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IMG_3809Yes, I along with most of the humans in the Western hemisphere have seen many movies with exotic scenes of Hong Kong as the backdrop.  Suave and daring secret agents raced through town wrecking havoc as they chased enemy spies or ran desperately away from blazing guns and razor-sharp knives.  Whether it was during the day or night, on land or splashing through the water or flying massive airplanes between tall skyscrapers, this city was the stage for mysteries, adventures and drama.

Now, for the first time in our lives my bride and I are in Hong Kong.  We are seeing sites that we only remember from the silver screen.  They are spectacular when we are in the middle of those sensational scenes.

It is crowded.  Throngs and hordes and crowds of people are going everywhere.  The sounds of so many accompany the masses.

Yet, when it is time for many to board a bus, a tram or a subway train, the people areIMG_3782 orderly.  They queue up and patiently wait in line.  There is absolutely no one cutting into line.  Such order in the middle of such chaos is a stunning sight to take in.

Then, of course the city lights at night has to be a famous feature of this city.  Whether we gazed at Hong Kong island or took the Star Ferry and looked back on Kowloon, the lights of the city were festive in an unforgettable way.  I don’t remember the last time I walked through a city at night and felt no fear, but this was a welcomed experience.

IMG_3877Our hosts told us that we would feel quite secure in walking the city at night.  No pick pockets, no racial unrest, there were no shady characters waiting to rob anyone and no dark recesses that hid nefarious activities.

Man-made buildings and transports were features of the city.  Now, it was God’s turn. From the top of Victoria Peak we scanned the gorgeous islands that made up Hong Kong.  Each protrusion from the waters of the bay were a powerful reminder that God did His handiwork to make this natural harbor a home for one of man’s freest enterprise markets in human history.IMG_3916

Setting aside human structures and stunning vistas the most remarkable feature of this special city are its people.  We have special friends here who call Hong Kong home.  They welcomed us into their hospitality and we thoroughly enjoyed the embrace of love.

photos by brucefong photography

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The drive from the South area of Bangkok to the North area where our hotel is situated is a long drive.  That lengthy commute is extended when it is rush hour traffic.  But, the views are sensational and leave an indelible impression on my soul.

Mid-rise dwellings abound in Bangkok.  These small uniform apartments collect human beings in family units throughout the landscape of this beautiful country.  I will meet very few of these people face to face.

When our commute took us off of the tollways system and plunged us into the streets of the city, faces attached themselves to the masses of this countries millions.  The Thai people are famous world-wide for their cheerful smiles and clasped hands and bowed head.  There were countless people sharing that interchange along our route.

Yet, I would know very few of their names.  I would know less about their lives.  Even less would ever cross my path as a friend.

Millions of people scurried about, shopping, eating, commuting, conversing and laughing. Some were making a living selling, cooking, driving, delivering, guarding, guiding and an endless list of other activities of a city.   How many human brains would it take to know each one and follow each of their lives?

Yes, that’s definitely an impossible human task.  Yet, it gave me a chance to realize how BIG God is.  He knows all of their names.

Not only does God know each of their names, He knows each of their lives.  There are no overlooked issues.  Even the smallest of details of all of our lives are known by God.

He doesn’t stress over an overload of information.  He is never threatened by a limit of His knowledge.  Nor does He become so busy that He doesn’t have time for us.

The God of the Bible is the God who is not just attentive to our needs, He is fully engaged in inviting us to be in His family.  He makes that possible through His Son’s sacrifice on the cross.  Jesus died for everyone without exception.

Do you feel left out?  Are you overwhelmed with matters of life?  Has life become so troubled that you feel forgotten and ready to give up?

God loves you.  He knows every detail about your life and circumstances.  Not only is He aware of your situation, He controls all of them as well.  Turn to Him in faith; it will be the best decision you have ever made.

