prayer.  I asked God to give me a love for the city and direct my steps to encourage others and impact the lives of people. Now, He has had me here in Houston for three years.

Our prayer was the same.  When my bride and I drove in from the West, we asked God to give us a love for the city.  As time has progressed we are falling in love with Houston more and more.

Each day as I began my hectic schedule I pray again that He would direct my steps to encourage others and impact the lives of people in this fastest growing city in the USA.  Over 2,000 people move here every week.  The prosperity of the state and the flourishing business climate of Houston attract thousands.

Some of the largest churches in the nation are here in Houston.  They span denominational lines as well.  When attendance exceeds 2,000 we all stand amazed!

Now, each morning my bride and I make our commute into work.  On one of the off ramps we are often greeted with a great view of the Houston skyline.  It reminds us to pray for and love this city where so many people reside.

In the greater metropolitan area 6 million people call this city their home.  Truly this massive population  represents a great field that is white and ready for harvest.  The Gospel is not just a fad for people who concentrate on talking, this is a place where the Good News is shared and lived out.

As the sunrise lights up the city, I rehearse my duties.  People fill up my calendar.  Students, colleagues, visitors and guests are spaced apart from each other’s appointments so that I can give them the attention that their interests deserve.

His brush strokes are colorized, better than the real buildings of colorless concrete and dull building materials.  It is as if the Creator is blessing the city with a touch of His creative hand that man cannot come close to matching on his own.  That contrast is fine by me.

A new beauty is ready to bloom in our city.  When the Father decides to bless our city with a special touch of His gracious hand, Houston will forever be changed.  Lives will take a new eternal course and the new life in their hearts will spread to family, friends and colleagues all because of love.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRender-1This special and favorite topic has found its way in my writings many times.  It is my favorite time of day.  Sunsets are great but if I am forced to choose, I would cast my ballot for a sensational sunrise.

When the morning breaks, long before the sun rises I smile and often mouth my greeting, “Good morning, Lord!”  It is a reminder of grace.  No matter what we failed to do the day before or how we might have messed up or the wrong choices we made, we get a “do-over” with every new day.

When it is time, an agreed departure moment on the clock, my bride and I load into our transportation machine.  It fires up on command and moves at adjusted speeds just like it was designed to do.  Soon we join tens of thousands of other commuters on the asphalt arteries leading into the city.

Darkness fades.  Other vehicles and buildings along the way come into view.  Dawn is upon the city of Houston.FullSizeRender-3

Yet, like so many mornings, the rising sun announces its coming with a warm up act.  The horizon glows as if a massive fire is spreading across the sky.  Brilliant colors mix in perfect harmony not according to fashionistas but according to eternity planned schemes of the spectrum of light.

Yellows, oranges, reds and purple blend into each other.  All during our route into our destinations, the sky is brightening up.  Like the climactic lever controlling the lights on a stage, a masterful performance takes over.

This is not about what is to come.  No one rushes the presentation.  There is no hurry to finish this show.

FullSizeRenderNor is there ever a boredom because of familiarity.  A repeat is never identical.  Shades, shadows and sparkle are always in different proportions.

It is impossible to be bored with something that is new every morning.  The variety defies human understanding and results in human marvel.  Beauty from the hand of the Creator never ceases to stir the wonder of the created.

The sunrise is the beginning of every new day.  Every sunrise is a marvel of God’s creative hand.  Each one is new in shades, combination and sensation.

Capture the soulful joy of every new day with a one-of-a-kind sunrise.  Each one is tailor-made for what the Almighty has customized for the day for everyone who draws breath to live one more day. Bask in His reminder that He starts the day, rules the day and ends the day.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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