IMG_4126A funny definition of grandchildren is that they are God’s blessing to parents who did not murder their teenage children.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Then, marvel at the wonder of words that time the unexpected with the fully understood message accomplished with a very few words.

What is nearly as marvelous as a well timed joke is the wonder of how a grandchild can capture your heart as a grandparent and never let it go.  Before there is even a single cogent conversation love is permanently established.

How is it possible to be so in love with a young life when we have never had the briefest of conversations?  Yet, devotion to this little one is permanently established.  There will be no compromise on that family bond of loyalty.

When he smiles, I smile.  Of course when he laughs it is infectious and I laugh heartily.  Even when he cries I do not panic, there is no discomfort I just love on him.

Bringing comfort to this little soul is a sheer delight.  We cuddle together and his little life quiets down.  I sink deep into my easy chair as his crying slows and transforms into a quiet whimper.

He snuggles into my arms and breaths like he is relieved.  Tears soak into my shirt and little brown eyes stare up into mine.  A gentle smile breaks out on his countenance and I melt in a deeper sense of commitment.

Yes, I will teach him many ways to enter into mischief.  Together we will laugh through adventures and make fabulous memories together.  We will learn about fun, humor, the outdoors, the Bible, faith, hope and love.

Honestly, I will love passing on the lessons of life and the joys of daily living to this precious little one.  Who knows but God what the potential of this one life will be.  He will bring great blessing into the lives of many.

In the mean time I will laugh when he goes through his antics.  Each time he achieves a new landmark in his progress I will smile.  Eagerly I will look forward to the many firsts of his life and chuckle while he finds his way through the maze of growing up.

Pictures will remind me of those times since thousands of miles will separate us for most of the year.  Videos will allow me the joy of reliving those life stages especially when I cannot be physically present.  Grandchildren are a miraculous bundle without a doubt.  They are treasured gift from the Lord.

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

 

Laurentian 2008 060Our flights were booked. We have done this a lot in our lives. The airport is a part of our lives.

This trip was routine.  The airline industry has it down to a science.  They herd us in an orderly fashion to our seats.

Federal regulations crowd into the public announcement system before we take off.  An army of mechanics have worked over the aircraft, specialized air traffic controllers monitor our safe fight path and engineers are always working on improvements for the next generation of aircraft design.  In the mean time a highly trained cockpit crew run the controls and we are soon airborne.

It is odd to think about the phenomenon of flying.  Some passengers are fussing about luggage space.  They grouse to the attendants about extra charges and the inconvenience of being separated from their possessions.  Amazing!

“Hey, knucklehead, we are flying at 30,000 feet.  You do not have a parachute.  Your derrière is in a comfortable chair.”

Of course a baby screams.  People physiologically react by wincing, donning noise canceling headsets or leaning as far away from the sound as they can.  The poor parents are embarrassed and struggling, yet they flying through rarefied air and bringing their infant on board without hesitation. Amazing!

There is no other means that I personally have that hurtled my body at 500 mph in complete comfort than in an airliner.  It is difficult to imagine racing at that kind of velocity without strain or pain.  Yet, we do it every time we step into an aircraft with those familiar words, “Welcome aboard.”  Amazing!

Occasionally, I get a glimpse out the window.  The clouds are below us!  We are actually living above the clouds and looking at mountain peaks that stop or frustrate ground transportation.  Amazing!

Thirty minutes to our destination the pilot announces that we are entering into our initial descent.  We 100 miles away yet we are beginning our final approach.  Everyone is instructed to put away their carry-on items, shut down electronics and fasten our seat belts in preparation for landing.

That is 100 miles away from completing our journey.  Some people never even travel that far from home let alone get ready to finish their trip in 100 miles.  The expanse of this mode of transportation is amazing!

Flying is a stunning accomplishment.  God set up the laws of physics.  Men were bright enough to match adventure with observation and make something amazing now a part of our casual living.  It is amazing!