 

 

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

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My life has been embroiled with leadership roles for most of my adult life.  The challenge to unite people, square off with great threats, achieve great gains for the organization and to resolve to press against the ever-present vehemently vicious critic are all a test of the metal that a leader is made.  Reading and watching great leaders in action inspires me to keep leading with determination.

One of the great leaders in my life time has a Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.  Visiting this museum and library of this leader was on my life list.  I was able to check it off with great satisfaction.

After entering the gorgeous grounds with breathtaking views, I remember pausing long at a portrait of President Ronald Reagan as he walked down one of the halls of the White House.  There is something special about leadership that can never be taught and this President possessed it in generous quantity.  It is called “leadership presence.”

There is very little about “leadership presence” that is external.  Instead, it is what exists in the soul of the man or woman who drives their choices, directs their initiatives and most of all manages the values the define their leadership commitments.  Reagan’s beliefs marked his life and leadership.

When a leader faces pressures and attacks, he or she must be able to draw from their own convictions to make choices and decisions to protect and advance the best interests of the organization that they lead.  That is what leadership is.  Anticipation and reaction based upon a consistent set of values that others can follow and embrace.

The influence of this President was also balanced with a whimsical ability to engage the lives of international leaders from around the globe.  His control of power was never carelessly dismissed but blended with discernment, resolve and vision.  He thought the best of this nation and devoted himself to lead it to become better and more positively influential in the world.

If blessing is accompanied with responsibility, then this great leader acted well in light of the extraordinary blessings given to the nation by Almighty God.  He could win the respect and cooperation of the opposing party, sooth the angry critic or stand stalwart against the belligerent opponent.  President Ronald Reagan was a uniquely effective leader and one of the most remarkably gifted Presidents in our nation’s history.

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

 

Disney World 2014 084Some people imagine Disney World with animation.  Characters that have made Disney famous dance in the minds of those who try to capture the breadth of this theme park.  No doubt everyone has their favorite character or two.

Others zero in on the radiant castle that Tinkerbell flies around as the Disney Marquee.  It is certainly stunning in appearance.  Walking among its many rooms and photographing its majestic towers is unforgettable.

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Colorful buildings of cultural vintage and ethnic flair mark the grounds that envelope us for our dream vacation.  Epcot is unforgettable and the geodesic globe stands out as a hallmark feature of the park.  Everyone is included in this magical world.

Flowers are stunning.  Landscapers must be full-time and constantly planning the next season’s combination of colors, textures, heights and dimensions.  Trees, shrubs, lawns and blooms make up this critical piece of the Disney motif.

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Nevertheless, do not forget the water.  As blue as the canopy of skies overhead, the water ways, lakes, ponds and waterfalls are front and center of Disney World.  No matter where we turned or planned our day, water had to be crossed by bridges, boats or overhead trams.

Bodies of water are picturesque.  They reflect the beauty of vast blues and sparkling lights.  Inside of key exhibits there are massive tanks of water that are the homes of magnificent sea creatures, both large and small.

The reflection off of the surface of these waters adds to the wonder of this magical kingdom.  A steady wake from our water taxi makes our hotel begin to shimmer in the morning daylight.  When the sun sets, the reflection turns into something spectacular.Disney World 2014 128

Those who plan these water features must have a lot of fun dreaming about what could be done.  Ideas must rush from their planning and dreaming sessions like a geyser on overload.   Water must be placed in its location first or at least steer the conversation of how these parks are organized, planned and laid out.

Guests are guided along trails that submit to the restrictions of these planned walkways.  Bridges are engineered to make the 100,000 walkers connect with the water.  They pass over waterways without getting wet or slowing down.

Posing together for unforgettable memories are mighty trees, splendid buildings and resplendent colors.  Together they bond together for happy moments for countless people.  Yet, the water is almost always there.  Add water and there is life, beauty and splendor.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

Israel 2014 IFL 354The pace that our trip to the Holy Land was maintaining pushed the limits of our human ability to retain the overload of information.  It is a challenging task to decipher what our pilgrims can receive and how much we can push them to give full value to their once-in-a-lifetime tour.  While it might seem strange, giving them a respite helped increase their capacity to take in more.

