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Have you ever wondered who the crazy guy is who set the alarm clock at 3:20AM with an ETD for 3:55AM? Yeah, it was me. It would take an hour to hit my rendezvous point and then to head to Galveston Island for a day of fishing with a buddy.

Once the two of us adventurers hooked up we loaded up our gear into his car. Then, it was another long drive to our next stop, bait camp. This time our long stretch was filled with great conversation.

A pint of live shrimp would do. Yes, we stood in line behind a dozen other hearty souls. Everyone was ready to chase their evening meal and fill their freezers with great food for the next several months.

We drove our vehicle on to the automobile ferry. The day began to wake up while we leaned over the rail and enjoyed the cool breezes and sounds of calling seagulls. Today the rising sun captured the silhouette of a shrimp boat trying to make a living for its captain and crew.

Hard work and daily work and very early work is the life of a shrimper. They were smart men, experienced men, and persistent men. Yet, they were at the mercy of how God orders the cycle of life of the decapod crustaceans. Some call them the broader category of these creatures: Caridea.

Fish like to eat them, so they just serve a particular purpose for me. We have often joked that we could quit fishing on a lousy weather or bite day and just cook and eat our own bait. No matter how many times we joke about it, we still laugh.

Now, it was time for us to cast our lines. Our first efforts paid off. Fish tugged and pulled. They tried to get away but when they took our bait, their destiny was sealed.

The few hours that we invested in the morning were filled with fun moments of fighting fish, marveling at the variety of species, and taking in the sunrise when we had a moment to reflect on the Creator’s provision both for food and for serenity. It was going to be a good day, a very good day. Any day starting with fishing made the day excellent and filled up the beginning week with only more good served up by the generous hand of the Almighty.

photo by brucefong photography

IMG_0278High School graduation was part of life.  It was filled with my classmates who were putting their stamp on a season that we shared together.  This special year would be a stake in the ground that we could all look back and remember our beginning, a commencement into life.

Different kinds of classmates were all around me.  My music buddies amazed me at their talent.  When they sang, I was stunned at how well they could captivate an audience.  Others could pick up an instrument and be judged among the best in the state.

Marching Band occupied a lot of my time.  Friendships grew when times were tough.  A new High School opened up and hived off so many of our musical talent.

We were left with a corporal’s guard.  But, we gave it all we had and enjoyed it.  We could not change much about our size.  However, the quality that we produced was memorable.

Some of my history was in sports.  I wrestled in High School.  We had one stand-out who went on to State.  All of us were proud of his achievements.

Athletes wore their block letter “M” on jackets and sweaters.  Winning may have been a rarity among our sports enthusiasts but spirit could never be questioned.  Our cheerleaders were the best.

Spirit at C.K. McClatchy High School was always on a high level.  Cheering together gave us an identity with this special year of a special class.

There were a lot of smart people around me too.  In Elementary Functions, pre-calculus, our brainy math wizards solved impossible problems.  Collaboration on the black board with options to finally solve a problem were a blast.

Science club gathered another kind of “smart” students.  Philosophy and experiments launched us into a world already too big for young lives to tackle.  But, we chased our chemistry, physics and engineering dreams with youthful energy and exuberance.

When Pomp and Circumstance was played for us, we marched in gowned up and eager to head to college.  A world was waiting for us to conquer, serve and make it better.  Since that special year of 1969, my classmates have made a difference in the world.

It was a special year with special people and amazing dreams.  Do you remember that year?  The world has never been the same since, don’t you think?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Dec 2013 031Everyone in this country is wearing a smile or a frown.  Those who voted for the guy who won are elated.  But, surely everyone must also recognize that there are a lot of Americans who voted for the other guy.

Nearly every sports event that we watch or participate in with all of our energy has both supporters for one side or the other.  No one really enters an athletic event and hopes that their team loses.  Competing is about winning not losing.

Yet losing is an essential by-product of competition.  Think about the other half for just a few moments.  No matter what the event there exists the objective to rally ALL the participants into one unified group in order to move forward and make strides together.

One step toward this objective is for each person to adopt a post-competition perspective.  It is easy on one level.  But, on another level it is very difficult.

Here is the Biblical strategy: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12.15) The last half is easier.  When someone is overwhelmed and beaten down, we can show mercy and encourage them.

The first part to celebrate with someone when they are rejoicing is tougher.  Usually that means we have lost.  Our team came up short, our vote was not added with the winner or our opinion will no longer be germane to the future discussion.

The disposition for those who win and those who lose needs to shift.  Of course the winner enjoys a time of celebration. It comes with the territory.  All of us enjoy those moments.

