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In the high-pressure major-responsibility career that I am living I have grabbed on to a few activities where my mind can detach from the weight of leadership. One of those relief moments was climbing aboard the Silver Dragon and roaring down the pavement of a quiet road. But the days of motorcycle riding have come to a close in my life.
The harnessed power of a powerful 1600cc 70hp perfectly blended highly tuned machine was as slick a ride as I have ever enjoyed. It felt good, looked great and handled like a professionally trained quarter horse handling range chores. A simple twist of the throttle and the ribbon of asphalt would turn into a blur under my feet.
I remember long rides in the beautiful state of Michigan that soothed my soul. Good friends would share a day ride or an annual pilgrimage to a distant destination to fill up our memory albums and deepen our friendships. Facing threatening storms, surprised by stunning vistas and laughing over silly adventures bonded us for life.
The entire United States and Canada were fair game for our annual ride. We would invest our personal vacation time and be drawn toward adventures with good friends. Cameras were a must to record great stops and memorable introductions to places that others could only dream.
It was the open road and the constant testimony of God’s creation that enveloped each of us into His watchful care. Safe miles and final destinations marked each year with splendid rides and moments of serenity from demanding jobs. Motorcycling was a sheer delight.
Now, my doctors agree that my body can no longer safely negotiate the rigors of motorcycle riding. Even if these learned physicians did not collectively give me the diagnosis, my aching back reminds me each time I try to throw a leg over the saddle of my trusty stead. When the traffic light turns read or a massive 18 wheeler slams on its brakes, my body wrenches in trained response but my back screams out in agony.
The Silver Dragon has been a fantastic ride since 2007. It was my dream bike. Each time that I polished this gleaming combination of glistening paint and generous chrome, I sensed the joy and pride of ownership.
She made me proud. Each ride filled me with satisfaction. Our friends along the way will always be buddies for life.Thank you and farewell, good machine. May your future miles be smooth.
Have you ever had to say such a sad farewell to something so special? Life moves on and sometimes we have to simply accept that seasons come to an end, don’t we?
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
Tuesday night there was more than thunder rumbling through my adopted city of Houston, Texas. Michigan buddies rode their motorcycles into town for a visit. That is over 1,000 miles of road warrior travel just for the sake of the ride and good memories.
These residents of the Motor City were introduced to a metroplex with a penchant for individual vehicle transportation. Everyone drives in Houston. You cannot live here very easily without a vehicle, preferably a pickup truck.
Some have even assessed our city culture and suggest that a vehicle equals or in many cases surpasses the choice of a place to live. Is that extreme? Most of us who live here would at least suggest that there is some merit to that assumption.
My motorcycle buddies at least have that thought planted in their minds. They were introduced to Houston traffic after a long day of riding. Add to the stop and go traffic of I-610 a major thunder-storm and it really gets dodgy.
Not only was the rush hour traffic horrendous and the thunderstorm unpleasant but construction with narrow lanes and debris added to the tricky negotiations of motorcycle riding. Of course those occasional out-of-state transplants who speed and cut annoy everyone. Too many in traffic jams are on their phones texting and drift over their lane lines and squeeze a motorcyclist.
Aside from the hazards of riding our fellowship was amazingly fun! The rain kept pouring down so we parked the bikes under the hotel eave and piled into my pickup truck for a tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center. It was a perfect day to visit.
Schools were not bringing in bus loads of children and the tourist season had already ended. Without the crowds we could see everything and did not wait in lines. The displays and historic moments were easy to enjoy and take in for our easy riders.
Standing next to the massive 747 and Shuttle we felt our diminutive size but also sensed our enormous pride in what our nation has able to do. Our smart phones have capacities that old computers in the past could not do. Yet, our nation launched men into space, landed them on the moon and brought them safely home.
