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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

 

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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

 

 

IMG_1287Have you visited the mighty Pacific Ocean?  It is unforgettable.  There is something remarkable about this massive body of water and how it impacts the land that is home for all of us human beings.

Countless people flock to the shores of the saltwater expanse.  They play on the beaches, marvel at the power of the shifting currents, take advantage of the teaming life below the surface and find an incomparable respite every evening when the sun sets with a unique masterful display of color.

There is something else about the ocean that leaves a mark on our human memories.  Along the shores, up in the hills are the vestiges of another power common on the ocean.  It is the wind.

Temperatures shift and start the air moving in powerful layers from one direction to the next.  God set this in motion with the creation of the world, currents not just in the waters but also in the air that keep alternating directions.  It is the wind.

Tall fir trees with trunks gnarled, bent and twisted by the constant blowing of the winds stand in groves along the coast.  They give me pause. Each one has stood against the threats to level them. Storms and daily pressure have left their mark but the trees still stand.

The scars and wounds add to the beauty of the fauna that decorate the hills along the edge of the Pacific.  It is amazing that they have survived.  While many gaze at the vast oceanic vistas, I for one turn away and soak in the scenic sculpture created by the winds and the strength of life in the trees.

This forest of trees almost appears as an army of sentinels slowly making its way to the sea.  The onslaught of the sea winds have taken their toll on the tree features and come to a truce.  Each force standing at the edge of the battle lines respecting the right of the other to be present.

The ocean coughs up its winds and the trees bend their boughs.  Yet, the roots grip tightly to the soil and will not release further ground.  It is a scene of power and persistence.

God created this dynamic picture of life.  Nothing is static when it is truly living.  There is always growth, always movement and always change.

Keep on living and keep on with growing.  Change as necessary.  But, hold on to what is important.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

Israel 2014 IFL 310There are high spiritual points along the tour of Israel.  Every day and at every site there are those deeply personal moments that people will always remember.  But, there are also moments of comic relief that brings a smile to every pilgrim whose feet follows the footsteps of the Savior as well.

On every one of my four tours of the Holy Land, there is a common laughable sparkle moment.  It is  part of the land. Also, it is very much a part of the people of the Land.

The first time a camel is spotted it rouses an immediate interest on our bus.  Every picks their head up and asks, “Where?”  Heads are turning and the eagerness in lives both young and old are interested.

Cameras are set on the ready. Smart phones with built-in cameras are held up with photo or video options ready to launch into action.  All conversations are put on hold and the guide helps everyone orient themselves to the first sighting of this remarkable creature.

Westerners have often joked that the best illustration of what a committee can produce compared to that talented executive is a camel.  The skilled and gifted individual can come up with a plan to build a Chevrolet Corvette but a committee can never be efficient or productive beyond a hodgepodge of connected good ideas or aesthetic appeal and end up with a camel.  That would be a little too rugged of a commentary on this amazing beast.

Israel 2014 IFL 319When God created this animal, He designed endurance like it existed no where else in the animal kingdom.  The camel can go and keep on going even through the roughest of climates.  In the desert this animal is the king.

With its agile movements, personal water reservoir and massive hoof displacement it can travel with a burden through the desert and keep on living.  Caravans learned of this quality and maximized its potential.  Through the arid and sparsely scattered water sources, these animals deliver their cargo over and over again.

Today our guide told us that there are no wild camels.  Even in the desert a camel is owned by someone.  These creatures are highly prized by those whose lives are in the sandy dunes.

Look at the face of a camel.  Do they not have a face that only a mother could love?  They are gentle yet independent.  With their water hump, they always make us pilgrims smile.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

WY 2008 009While straightening out my office I picked up a photo from a great adventure in Wyoming.  Fond memories flooded into my mind. Combine good friends with a challenging adventure and there will always result in a moment to remember.

My quarry was the amazing Pronghorn Antelope.  It was created by God with specific features to survive in the rugged plains our great nation.  Experienced outdoors men marvel at this splendid animal.  I would make an effort to capture these animals on my digital camera.

Each antelope is about the size of a smallish whitetail deer.  The Pronghorn has been nicknamed the Prairie Goat.  It eats just about whatever is available in the Prairie.  Here in the upper elevation of Wyoming the main staple for food is wild grass.

These fantastic creatures have oversized eyes in proportion to their head.  God gifted these prairie critters with this unique feature so that they use superior eyesight as a defense mechanism.  Their eyesight is amazing.  Each pronghorn has the eyesight equivalent to humans using 8x binoculars.

Along with their splendid eyesight these animals were created with blazing speed.  They can easily sustain a 30 mph gallop across uneven terrain.  It keeps these herds of beautiful creatures out of reach from predators.

Unfortunately, it also keeps them far away from photographers, even those who are equipped with a significant telephoto lens.  A tripod steadied my shots, nevertheless I was challenged to get close enough for good photos.  I have deleted many blurry shots, miniature images, and clumsy compositions.

Besides the distance challenges inherent in wildlife photography, there is the Wyoming weather.  The wind blows there with relentless force.  I teased my host that when the wind stops blowing, local Wyoming residents fall over.