At the same time when we lose and we all will lose some time in something, need to shift as well.  For a time we will be sad, mourn and even sort out our feelings in solitude.  None of us like those times but we have all experienced them.

If we can learn those dynamics in something as simple as sport, then perhaps we can bring those same feelings to real life moments.  It is too bad that our human spirit crowds out the possibility of experiencing something supernatural.  Our personal bias gets in the way.

When someone we do not like gets a blessing we do not feel like rejoicing with them.  Instead, we are annoyed.  If we had our way that person would be hurt instead of helped.  That is sadly our sinful nature expressing itself.  Leave the natural reaction aside and try the supernatural option instead: rejoice with those who rejoice.

photo credit: kristin  photography

 

It is only October but the neighborhood pools are shutting down.  Our development has a number of water parks but only one remains open during this month of the Fall.  I have been told that it is too cold.

They may have a point.  I walked into our local pool and jumped into the chilly waters to confirm that rumor.  Before my teeth could start chattering, I started into my laps.

A quarter of a mile would do it for today.  Once I finished I would have just enough time to hit the showers, dress and be off to work.  Keeping my mind on my busy schedule would help me ward off any awareness of how coolish the water was.

The pool maintenance man was incredulous.  He  stopped his work and watched me enter the waters.  “It’s gotta be cold this time of year.”

There was a moment when I wanted to say something really clever and humorous in a complicated sort of way.  However, when I blurted out “Brrrr!” he just laughed and my moment for a comedic declaration was lost.  Now, all I could do was let him chuckle as he went about  his work.

At least I gave another human being a moment of levity in his day.  That’s worth it, right?  My sacrifice and loss for another’s benefit; isn’t that almost noble?

Around my last lap I had thoughts of digging out a wet suit.  That would surely keep me more comfortable while cruising up and down the lanes of this pool.  If anyone then asked if I was cold, I could bravely say “No” without shivering uncontrollably.

Soon November will be here.  That’s when this final swimming pool will be closed until next Spring.  What’s a swimmer to do? 

Cross training is fun.  I like to swim.  My mind reviews lists and projects and people. 

It’s a good time to pray for those that come to mind.  Of course my wife and kids are all prayed up.  So are special friends, colleagues and people who God brings to my attention for one reason or another. 

My body is tired, I exit the pool and all my prayers for the day are done.  I pause and laugh.  During my active exercise of mind and spirit I forgot that it was cold. 

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Olympic withdrawals are natural.  The intensity of two weeks is captivating.  All of us in the world gets into it.

Years of athletic investment is then tested on a world stage against the best competitors in a field from all over the world.  Some nations vie for dominance over and over again in the same sports.  A short list of events steals the center stage as popular sports.

Yet, the lessor known sports and tiny little countries with only a handful of athletes shapes so much of the Olympic games.  The stories of those who compete in the games is a huge part of the festivities.  Families, friends, history and adversity shape the beauty of this extravanza.

The final medals have been distributed.  A last starter’s pistol has fired.  Spectators are ready to make the great journey home. 

One last event would tie it all together.  The Closing Ceremony is the wrap up.  The British did it right and well.

Energy, music, smiles, friendships, memories flooded into the arena on that final night.  It was fun.  While I did not make it in person, the televised episode made me smile. 

It would have been fun to jump up and dance with everyone else.  Fierce competitors were not all celebrating together.  Good news of a safe Olympics kept the world happy about sport.

Yes, I was so proud of the American Olympians.  They did so well.  The drama of those gave their best but did not finish as high as they would  have liked, still won our respect. 

The spirit of the games is an amazing human achievement.  Many who are of the family of God displayed their joy in their field.  That was extra special.

It is a gathering for the youth of the world.  The director of the Olympic Games said so.  Hey, when did youth pass me by?

Oh, well.  We who are beyond youth provide the vast numbers of spectators and cheerleaders.  Our hearts soar when the national anthem is played.

We know the names of the best by first names only.  Their last names are unnecessary among friends.  Ha!

From the pool to the pitch to the courts to the field to the arena to the mat to the apperatus and finally to the stage, the cheers, tears, laughter, shouts and groans, we thank you.  It was exciting and exhilarating.  You made us so proud! 

Good job, Team USA!  We are so proud of all of you.  Thanks for the thrilling two weeks.  Welcome home!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

The familiar tune of the Olympics plays powerfully in the background.  Images of the nations and their finest athletes fill the TV screen.  Announcers direct our attention to the next spectacular event.

It’s that once-every-four-years sporting extravaganza.  National pride pulls our attention to Team USA.  It doesn’t matter what the sport but the red, white and blue has its natural appeal.