Our little band of bikers took in the size and sights of NASA’s greatest accomplishments. Mostly, our time was about our journey through life, friendship, past rides and fun adventures. Ron, Richard and Scott are great friends and even greater buddies with shared memories.
photo credit: brucefong photography
The news of a family came in the mail. Beautiful wedding invitations stand out from the pile of ads, flyers and assorted junk mail. We looked at the return address and recognized the relatives that would soon be enjoying a gathering of the whole family.
It was a long distance away. The miles and years have made the relative faces less and less familiar. Nevertheless, it is about family.
My memories have dulled over the decades. Now, youngsters have matured into adults. They have met special people and fallen in love.
They have announced the day that they would say “I do.” In front of God and witnesses they exchange vows for life. According to God’s Word two would begin their lives together as one.
As family we would gather from many miles and join in the celebration. Our travels would take half way across the country. Thousands of miles lay between us and the site for the nuptials.
Going to a wedding many states away requires a lot of planning and the costs are nothing to sneeze at either. Yet, it is about family.
My checklist was long. Slowly but surely one item after the next was checked off. It took time, scheduling and effort. But, after all, it is about family.
Many weddings just happen at impossible intervals when work and travel are just impossible. Hopefully, family members understand. Maybe people understand that the great distance only allows us occasional appearances. Surely, they will understand. After all, we are family.
The two legs of our flight took up a good portion of the day. Traveling is tiresome but it is worth the journey. After all, it is about family.
Soon the day arrived. We dressed up, drove across town and saw the gathering of people. The mood was celebratory.
It was an outside wedding. The sun was shining and cumulus clouds gave us occasional respite of shade. Reunions with good friends and distant relatives happened on every turn.
Catching up with news, exciting changes and life moments filled up the day. The ceremony was delightful and the reception program was very entertaining. There were loads of smiles and laughter.
Conversations and introductions followed the meal. Names and connections were clarified. Newly discovered relatives sunk roots together.
Family is special. There are never guarantees like choosing friends because we do not choose our relatives. We inherit them by genetics. Love them by choice. It adds to our family value.
photo credit: brucefong photography
Finally, we booked the tickets, set aside the vacation days and anticipated the vacation. I emailed our travel agent countless times building this dream trip for our simple lives. Planning the trip was a big part of the excitement.
In that planning stage I was introduced to the the Disney website. One of the features on the site was ordering a welcome gift that would be delivered to your room. It would be my secret for my bride.
Scrolling through the options was like most online options. You could buy a gold plated Rolls Royce with a Mickey Mouse hood ornament or a candy bar with a Donald Duck sticker on it. The range was limitless.
Winnie the Pooh caught my eye. It was in the price range that I could afford but more importantly, my bride likes these cute little characters. Furthermore, the gift came with a number of balloons and we could deflate them when it was time to board our airplane home.
The agent on the telephone was so friendly. She was careful to get all of the details and rehearsed the delivery date and location. I was looking forward to the surprise when it welcomed my bride to our dream vacation.
When we walked into our room after a night out with great friends, the welcome gift was sitting on the side table. All of the balloons were inflated and dancing in the air conditioning breeze. Pooh topped the piece with his indomitable smile and cheery eyes.
On another helium floater, Pooh is hugging little Piglet. The first balloon was terrific. Both Tigger and Pooh are trying to squeeze some joy into Eeyore. It is a lost cause but their efforts are part of the cheer.
My bride not only liked it, she loved it! She sat for posed pictures with this special addition to our journey. Through the night and several days after she smiled at the pictures of her bouquet and thanked me long after the first presentation.
Simple gifts filled with color and unexpected but attached to inner delights sure make great memories. I had the job of deflating the balloons on our last day in Orlando. Once flattened my bride took over to fold each balloon neatly into a package for transport home and into our world of nostalgia for years of reliving.
photo credit: brucefong photography
It has been years…ok, it has been decades since we have longed to experience the wonderful world of Disney. Much of our life has been on the West Coast so Disneyland has marked our lives several times. However, Disney World in Florida has been an elusive dream.
That life list item is now a reality. We landed in Orlando on a Sunday afternoon. It was the fulfillment of years of savings, failed schedules and foiled plans.