Along the journey a momentary glimpse of something unique could seal the faith of a pilgrim with a visual reminder.  Constantly we were looking at this or seeing that.  Yet, a moment of beauty from a single window bringing in the sunlight from the outside into the dark dingy cavernous stone cathedral was captivating.

God’s created sunlight lit up the ceiling of an ancient architectural wonder like only a postcard could do.  It happened between moments of our guide giving one of his many lectures.  The crowd of people were being directed to another location.

As we waited for our turn to file out, I glanced up.  The arches of the ceiling and roof were reflecting the physics of structure and the aesthetics of design.  God lit up the shades of stone and the strength of engineering to give one of those beautiful moments when faith not just felt but also seen.

Israel 2014 IFL 360Stepping out into the sun was a reward.  Inside the building sunlight was relegated to a single portal.  Now, it was the dominate attraction in the sky.

Floods of sunlight showered on the foliage around me.  A tree burst out in yellow blossoms.  Each was reflecting the radiant light of the stellar ball of fire.

The pedals captured the rays of light.  Brilliant puffs of color decorated our canopy of shade.  God was reminding us that this was the Land that He promised His people.

If we would live by faith, we too would enjoy His fulfilled promises.  There was nothing that the God of creation could not do.  With faith everything was possible.

Israel 2014 IFL 364The powerful light was too much.  I looked down.  There my eyes rested but found another amazing delight.

The symbol of our faith was there.  Representing the joy of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave grew up by my feet.  Easter Lilies blossomed just at the right spot on our tour.

My mind was contemplating the reality of my faith.  The beauty of my faith was there for my eyes to stroke.  Faith is a saving reality and beauty to behold.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Israel 2014 IFL 366When I was invited to serve as the professor on one of the Insight for Living buses during a tour of the Holy Land, I was ecstatic.  It was an honor and privilege to teach people what it meant to be in the Land of the Savior.  During my early morning hours before work and late night moments after coming home from work, I poured over the itinerary and studied the Scriptures pertinent to the journey.

Then, in the mail my wife and I received a list of names.  These would be the pilgrims who would be travelling with us on Bus #11.  We were designated the Caramel bus.

We scanned the names on the list.  Also, we noted the cities and states that they called home.  During our initial exposure we tried to guess families and individuals by their last names.

There was not much information to go on as we formed in our minds who these travelers were and what they would be like.  Since we had no pictures or descriptions we did what we could do.  We prayed for them.

Everyone needs prayer.  Few people turn down that service by others on their behalf.  Besides when we pray for others we start to remember their names.

Then, the date of meeting arrived.  We were in the hotel at Tel Aviv.  Our team had been there a day in advance.

Hotel hospitality, tour company personnel, bus shepherds and bus professor couples lined up at the entrance.  Guests arrived by the bus load.  We greeted our pilgrims with smiles, handshakes, delicious beverages and sweets.

Most of those who entered were a bit shell-shocked.  They were surrounded by mostly strangers.  These were friendlies but strangers, nevertheless.

Many conversations and introductions were filling the quiet air with laughter, enthusiasm, stories and hopes.  Endless questions were scattered in those moments and answers were plentiful.  We achieved our goal to orient everyone to the next steps and get them situated comfortably in their hotel rooms.

Dinner was exciting.  The travel team expertly had everyone’s attention.  Musicians and worship leaders were brilliant.

The anticipation of a well-run, sharp and spiritually minded lead team was firmly established in all of our minds.  Now, it was off to bed.  A few night owls kept the rumble of new-found conversations and the beginning of new friendships flourishing.

Now, half way through the tour, we knew each others names.  We easily expressed our awe at the places we visited.  Tears, smiles and teasing we now common since we had been transformed from strangers to friends.

photo credit: brucefong photography

There was a day when Jesus was walking with His disciples.  They were going to Jerusalem for a festival.  This company entered the city through the Sheep Gate, near the pool of Bethesda.