Once I was in the field all day.  That camera shoot started with very cold but with a clear sky.  Of course it was windy.  Then, the weather turned sour.  First, the low clouds rolled in and engulfed me in a thick fog.  Then, it cleared in time for the rain to start.  Once I was drenched, the cold weather turned the rain into snow.

I gave up in my fight against the elements.  Once back at the cabin, I dried off and watched the frozen rain fly down and pelt the window of my room like a sandstorm.  It was very nice to pull off my boots and warm my feet.  Maybe another day would be more friendly for me and my shutter.

photo credit: brucefong photography

There is a fascination in my spirit for exotic beauty.  It is not just the mystique of the Hawaiian Islands or the lure of the Caribbean Islands.  Both locations are amazing.  The people, the history, the stunning sights, the ever presence of water giving contrasts of the blues against the greens.

Fauna is unique.  The wild pigs of the Hawaiians or the feral cattle of the Islands.  Some would even claim a herd of wild horses roam the mountains on these exotic locations.

Of course the colorful fish below the surface of the waters intrigues every skin diver or snorkel buff in the world.  I did swim in both waters and will never forget being ushered into the underwater world of God’s creative hand in fish shapes, sizes, colors and peculiarities.

Yet, the exotic places on this planet always include the flora of the warm tropical environs.  In particular I am always fascinated with the orchid.  They are like no other flower on the planet.

My camera never finds many dull moments.  The shutter is rapidly lining up frame after frame. Delicate petals and gentle blend of colors never ceases to amaze me.

Quietly, I thought that if I could raise these amazing plants of stunning beauty I would.  Yet, my green thumb never did appear.  However, I live that dream vicariously through my bride.

A number of orchids live in our home.  They are under the watch care of my better half.  She has learned how to nurture and cheer on these hardy yet particular plants.

The great test of success is the second bloom.  Once an orchid has lost its flowers, keeping the plant happy so that it will bloom again is like a new birth.  My wife has lost count of how many successful second births we have witnessed.

Each time buds appear we are thrilled.  More buds pop and soon a line of future blooms line a branch.  In anticipation we are always pleasantly surprised when a new day dawns and several blooms greet us to start a new day.

On Valentine’s Day I did not shower the love of my life with long stem flowers.  They are wonderful.  Instead, I paraded in four new additions to her orchid collection.  Both of us gazed at the gorgeous blooms and look forward to watching those plants reproduce again and again.  That is beauty of the blooming kind.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3342Not everyone is comfortable walking into the desert while it is still night.  The darkness that shrouds the vast expanse of Southern Texas can be hazardous for the unaware.  A pack of howling coyote can erupt the panic and fear in the life of even the bravest of men.

It was not a time to be careless or naive.  My walk was with the right equipment and my destination was planned with precision.  I was confident that I would not only be safe but the expectation of my objective kept me on track.

The double-track was clear.  I had clipped a light on the bill of my hat.  It lit  my way so that I would not stumble or take the wrong path to my destination.

A chair waited for me.  It was just in time.  Early morning light was starting to highlight the trees around me.  The darkness was being challenged by the sky that was starting to glow with a new day dawning.

Over the next 30 minutes the light of the morning sky grew brighter.  It was just a simple contrast with the pitch black grounds around me.  Then, the sky began to show up in bright yellows and orange hues.

A distinct tint of purple fled the fiery ball that was rising in the East.  Like a blazing spotlight surrounded by the spectacular blasts of a sky that looked like it was ablaze, the sun was taking center stage.

Now, the night had lost its grip over the land.  The threat of danger from what the darkness hid was being overtaken.  Instead, of looking left, right or behind, my eyes were taking in the rising of the sun.  It was amazing.

No matter how tough life gets, gazing at the erupting of a sunrise of a brand new day is an elixir available to anyone who gets up to watch it for free.  While the light flooded over my small plot of land, I felt warmer, happier, satisfied and hopeful.  Mix this experience with the joy of prayer, strength from contemplation and the cleansing of meditation for the beginning of a great day of recharging my energy.

I found myself smiling.  It was an involuntary physiological response. Beginning makes us all hope again.

A few strands of high clouds was the canvas for God’s painting a new portrait of the day.  It captured the stunning mixture of colors.  Those features are simply the features that make up what is beautiful.  Take in a sunrise soon.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3331It was time for a break.  Life has been full for weeks.  There have been long nights, longer days and no days off.

Nevertheless, I have also learned to pay attention to my inner voice telling me when it is necessary to recharge my batteries.  Providentially, I was invited to join a friend and head south.  We would hang out in the deserts of South Texas.

Many would scrunch up their face with the thought of retreating into the desert.  To the uninitiated the desolate world of brown and faded green might be more frustration than refreshment.  But, I have done this before and I have found such a journey like a fountain of revitalization.

I did not need an alarm clock.  Life’s burdens had been waking me up early, before the sun warmed the earth.  Donning my outdoors clothes I began my walk.

