Category Archives: Faith

Buying the Tree

I haven’t had much time to blog because the holidays are approaching and I’ve either been working or visiting family on time off. We spent some time in Texas before the Thanksgiving weekend because I was working over that holiday. My extended family in Texas was gracious enough to put on a full Thanksgiving meal for Laura and me. We provided a smoked turkey from Greenberg Turkey (highly recommended to anyone who reads this blog in the U.S.) and the family provided the rest of the fixin’s.

Even though I worked over the Thanksgiving holiday again this year, I was glad to be home right afterward so Laura and I could get a Christmas tree together. Last year, Laura had to buy a tree, decorate it, and put the house Christmas decorations up by herself, because I was still in Hong Kong for training. That was tough on her, so I’m glad I was able to be home for that this year. Click on our picture at the top of this post to see more of our tree decorating.
We always cut our Christmas trees down at Saum Farm. They are affordable, have a huge selection, and stay looking fresher, longer, because they are cut by us. We like to go for the Canaan fir, because of the way they look, and the needles aren’t prickly for adding lights and decorations. We were going to go cut one down with the rest of Laura’s extended family, but I got sick the day we were supposed to go, so we went by ourselves later. It was a blast for me, because I love Christmas, Autumn, and the whole holidays, plus I missed it all last year. I must say that we got a great tree this year and it sure is nice to be home for the holidays. We bought some more house decorations and had a fun time preparing our living room for the holidays.
Speaking of the holidays, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Well, as Pastor David Dykes points out here, that actually may not be the case. In reality, WE are the reason for the season. Sacrilege? Not hardly. See, as the pastor points out, Jesus came into the world, not for himself, but for us. We all sin and need a Savior from that sin. Christ came to Earth to provide us a way out of our sin, and a chance to spend eternity with Him. If we weren’t sinners, He wouldn’t have needed to come to Earth and die on a cross for us. But He loved us so much, that He came to die for us, to take our place for the judgement of sin. How cool is that? It’s for this reason that we celebrate every 25th of December: the birth of the Christ. Sure, it’s nice to give and get gifts from family and friends, but as the commercialism of Christmas screams ever louder and louder in our ears as the years pass, take time out of your holiday to remember the real reason for the season — our need of a Savior.

Great sermon audio on iTunes

Do you crave to be inspired by God’s living word? Do you enjoy a great sermon by a great pastor? Nothing beats the worship of a local church, but if you can’t make it to church, or you need some midweek encouragement, why don’t you give Pastor David Dykes, of Green Acres Church in Tyler, Texas a listen?

He is the pastor of my parent’s church and I’ve always enjoyed the worship there and God always speaks through him each Sunday. Green Acres has now moved their sermon audio to iTunes, meaning that whether I’m in Dubai, Hong Kong, Anchorage, or just at home, I can listen to a great word from God. The subscription is free and I set up my iTunes to download new podcasts from Pastor David each time it is updated. Make sure you have iTunes installed and then click on the subscribe button below to signup. Then, in iTunes, just make sure your subscription is set to auto update and enjoy!

Cathay Cargo: The Samaritan

Cathay Cargo made the news again with their help in partnering with Billy Graham’s son Franklin and Samaritan’s Purse to deliver donations from Charlotte, North Carolina to Chengdu, China. Cathay did the same thing last year with the same organizations to send aid to China after a terrible earthquake.

It’s great to see my employer helping out in giving aid to other nations and partnering with Faith-based organizations. Here is the article.

Just Enough

Because I’ve taken a new job with Cathay Pacific, I am based out of New York and my flights start and end there. Therefore, I have to commute to New York because I live in Ohio. Commuting is not very cheap for me because I lose a lot of the benefits of free travel that most pilots have because they are employed by a U.S. carrier. U.S. carriers allow pilots of other U.S. carriers to ride for free if there is an open seat, to help them get to work if they don’t live where they are based. I can sometimes get a free ride, on certain airlines and certain situations, but otherwise, I’m on the lookout for cheap airline tickets to JFK. It’s all part of doing business in the airline world.

This last trip I flew, I got a free ride to NYC, but had three bills to pay: one for a bus ride, one for a hotel room, and one for a taxi to take me back to the airport to get home. Those three costs added up to a fairly large sum and even though I could absorb the cost, I wasn’t happy at the prospect of having to pay this all the time, every time I go to work.

But God is a great provider. He kept the children of Israel alive as they wandered in the desert, by providing food for them each day. He allowed food to appear each day, and it would only keep for one day. Those who tried to gather more and stock up for the next day would only find that extra food spoiled. God wanted them to trust him for daily needs on a daily basis. He is a lamp unto our feet, not a huge spotlight shining ahead to show us the next few miles, but only the next few steps.

So how is God a great provider to me? When I checked into the hotel here in Anchorage, I was given an envelope with per diem in it. When I opened it, it was for the exact amount of my three bills: hotel, bus, and cab ride! Not a penny more or less. I think situations like this are more than a coincidence and am excited that God is showing me that he is sufficient for my needs. He may not always provide monetary needs, but he will always provide for those who choose to trust in him.