Winning a competition in a field where the world’s best practice their skills is exhilarating.  When the starting horn blows and the competitors are off their mark, history is being made.  Sometimes even historic moments are recorded.

The Olympic pool was filled with record-breaking events.  Some times it was the USA.  Other times it was another nation besting the field.  Each time it was exciting.

Gymnastics was the balance of power, skill, endurance and precision.  How can humans fly around like that and land without getting hurt?  My back ached just watching these athletes perform.

The world plays badminton seriously and the Olympic stage showcases this global interest.  When that shuttlecock whizzes back and forth with precise placement, the most skilled athletes are stunning.  Reaction and strategy blend into split second timing.

Water polo is a sport I have never tried.  The underwater camera showing the battle below the surface proves that I would have drowned if I had ever attempted to slip into that water world of combat.  Team USA boldly enters into the fray.

Table tennis is a flurry of style and athleticism.  It is speed on a small table.  Aggressors give photographers a chance to capture blurred movement in graceful arches.

Archery and shooting amaze me.  Competitors slowly reduce their heart rate for smooth releases and trigger squeezing.  There it is about training the body to relax instead of pumping out the adrenalin.

Equestrian events are about humans discovering their counterparts in animal athletes.  The horse does all of the work and the rider earns the medal.  OK, that’s a bit of a overstatment, but it is a unique sport of balance between man and beast.

Soccer wins the world’s attention on the massive pitch.  Moving beyond nil on the scoreboard is always a positive step toward the medal round.  Players work so hard and as long as spectators concentrate on the play, those rare goals are worth the rousing explosion of cheering that inevitably erupt.

They Olympics, what great sport.  What a favorite time for the world.  It is a fortnight of historic memories.

There is a well-known super mega outdoor sporting goods store located in Katy, Texas.  Everyone who loves to fish, hunt, hike and camp knows about this center for supplies, gear and equipment.  It was on my list of places to visit during our vacation to Houston.

We had a break in the action and the store was within eyesight of our travels.  Gently I turned the car to head in that direction.  It was a sensible option.

There were a score of other shops and stores attached to this mall complex.  But, we entered through the outdoor store.  Immediately I was smiling.

Outside every sort of outdoor boat was on display.  Fishing boats for every type of warm water fish were situated to lure in the next customer.  One of the latest bass boats was on raised display, set at an angle and turning at 360 degrees to show every feature.

Right at the store entrance were all the different sizes and styles of 4×4 ATV’s.  Some were for solo riding, others two up and even one with room for four.  Every camo pattern in the creative mind decked each of these powerful units.

Taxidermy were everywhere.  A massive Eland on a pedestal mount was at the entrance.  It was flanked by a hartebeest.

Then, I stopped short.  I read the sign, thought and laughed.  Oh, brother!

Are we who frequent the out-of-doors really that big into exaggeration?  I don’t think so.  The fish that got away really was that big!

When I saw that buck walked in front of me I did accidentally shoot that tree instead, just to give it a chance to grow a little bigger for the next year.  Besides, it would have been a long way to carry it back to the truck.  I was enjoying the relaxation of the moment and really didn’t want to be disturbed.

Oh, yeah, that flock of geese was at least 2,000 birds.  I know that I said it was only a 1,000 but I tried to report my estimation conservatively just to validate the veracity of the event.  In fact I was so busy guessing on how many that flew over that I never got around to taking any home for the freezer.

Sure, in the heat of the exciting moments in the outdoors I may have stretched the accuracy of numbers, size and situation but from an accounting perspective it was creative.  But, liar?  Not me!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

When the Old Testament spoke about going into battle against your enemies, there was never a time when defeat was considered a blessing. God’s favor was always equivalent to victory.  Defeat came when there was sin in the camp.

I have been reading through the book of Judges and this principle is very clear.  When Israel was obedient to God, then He blessed her with success on the field of battle.  The enemy was defeated when God’s favor was enjoyed by the nation.

When faithful leaders like Joshua and the elders who served with him were alive, the nation did well.  However, when these key leaders died, the nation slid into rebellious self-centeredness.  God pulled His favor and let the enemies enslave the Jews.

It wasn’t as if the Jews had been hoodwinked.  They knew full well that the favor of God was dependent on their obedience to His Word. Instead, they prostituted themselves to foreign fake gods.

Still in her suffering under foreign nations, God was still merciful.  He would raise up judges to rescue the people in miraculous ways.  Yet, even then the Jews remained stubborn and self-righteous in their lives of spiritual erosion.