Now, we went for it. We sent in our check and blocked out every intrusion that threatened to swallow up our vacation dates promised to Mickey. There were a couple of close calls, but we made it to the Magic Kingdom.
At the airport cast members from Disney smiled and welcomed us on a comfortable bus. We would not have to rent a car, figure out where to drive, how to drive or where to park. That unique Disney friendliness was striking!
Hosts and hostesses jumped at the chance to take care of us at our hotel. They were so friendly and well prepared to manage all of the details for our vacation. In our hotel room, Goofy left us a welcome voice message.
Disney is a great place for kids. It is also just a perfect for adults who still have that kid in them. Yup, that is me!
Every where I look there are amazing things to see. That is a certainty. Yet, how the cast members greet and cheer on the guests is breath-taking.
Alice skipped towards me. We have never met but our eyes connected. She flashed a huge smile.
“Hi, Alice,” I started our conversation.
“Nice to see you,” she countered.
Next, she was surrounded by children a lot smaller than me. So, I let the little children have their day. The pleasure of a first-hand interchange with a Disney celebrity was too fun.
Around the bend a long line was waiting by the shoreline of the Epcot Lake. In the shade of a grove of giant trees, I recognized the costume of a familiar character. It was Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
From my vantage point I watched her smile, hug and give lines of great joy to children who took their turns with this famous star of the Disney family. My camera was up and snapping photos. It was just a fleeting moment but I wondered if that last wink was sent just to me.
photo credit: brucefong photography
My busy life at the office has very few gaps in a tightly wound calendar. It is a place where I engage people, planning, personnel issues and programming that challenges patience, problem-solving skills and perpetual glitches along the road of progress. However, I love doing what God has called me to do.
There was a moment to breath. It is right after Thanksgiving and just before a busy Thanksgiving weekend of service. That is when I climbed the stairs of our home on a search for a special box.
A few years ago I found that box in a store. It was on sale. For my purposes it was perfect and cheap too.
I brought it home and unpacked its contents. This was a three foot tall Christmas tree. Not only was it tiny but it was also easy to assemble. I had it put together and standing on its own without even looking at the instructions.
Now, this little tree has followed me around the country. I put lights on it, ornaments and even have a tree topper. Over the years it has brought cheer to me and my office staff.
This year it has made its appearance again. When I found it in our storage closet, I picked it up with care. The years had worn out the box. If I picked it up without holding it together, the cardboard box would pop open and dump that contents on the floor. It is probably time to find a more permanent storage container for this little guy.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving I brought it into my office. It only took moments to set it up. Since it is so small a single strand of lights is all it takes to trim this little pine tree. Then, I hand a bag full of ornaments. The tree topper is a moose, my favorite wild animal.
There are special moments in life for everyone. Plugging in the lights and throwing the power switch is one of mine. I am no longer a kid but this special moment never ceases to make me smile.
Standing back and gazing at my little tree captured my imagination and plunged it into my memories of Christmases long long ago. My office lights were off and the only source of light was from this single strand of Christmas lights. The ornaments were reflecting the lights and magnifying their effect. Such a little tree, making a big splash in my office and in the soul world of memories.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
Timing is everything. Trying to plan a home purchase, utilities sign-up, insurance costs, bank accounts, automobile registration, licensing and smog inspection along with church shopping, store shopping and post office shopping, the list is long for setting up our home in a different state, culture and neighborhood.
Yet, it is invigorating to start-up a new life. New friends abound, new sights fill up our eyes, new road trips lead us in all directions of the compass. Of course our palate is looking for different ways to cook beef, chicken, pork and fish. Here in Texas there are distinct flavors of food that make the locals very proud.
The Texas heat made us get creative quickly. We found places to go where the inside A/C was so refreshing. Sometimes it was a shopping mall, other times it was a movie theater. Still at other times we let the air conditioning of a friend’s home welcome us inside from the heat.