I’ll finish with this great quote: “God may not always show up when I want him to, but he always shows up on time.”

The amazing grace of Christmas morn

From Wesley Pruden:

The malls and the Main Streets will soon fall silent. The ringing cash registers and the happy cries of children will be but ghostly echoes across silent streets as hearths beckon, gathering friends and families.

But in the clutter of Christmas morn, the Christ born in a manger 2,000 years ago still lives, liberating the hearts of sinners and transforming the lives of the wicked. The authentic story of the redeeming power of the Christmas message is nowhere more vividly illustrated than in the incredible life of an English slaver named John Newton.

John Newton was born 300 years ago into a seafaring family in Liverpool. His mother was a godly woman whose faith gave her life meaning. She died when John was 7, and he recalled as the sweetest remembrance of childhood the soft and tender voice of his mother at prayer.

His father married again, and John left school at 11 to go to sea with him. He quickly adopted the vulgar life of rough seamen, though the memory of his mother’s faith remained. “I saw the necessity of religion as a means of escaping hell,” he recalled many years later, “but I loved sin.”

On shore leave, he was seized by a press gang and abducted aboard HMS Harwich, and life grew coarser. He ran away, was captured, put in chains, stripped before the mast and flogged mercilessly. “The Lord had by all appearances given me up to judicial hardness. I was capable of anything. I had not the least fear of God, nor the least sensibility of conscience. I was firmly persuaded that after death I should merely cease to be.”

The captain of the Harwich traded him to the skipper of a slaving ship, bound for West Africa to take aboard human cargo. “At this period of my life,” he later reflected, “I was big with mischief and, like one afflicted with a pestilence, was capable of spreading a taint wherever I went.”

John’s new captain liked him, however, and took him to his plantation on an island off the African coast, where he had taken as his wife a beautiful but cruel African princess. She grew jealous of John and was glad when it was time for them to sail.

John, however, fell ill, and the captain left him in his wife’s care. The ship was barely over the horizon when she threw him into a pig sty, with a board for a bed and a log for a pillow, blinded him, and left him in delirium to die. He did not die, but was kept in chains in a cage and fed swill from her table. Word spread through the district that a black woman was keeping a white slave, and many came to taunt him. They threw limes and stones at him, mocking his misery. He would have starved if slaves waiting passage to the Americas had not shared meager scraps of food.

Five years passed, and when the captain returned, John told how he had been treated. The captain called him a liar and branded him a thief. When they sailed John was treated ever more harshly, allowed to eat only the entrails of animals butchered for the crew’s mess.

“The voyage quite broke my constitution,” he would recall, “and the effects would always remain with me as a needful memento of the service of wages and sin.” Like Job, he became a magnet for adversity. His ship crashed onto the rocks, and he despaired that God’s mercy remained after his life of hostile indifference to the Gospel. “During the time I was engaged in the slave trade,” he said, “I never had the least scruple to its lawfulness.”

The wanton sinner, the arrogant blasphemer, the mocker of the faith was at last driven to his knees: “My prayer was like the cry of ravens, which yet the Lord does not disdain to hear.” Miraculously, he was rescued, and made his way back to England to reflect on the mercies God had shown him in his awful life. He fell under the preaching of George Whitefield and the influence of John Wesley, and was born again into the new life in Christ.

On Christmas Eve in 1807, he died at the age of 82, leaving a dazzling testimony to the miracle born on Christmas. “I commit my soul to my gracious God and Savior, who mercifully spared and preserved me, when I was an apostate, a blasphemer and an infidel, and delivered me from that state on the coast of Africa into which my obstinate wickedness had plunged me.” His testimony, set to music, would become the favorite hymn of Christendom:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.


One night a man had a dream. He dreamed He was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from His life. For each scene He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonging to Him and the other to the LORD.

When the last scene of His life flashed before Him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of His life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of His life.

This really bothered Him and He questioned the LORD about it. LORD you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.

The LORD replied, my precious, precious child, I Love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.

Cliched? Overused? Tired?

A ‘yes’ to all three of these descriptors of the Footprints poem might work. Nevertheless, I enjoy it and I was thinking on it as I walked along the beach in Dubai. It’s great to know that we have a God in Heaven who is sovereign and thus rules over everything. Even when life’s storms roll through, with faith in Jesus, I can be confidant that my anchor will hold.

I’ve heard it said that Christians, or religious people in general, are weak to have to rely on believing in something unseen to make them feel better and make sense of life, instead of being strong in themselves.  To this I say, “Absolutely!  I am weak!” This is why Jesus says that “the meek will inherit the Earth.”  When we get to a point in our life where the stress is too strong, the troubles are too terrifying, and the pain is too paralyzing, there is no where to turn, but to God!  But, it takes humility to say that we cannot handle our life on our own and devote it to following Him.