This principle, however, is not to be confused with victory.  We sometimes get carried away in this confusion with our world of sports.  There is a horrible assumption that winning on the field of sports is somehow tantamount to the blessings of God.  It is not.

God can give victory even when a sports team loses.  Does that sound odd?  It shouldn’t. 

Afterall, Christians can be on both teams of a competition.  Both sides want to play we and compete with integrity.  But, only one team can win. 

If character and integrity are demonstrated while doing their very best, haven’t they experienced victory?  Whether the team or individual wins or loses, they can still experience victory in what really counts, even in sport.

When we give God the glory, live obediently to His Word we will enjoy His pleasure and secure a victory.  Sports and play do not have to register a win just to enjoy the pleasure of God.  Live faithfully according to His Word and His victory will always be ours.

photo credit:

Game 2 of the 2012 World Series was not played during a convenient time for my busy schedule.  Even if it was I didn’t have time to commit to a three hour game.  But, a great solution came my way.

A long-time friend had recorded the game.  I was delighted.  Now, I could watch it during my vacation.

Best of all, I could fast-forward through the commercials, commentaries and delay-of-games.  Even more, I could concentrate on my favored teams’ hitting.  My friend even gave me the courtesy of NOT telling me the outcome.  

My anticipation was heightened.  He told me that it was a great game and very close.  His smile meant that he enjoyed the match-up.

St. Louis was leading the series 1-0.  If they could win game two, then the pressure would be on Texas facing an uphill climb.  I wondered who would win game 2.

I fast-forwarded through all of the extras.  Just to save time I also advanced the recording through many of the early innings.  I saw two amazing defensive highlights by the Rangers, both at second base.

The Cardinals returned the favor with a brilliant double-play on the very two Texas players who were the heroes on second base outs against them.  It was fabulous baseball.  Even though the game was tied at zero the anticipation kept me curious.

Then, after the 7th inning stretch, the game became very interesting.  St. Louis drove in a run and the stalemate at zero was ended.  The beginning of the 9th was now a pressure cooker for the Texas visitors.

Nolan Ryan looked concerned.  The Cardinal fans were ecstatic at the possibilities.  They were on their feet ready for win #2.

The Rangers would not die.  They drove in a run and the game was tied.  Shock and worry swept over the stadium.

Again the Texas bats sounded; the crack of the ball meeting the laws of physics.  Runners advanced.  The go-ahead Ranger run crossed home plate.

It was the bottom of the ninth.  The host team had their final at bat.  Would they swing and win?  Could this exciting game give the home fans what they wanted?

I would never know.  The DVR did not have enough recording time for the game.  Game 2 went longer than scheduled.  The bottom of the ninth inning was NOT recorded. 

I ran upstairs. “The recording ran out at the middle of the ninth!  Who won?”

photo credit: google image

The Tigers lost game six.  The Rangers have won.  I cheered loudly but they must not have heard me.

This past weekend was tough.  Several of the teams that I cheer on in the arena of sports met with defeat.  One is defeat is tough; but several on the same weekend is a big downer.

My Detroit Tigers losing the ALCS was tough enough.  But, the weekend did not stop there.  On Sunday my Detroit Lions lost as well.

That loss was deeply felt since it was the first loss of the season.  Not was it the first loss of the season, it was a loss at home.  To make it feel even worse it was a loss against the San Francisco 49ers; that’s the city where I currently live.

The 49er fans are rabid.  They are fierce, loyal and rampant about their team.  I was frequently reminded of the SF victory by teasing fans.

It made their victory so much sweeter with a defeated foe to razz.  I understand that.  My being here helps them celebrate even more enthusiastically.  It is a pleasure to help others rejoice. 

Nevertheless, I am a fan too.  My team did very well this season.  Entering into the post season championship run to the World Series is always exciting.  It is a tribute to the excellence of the team.

I have been away from Detroit for two years.  When we lived there, a Tiger’s game was always on the calendar.  Our trek to the ballpark with good friends was a memory-making venture.

We lived in the Motorcity for years yet the Tigers kept losing.  Each season our hopes would soar but we saw more losses than wins.  But, we kept cheering on our men wearing the English D.

This past season our Tigers did very well again.  With the ups and downs of professional sports the mean growth up the charts was exhilarating. We had a lot to cheer and celebrate this year.

Pitches were laser-sharp.  Bats cracked at just the right times.  Defense in the infield was acrobatic.  Outfield heroics snagged fly balls like a bat snatching bugs with radar precision.

Losses come with the game.  None are planned.  Each one leaves the heart a bit sad.

But, the wins were just at the right time.  They were just the right amount.  We went a long ways this year.  Thank you Tigers for another great year!

photo credit: google image

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