High on our memories of our move to Texas one year ago was juggling the timing of purchasing a home and moving our “priceless stuff” from the West Coast. Our home in Texas had not yet closed. The moving company was ready to pick up our possessions in California.
Movers charge according the time that personal goods are in their possession. Keeping that time to a minimum was important. Stewardship means a lot to us.
Juggling our California departure, my Texas work start date and the closing of the house all had to be coordinated. If you take it too seriously, you could lose your mind. We were determined to roll with the punches, adjust and flex.
To do so meant that we ended up being in our new home before our furniture arrived. Trying to be prepared, we threw a folding table into the back of my pickup truck along with two folding chairs. Then, we added a box of pots, pans, dishes and flatware.
Once the real estate agents handed us the house keys, we ceremoniously walked into our new home. It was very spartan, almost “collegesque”. To us it was part of the adventure. It was like a picnic in our newly adopted state. God gives us blessings no matter how odd they may seem.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
Have you seen the Pacific? Pictures do not really count. They are so limiting. To experience the mighty Ocean there is a require to let your body be minimized by the sheer magnitude of the Left Coast.
A visit to this part of the USA easily begins from high above the shoreline. Our eyes behold the expanse, marvelling at the comparison between the sky and the sea. In our mind we know that the heavens win yet the ocean is competing for our souls to come to a different conclusion. There is very little that is scientific about this objective. That is the Ocean, though, far more soulish than scientific.
I stepped up closely to the stone wall. On the other side of this barricade was a steep precipice that lead all the way to the sea. It was hundreds of feet down. We were safe since the man-made divider was anchored into the rocky cliff.
The sandy shores beautifully stretched out in a gentle curve to the South. Foamy salty surf kept up its incessant pounding on the beaches. Frigid temperatures keep most people on the shore. A few wetsuit clad surfers were grabbing waves for a swift ride toward the shore.
From a totally imaginative mind we could toy with the idea that when created the heavens and the earth, He took a lot of extra time here on the shores of the Oregon coast. It certainly shows. His signature is all over that place.
We drove down the mountain. Then, we elected to turn it at Rockaway State Park. Fond memories of fishing adventures, sand sitting moments and rock jetty hopping flooded my spirit. Our family had many moments of hunting for clams, roasting marshmallows over a fire, setting up our tents in the sandy camping sites and filling the picnic tables with our food for the journey could be recalled from my memory banks.
A seagull landed on a large rock. He was a familiar face. Years ago he looked for food that we would have left unguarded and absconded with his morning meal. We had nothing for him but a smile recalling his clever techniques in the past. This coast is a beautiful place for bountiful memories.
photo credit: brucefong photography
1 Thessalonians 3.11-13
My bride and I poured a healthy chunk of our lives into Michigan. We loved our days with amazing people. Memories fill our hearts from events, victories, relationships and growth while in the Mitten State.
Time marches on and our Sovereign God moved us to serve in another part of the vineyard. Yet, we both kept in touch with special people whose friendship proved itself over time. We wondered if we would ever get a chance to enjoy them face to face again.
There were unexpected times when we would stumble across a picture, a memento or a souvenir from our days in the Great Lakes. We would reminisce. Often we would say to each other, “Remember when” and then we would finish the thought or even add to the others rendition.
God has a way of putting a longing in our hearts. Then, in His mysterious ways He makes circumstances align so that we can fulfill that longing. He is very good to us that way.
The Apostle Paul had this depth of longing to be with the Christians at Thessalonica. He even prayed that God would make it possible for him to make that journey safely, removing any obstacle that would impede that reunion. In his prayer he automatically identified that the Father and Jesus are both God.
The grammar and vocabulary support this as a theological reality for him. Furthermore, this prayer is not relegated to secondary staff to carry it out but the Father himself is featured at the priority position of the request. Jesus is included with the title of Master, which is consistent with the acknowledging of His deity.