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

IMG_2047It has been months since I was able to move into the swimming pool without discomfort.  Getting old is no fun.  Doing it gracefully is a daily challenge.

Gingerly I held on to the hand rail and descended into the warm waters of our club lap pool.  Of course in my mind I was bound and determined to look “cool” while doing it.  I stubbornly refused to surrender to any image of “old man coming in!”

Yet, I could only cover so much.  Turning my head too much wrenched my back.  Twisting my hips too much nearly paralyzed me with pain.

OK, I’ll admit it!  I am turning into an OLDer man.  It is worth fighting to remain young in mind and give the appearance of youthful-like mobility and foster the illusion as long as possible.  Age is mostly a mental state, right?  I do not think that last composition of words came out right.

Water buoyancy is a friend to our aching bodies.  God gave us water to show us how gravity can be modulated for a brief moment.  Lifting the weight momentarily relieves the pain.

Deftly I set myself for my first voyage since the diagnosis of four herniated disks.  “Slowly” was my operative term.  Pushing off the wall gently, my gliding moves propelled me through the water.

Just like riding a bike, you never forget how to swim.  The strokes were pain free.  While it was tempting to push my rhythm, experience and terror kept the cadence deliberate and intentionally relaxed.

Lap after lap my mind was beginning to sense progress.  Treatment for my pain-riddled body had brought me back to functionality.  Now, I could fill my lungs with air, grow back some stamina and feel invigorated again.

Still I would go easy.  After several more trips to the pool I would still move deliberately and slowly.  Each time I added more laps.  Finally, I upped my time in the waters of recuperation and knocked off 48 laps.

I did that much just because getting out of the pool is so hard.  After a good swim I use the hand rail to pull me out of the waters and feel the stinging reminder of a back that can no longer to do spinning Karate kicks or double front Kung Fu snap kicks or oblique wrestling leg sweeps.

In my early youthful days I promised myself that I would not whine about aches and pains when I inevitably grew older.  So, the sounds of shrieking that you might be hearing are simply the exhaling of breath practicing a newly discovered soprano vocal range.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4082My motorcycle is now 7 years old.  It still looks great and gleams brightly when I polish to a brilliant luster.  Detailing the paint and finish until all grime, dust, bugs and dirt are gone takes a long day if not more than one.

Over time there are a few dings and chips in the paint.  It is part of the character of many miles on the open road.  Showroom glitter does not have much compatibility when the miles roll under the tires of a thunder machine like my Silver Dragon.

One of the critical parts of my steed that wore out was my battery.  It is vital for holding a charge that can faithful be ready when it is time to crank up the motor.  Last week the get up and go got up and went.

This would be my first battery replacement for this motorcycle.  It was time to consult my MOM, Motorcycle Owners Manuel.  Then, I checked out the internet for videos on the procedures.

I laid out my tools on a work table.  Both seats had to be removed.  That was simple enough; one bolt for each seat and the cushions slipped out with a simple pull.

Now, came the difficult piece.  Wires and connectors were all over the battery bay.  I had to identify each one of the harnesses and disconnect them in order.

The challenge would be to remember the order so that I could repeat the connections in reverse order once I installed a new battery.  Neither the MOM nor the internet gave details on disconnecting the harnesses.  That was a task that I had to figure our on my own without breaking any of the brackets, connectors or wires.

Experienced good mechanics snooze through this kind of task.  I am inexperienced and just a do-what-is-necessary kind of mechanic.  It was time to do what was necessary and whisper a prayer in the process.

Thankfully, the Kawasaki engineers designed a very good system.  Even after years of silence, the connectors separated, bolts came apart, screws unfastened easily and every diagram in the MOM matched what was on my bike.