The sand was plentiful and gave way under my boots.  Each step found solid ground after the surface was compressed.  There would not be much speed on this stroll.

There was no reason to hurry.  An easy pace gave me the chance to absorb my amazing surroundings.  Life was popping up all around me.

A road runner scampered across the road that I was following.  Then, a pair of jackrabbits hopped into the middle of the road, stopped, looked at me, then leaped off into the scrub brush of the desert.

Doves in large flocks of 20 or 30 would flush and soar through the sky with blazing speed.  A covey of quail flushed and flew off to the West.  But, they had given themselves away with their chirping and bobwhite calls.

Something ahead on the road made me pause.  Holding very still, I focused on the unusual shapes on the road 400 yards ahead.  A trio of whitetail deer were staring back.

A dominant doe lowered her head.  Her big brown eyes never diverted away from me.  Then, she popped her head up trying to discover some movement to assess my threat level to her and her friends.

She stomped her front hoof.  Neither perspective, sound or time gave her reason to flee.  Then, she relaxed.

Between us a small herd of Javelinas walked out between us and began feeding on corn scattered on the road.  Their grunting and snorting was entertaining.  This is not a desolate wilderness but a land filled with life and variety if you pause to drink it in and refresh your soul.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3282Pennsylvania was the venue for a major ministry in the cool winter climate.  In my computer were five messages and one workshop ready to be delivered in the course of two and a half days.  That is a load of work.

When I consider that each time a speaker delivers a word from God, the responsibility is massive.  Representing Him accurately each time and then fending off spiritual challenges and physical challenges at the same time is a daunting task.  All of us who preach and teach love to respond to God’s call yet we know that the preparation and delivery of our calling is weighty.

After the first presentation, I was feeling the task in front of me.  It is a lot like the first lap on a long foot race.  Or it is similar to the first leg of a long bicycle ride.  Your mind wonders if your body is already spent.

It was time for a walk.  So, I went outside.  My coat and cap were tightly worn to insulate me against the cold winds of the NE.

There on a hill I could enjoy the scene of the valley below.  Grass cushioned my feet.  Trees that had long since shut down into winter mode stood like bare sentinels waiting for warmer temperatures in the distant Spring.

Clouds heavily laden with moisture fly overhead looking for comrades to share their moisture loads and find an excuse to drop it on the earth.  Birds flitted about scarfing up stray seeds.  Squirrels had escaped their nests and foraged for food and chased each other relentlessly as if their energy levels would burst if they stayed docile for too long.

Caught up in the middle of God’s great creation, I realized that my load had disappeared.  The weight of representing Him was now a distant memory, swallowed up in the greatness of who He is and the certainty of His presence.  Standing as part of His creative hand with life teaming around me reminded me that ministry is all about Him.

I breathed in deeply.  The air was fresh and clean.  My lungs relished the moment.

He would be faithful and I surrendered myself to His assurances.  Faithful friends from around the nation and the world would be praying for this ministry.  Studied up, prayed up and rested up I was ready to keep going through the weekend of service.  God would do His amazing work and I was privileged to be a part of it.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3284My morning walk was through the cold windswept countryside of the Pennsylvania farmlands.  Clearly it was winter.  Grass was now a light brown with so much of the frigid months weighing heavily on the foliage and outside near-unfriendliness.

Dressed right for this climate and time of year, I enjoyed being outside for a moment of contemplation.  Breathing in the freshness of air that had blown clear and struggling rare rays of sunlight sneaking through a heavy layer of low hanging clouds was invigorating.  Often I would pause and look over the valley below.

A farm was quiet on the other side of the highway.  There were a few hardy animals slowly meandering in the pastures.  They would graze contentedly.  God gave them a natural coat that grew thicker in this time of year.   Each one was comfortable, unconcerned about any inclement weather.

Then a gust of wind moved me.  Quickly, I pulled my cap down a little tighter and pulled on my gloves a little tighter.  My down coat was doing its superb job of keeping me well insulated against the dropping temperatures.

I looked up and found a reason to gaze.  The trees that surrounded me were mostly sporting naked limbs.  All of the deciduous trees had gone into winter mode, hibernating for months until the temperatures rose again in Spring.

My stare above continued.  A smile followed.  The scene captured my mind for a long moment.

While the whole valley had tightened down to survive another winter, there was lingering presence of perseverance.  Above in the limbs of a tree, several leaves had stubbornly refused to “let go”.  They were still hanging on.

The wind was swirling about trying to bat them off of their perch.  But, tenaciously, their grip kept them locked into place.  They would occasionally flutter but they would not be moved.

A large blowing wind moved the tree trunk, swayed the branches and even shook the cluster of leaves.  However, they remained rigid at their connection.  Several hold out leaves from a neighboring tree surrendered.

The sky was dotted with the last of the Autumn leaves that were driven out of their high perches and laid out as another piece of the natural carpet on the ground.  Millions of leaves already gave the ground an insulated coverage.  This cluster was still holding on.

I smiled.  With a wink of my eye, I left them to stay their course.  The picture of perseverance is a power vision to behold.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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