In his petition he asked God to “clear the way” for this venture. Literally, this means to “make straight” a path. It is a metaphorical term that gives the picture of taking a winding road and figuratively pulling it at both ends so that it is now straight. Paul wants to enjoy their fellowship as soon as possible and not have any delays or obstacles spoil their meeting up again.
The prayer of Paul is captivating. He is asking that God increase their love. This is one of those Kingdom values that can never be done in excess.
Those who follow Christ should not just see their love grow and increase but it should overflow. An abundance of anything that is overflowing paints a rich picture of bounty. It fits what love, Christian love is.
Nothing about this description is comfortable in solitary. Relationships make the difference. The application of love is all about being a blessing to others.
No one is left out in the application of enjoying the abundance of love. Paul not only includes each believer but he gives a catch-all phrase just in case any else thought that they were uniquely left out. This may mean that even non-believers are to benefit from Christian love. Certainly, Paul interjects that he along with his fellow servants are loving them too.
While these very special people were all about exercising selfless love toward each other and those who were not in the church, they still could improve. They needed strengthening in their spirits. Faith, one of the parts of that famous trio of love and hope, is a perpetual focus of development. It is a dynamic that keeps increasing until eternity is reached.
There is nothing in this instruction about perfection. No one can reach that state because we are all human. Nor is it a process that has flawlessness as our goal. This term, “blameless” means that in an objective arena accusations that are thrown at us do not stick.
The term “holy” does not mean perfect either. Rather, it means “called to a special purpose” that is, God has given us a divine directive to do His will. To be holy in His presence is to have been faithful in doing His will in our lives.
All Christians look forward to seeing Jesus return in their lifetime. That eagerness is an expression of the love that dominates their lives. Someday all who belong to the family of God will see Him. Some will receive the privilege to be on the earth when Jesus returns, just as He promised that He would.
When Jesus comes again, He will be accompanied by Christians who have already died and been in heaven. They will join Jesus for the great gathering with believers who will be taken directly to heaven. It is a mysterious and wonderful prophetic event to anticipate.
LAPP (Life Application): Let love be a primary driver in your life. Be a responsible Christian at work and with all of your responsibilities. Yet, also look for the opportunities to love on the people that your routine brings your way. When you pray and request that God bless those who have blessed you, then, seek the opportunity to be with them in fellowship. Then, cheer each other on in anticipation of Jesus’ eventual coming again.
Mothers, if it were not for them, none of us would be here. To be quite frank, we would not be nearly as far along if it were not for them either. They cajoled disciplined and terrified us into knowing what was right and what was wrong.
It was no many of us who did not decide that what was right was what Mom wanted us to do. Furthermore, we also knew perhaps even stronger than the first was that wrong was whatever Mom did NOT want us to do. Of course it did not make any philosophical sense at the time, but it sure made sense in the seat of our deepest understanding.
By in large Mom was right. Now that I am older and older still, I find that those values that were instilled in me so long ago are still very much a part of what I am doing now and how I am living now.
Mom taught me in no uncertain terms to never be ashamed of my ethnic heritage but to be proud of it. When I had a chance to identify with it I should. She led the way by example.
If she were ever confronted by a threat to her ethnic identity, that threat was rebuffed in no uncertain terms. I felt sorry for those that drew the ire of Mom because of a snide comment, openly racist slur or a devilish sneer.
On the positive side my identity in my ethnic heritage was paraded among festive holidays, community events and even the presence of art and literature in our home. She signed me up for a community drum and bugle corps experience that our whole family embraced.
Ethnic food was more than just doing what was familiar. It was a wonderful and prefered option for all of us. She was a masterful cook of Chinese cuisine. Her skills gave to all of us a standard to measure the best in Cantonese food.
Mom of course was our perpetual chauffeur. She drove us from one event to the next. She was also my primary typist for papers in High School. It became her reason to send me to typing school just to get a respite from the pounding keys.
I was a late bloomer. She never had much to celebrate in my early years. But, in college and graduate school, she had a reason to smile. Mom being there made those special events very special. Thanks MOM!