The service attendant at our local Motorcycle dealer was very helpful.  He sold me a new battery, showed me how to set it up, charge it up and gave me just a few necessary precautions.  After several hours of priming and charging the battery I installed the new juice source, said another prayer and fired up my machine.  It roared to life and I smiled at the Lord as he enjoyed the sound of power under throttle.

photo credit: brucefong photography

lockwood_header_finalDan Lockwood and I met in Dallas, Texas in the mid 1970′s.  He was embroiled in his doctoral studies and I was immersed in my masters studies.  We had a mutual friend that gave Dan an excuse to invite me to his apartment for a meal.  It was a new beginning that would blossom into a professional connection for decades.  That’s the way Dan was.  Splendidly welcoming and hospitable.

That first meeting set the mood for every conversation that followed.  Dan always had a reason to smile and chuckle over something that was germane to our bantering or not.  It brought a kind of cheer when others might just erode into a dour melancholy.  I liked that about him.  That’s the way Dan was.

Years later he contacted me in Aberdeen, Scotland.  He was the new Dean at Multnomah Biblical Seminary.  We talked about life, chuckled about studies and then he offered me a teaching post at the seminary.  He was willing to take a risk on me!  That’s the way Dan was.  He saw the best in others.

For a decade I thrived under his leadership.  First, he was my Dean.  Second, he became my president. Both were honored positions for me under his direction and vision.

His cheer never left.  Thoughtfully and Biblically he measured his decisions.  I marveled at his skillful leadership and ability to move among the generations and personalities that funneled through the Multnomah campus.  That’s the way Dan was.  He liked people and people liked him.

He let me teach, shepherd and engage our students with great freedom.  Building into their lives with creativity and adding extended ministry beyond campus were always smiled upon by Dr. Dan.  I loved my stint at Multnomah under Dan’s leadership.

Then, for a decade he and I were colleagues as fellow presidents in theological education.  We laughed together, spoke somberly together with understanding and had a quiet moment or two that only presidents can understand.  It was fun cheering each other on in His goodness and grace.  That’s the way Dan was.  Generous in encouragement.

During his last years in his leadership role we happened to find a moment together in San Francisco.  We had our normal cheery banter and reflection over God’s blessings.  Then, he spoke about his hardest year ever while in the Lord’s service.  That was the closest he got to complaining.  No one would have ever heard a tone of regret, fussing or grumpiness in his voice.  There were no names or actions of others that were maligned.  That is the way Dan was.  Superior in graciousness.

Dan is now with the Savior forever.  He left this earth with an impact on so many lives.  Each of us will spread the cheer and joy that he deposited into us.  That’s the way Dan was.

photo credit: Multnomah University photo

IMG_3884Do you like hoards and hoards of people trying to do what you are trying to do?  When the sun is hot, the temperatures are soaring and the lines form like a funnel each time you want to take in a special moment on a vacation that you have saved to enjoy after years.  Fuses are short even at the “Happiest Place on Earth”.  Grouchy people come with the program bursting with people on a mission.

A snarly husband with irritation dripping from his steely voice, “What did you lose?”
Desperately slapping her pockets, checking her purse, searching her bag a woman exclaimed, “Hold on.  I’m looking.”
With an escalating volume out of control, the man shouted with a growl, “Tell me!  What did you lose?”
Desperate and trying to find whatever she had misplaced, she blurted out, “My wallet.  I lost my wallet!”

By now everyone around that small patch of shade were looking up.  We were all looking on the ground, checking the bench and even slapping our own pockets.  Clearly there was sympathy for her and a frantic effort to stay the pending eruption written in red on that man’s face.

Just in time she announced, “I found it!”

A wind of crowd relief exhaled.  That man just turned on his heels and stalked away.  The family gathered their personal items, huddled together and followed after the heated furor of the family.

Quickly all of us in the crowd stepped back into our world of ease.  Everyone loses it some time under certain circumstances.  Most of us have the dignity not to hang our laundry in public, however.

We loved our visit to Disney World.  Yet, we encountered a few who were grouchy, a small number who were rude and very few who were pushy.  Humans get a little testy when their circumstances are not  ideal.