Five covered colonnades near the pool marked this distinguishing site.  A man was there who was born blind.  Jesus engages him in a conversation.

Many who are disabled crowd around these waters.  Those who are blind, lame and paralyzed make this location their daily routine.  The expectation of a miracle is on everyone’s mind.

Israel 2014 IFL 349The man talks with Jesus but has no idea who He is.  Instead, he only talks about his predicament.  When the waters are stirred, he is frustrated because there is no one who can help him into the waters.

Jesus asks the man the obvious, “Do you want to get well?”  Even the man does not pick up on this query.  He answers with his predicament.

Then, Jesus declares that the man is healed.  He orders the man to pick up his mat and walk.  The healed man does so.

Everything about this  miracle is immediate.  There is rehabilitation.  No transition time is necessary.

Although the man has never seen since he was born blind, his mind can process people and he can negotiate his physical locomotion.  The miracle is total.  Yet, the mystery that surrounds it linger.

But there were sour legalistic people around.  Some took the rules of living to the extreme.  They criticized the healed man for carrying his mat.

Israel 2014 IFL 348In their perspective it was work and no one who was serious about their Judaism worked on the day of rest.  It is ludicrous to understand the rationale of this encounter.  Nevertheless, this extremism speaks to the unwillingness of people to see their own sin and stubborn refusal to humbly come to Jesus and believe in His message of grace.

The man who was healed kept on expressing a simplicity of his faith.  He simply told his critics that he was just doing what the man who healed instructed him to do.  When challenged to identify Jesus, the man honestly responded that he did not know who He was.

Later, in Jesus’ quiet way he met the man who He had healed.  He told him to go and sin no more.  Bad things happen to those who sin.

This is the message at the pool of Bethesda.  God’s mercy comes to those in need.  When it does, then humbly obey with simple faith.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

Israel 2014 IFL 335There is a narrow road that swing uphill from the Kidron Valley.  The descent from the Walls of Jerusalem are not far behind.  It is natural to look up when the road starts to climb.

The road is narrow and winding.  Modern designers never would have planned the route like this.  It is another indication that today’s roads have simply followed the old roads of the past.

Lining each side of the now paved route are tall stone walls.  You feel penned in.  Yet, the sense of being on the right road is assured by our guide.

Israel 2014 IFL 336Not far along this journey is a gate off to the right.  Many pilgrims are filing in.  The sense of this being a very special place is in the air.

Once inside the gate, our guide gives us quiet instructions to follow the pathway and to speak softly.  People are meditating and this is a sacred site. Those words are just a vanguard of what our spirits have already sensed.

Israel 2014 IFL 338Inside the walls a security fence surrounded the grove of olive trees.  Down the middle gravel pathway stood the largest and apparently the oldest olive tree in the garden.  Its trunk was massive.

Scarred and twisted this old tree was still sprouting shoots into the sky that were dressed in new leaves.  Botanists tell us that this tree could very well be two thousand years old.  It stood tall, solid and unmovable before us.

Israel 2014 IFL 339Maybe it was a mere sapling when Jesus came here at night and wept tears of blood. The agony of the Savior may have soaked the ground with His ignominious perspiration.  Here He accepted the Father’s will to take on the sin of the whole world.

This task meant that He must die.  It is the penalty of sin.  Death is the only option available to bring sin to justice.

Our only redeeming option is to have a substitute that will die in our place. Jesus agreed to take our place.  He died on our behalf.

Israel 2014 IFL 342It meant that He would be separated from the Father.  That reality was what weighed on  Jesus’ heart that night.  Yet, out of love for us, He agreed willingly to do it.

No wonder a church stands next to this garden in commemoration of this great sacrifice.  Nations from around the world contributed to its construction.  Enter this garden, His garden and sense the forgiveness given through the great gift of love.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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