I wish I had all the answers and a magic formula for life — unfortunately I don’t.  But what I do know, is that when I loosen the death-grip I have over how I try to control and manipulate my life to suit my own desires, the easier life becomes.  Instead of spinning my tires in place and scrambling to get no where, I can give my troubles over to God and let Him deal with them (for He is certainly capable).   God wants to help us, but we have to allow Him to help us, or He’ll let us go on our miserable way, all alone.

What I take away from the Footprints poem is that the man walking with Jesus on the beach was humble enough to admit that he couldn’t go through this life all by himself.  He needed and wanted a savior — someone to carry him through life’s darkest moments.  In today’s culture, a meek person, a humble person, a person poor in spirit, runs contrary to the ideas of self help, self gratification, and self importance, so that we can be the center of our own universe and control all that revolves around us.  Society says that we need to get recognition, that we shouldn’t appear weak, and that we can solve all our problems if we just search within ourselves.

I humbly submit that we will never have the power within ourselves to ease our troubles and make sense of life.  Once we rein in our pride and admit to ourselves that we need help, God steps in and carries us the rest of the way!  I struggle with failing to give areas of my life over to God because I want to be in control.  I want to do better in that area.  In a word, I need to be more humble.  

So where are you today?  Is there some part of your life that you just need to let go of and allow God to carry you?  I’ll bet, like to poem says, that if you give it to God, He won’t let you down.  It’s okay to not have all the answers and it’s okay to be “weak” in the world’s eyes.  God will never let down those who humbly put their faith in Him.

Desert Sunrise

I just got back from Dubai, on a trip that went through Bangkok, Mumbai, on to Dubai, and back again. Click the picture above to see some photos I took during my time in Dubai. That trip is always so tough on the body because we fly on the back side of the clock. For example, we left Dubai at 10:30 PM in Dubai, but our bodies felt like it was 3:30 AM, the time it is in Hong Kong when the clocks in Dubai say 10:30. Ideally, I would get eight hours of sleep prior to flying back to Hong Kong, but trying to go to bed at 11:00 AM and stay asleep for seven to eight hours is almost impossible. What ends up happening is that I’m awake during the day and then have to fly all night as well. So what do I do? I just fight through the fatigue, knowing that I’ll have a few days to recover once back in Hong Kong.

Because my body time was messed up, I had the nice opportunity to be up and awake for the sunrise. A true view to a sunrise can’t begin while there is already light in the sky — it has to start when everything is still completely dark. True magic happens in the few minutes between the first lightening of the sky and when the sun first peeps over the farthest edge of the earth. The sky has an infinite number of color shades from deep blue at the zenith of the sky, to a deep golden orange at the horizon. Seeing the sun come up is great, but once it appears, it washes out so many of the deep colors in the sky due to its brilliance.

My view from the 26th floor of the Shangri La Hotel Dubai was great because the windows in the room angle out at 45 degree angles to form a little place to sit and have about a 200 degree view of the city. I sat there in a few nice quiet moments, enjoying the sunrise, thinking about my wife, whom I haven’t seen in weeks and is so far away, and being encouraged by reading God’s Word.

It’s always nice to be reading the Bible while simultaneously witnessing something of a miracle of beauty in His Creation. I guess it helps me to stand in more awe of Him. In my case, it was just the simple, quiet sunrise. I think of how the astronauts of Apollo 8 read from the Bible when they saw the first “Earth Rise” on that Christmas Eve in ’68. “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth . . .” In moments like that, what more can we do than quote the Creator?

By the way, it was Bill Anders who took, in my opinion, one of the most amazing photographs of all time. With one click, he showed just how fragile and yet how important humanity is, sitting on a small blue planet, out in the vastness of space. A picture of a far off galaxy is one thing, but seeing our own home, and putting it into perspective, is nothing short of miraculous.

Dubai has some amazing creators. The Burj, the tallest building in the world, is in several of my pictures. It will stand nearly 2,700 feet tall upon completion and is a sight to behold in person. It looks puny in the pictures — until one starts getting within a mile or so. Then, the magnitude of the structure starts to take full affect. On our approach charts for the arrival into OMDB (Dubai’s airport), the minimum safe altitude, or MSA, has been raised to 3,800 feet. The MSA has to guarantee 1,000 feet of clearance over any obstacle. It’s wild to see that high of an MSA in a flat desert, all because of one amazing building!

However, my pictures of the Burj pale in comparison to the EarthRise shot. It just goes to show that we humans are capable of remarkable things, but nothing beats the true Creator! It’s that same Creator who looks after my Sweet Pea while I am away for so long. It’s He that guides me through my tough training at Cathay and it’s He who brings matchless peace in a busy, stressful world. Sometimes, it’s just the simple things, like watching a sunrise, that remind me of who God is and what He wants to do for me and through me.  I need to allow the true Creator to create in me the type of person that he wants me to be.