When the temperatures soar, so do the frayed tempers.  During the crowded spaces and slow-moving lines people do snap at others.  No matter how broadly Mickey smiles and cheers, someone is going to be unhappy.

Humorously, grumpy people want others to know how unpleasant they are feeling. Broadcasting their ill will seems to be a necessity for them.  Blaming others or making others feel badly is like a calling in life  for them.

Sometimes we are best just to keep quiet.  Other times we can smile back or send a cheerful way.  We cannot change the whole world but maybe we can infect a few with wonderful happiness.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4020My visit to this remarkable place was not brand new.  I had been here once in the past.  A year ago during the opening month, I was here with the pressing crowds.

This time the visit was much more enjoyable.  The lines had shrunk to our scheduled window printed on our tickets.  We wanted to catch a look at the additional wing of the George Bush Presidential Library.

On our first visit the crowds had packed the museum.  We skipped the Oval Office wing due to the very long lines.  This time we got to the museum close to the opening hour.

We skipped the opening sequence of pictures and videos.  43 traces his entry into the White House.  He shares the events that shaped his Presidency.

The next stop was the initial years leading the nation.  Laura’s focus on literacy and George’s past with baseball was fun.  We lingered here again as we did during our first trip.

IMG_4021When we rounded the corner determined to visit what we missed a year ago, our swift walk slowed to an eventual halt.  In the center of the display were some of the twisted I-beams retrieved from the rubble of the Twin Towers destroyed during the 9-11 attack on our country.  Pictures, videos and audio presentations swirled the deep feelings from that horrible day.

The words of President George Bush defined so much of his leadership and one our nation’s rare moments of unity.  Together we drew together as a nation.  Politics were quieted.

Yes, the haranguing between Washington D.C. professional biased parties drummed the cadence of a nation that would stand together against an external threat.  Our nation even gathered for prayer and services that called on the name of God.  Hymns were sung.

Evil people who launched a wicked lethal attack against innocent civilians had polluted the soil of our nation with their dastardly plans.  Terror had taken advantage of a free nation and free people.  There was no bravery or chivalry by these who stole, plotted and murdered.

My eyes scanned these old pieces of twisted steel.  I listened to President Bush speak to our nation and the world.  He spoke on our behalf and promised to do his duty to bring all of our nation’s strength to bear against the cowards who unleashed an ugly cowardly act of war on our country.

Always remember.  This picture of steel will be in my mind forever.  My spirit is stirred.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Joshua 23
Part 6 of 6

When someone has marked our lives, their last words to us are forever fixed in our minds. We remember vividly what a special person has said to us in their retirement, their death or their departure. It means a lot to us when those final words are a charge to us and our choices and behavior.

Joshua was an amazing leader for Israel. This historic moment of this faithful general to his leaders has a piercing impact on his hearers. Everyone receives, understands and initially embraces this direction from their leader.

Loyalty to their leader, however, is not the primary basis of their life of obedience. Instead, Joshua points out what they themselves had experienced. They were eyewitnesses of God’s great favor and blessing in their lives. Each of the leaders saw God’s provision and miraculous intervention for the nation with their own eyes.

Do you remember God intervening in your life? How did that make you feel at the time? Has that attitude faltered over time? Is your life a life marked by obedience or by compromise?

Immerse yourself into God’s Word. Then, as you see Him active in your life, resolve to live a life of immediate and complete obedience to Him. Do not just remember His Words, live His words.

Thanks for joining me on this journey of living the Scripture

Joshua 23
Part 5 of 6

Joshua makes a bold but perfectly acceptable promise. With the LORD on Israel’s side, no one will be able to stand against her. This is kind of faith and trust that should lead the nation to step out boldly in precise obedience to God’s Word.

It is, however, not just God’s promise of His powerful presence that should move Israel to immediate obedience. Their love for the LORD their God must be their driving motivation. It is not a matter of a military pact. Rather it is a relationship of love that is at the core of this arrangement.

Any compromise on Israel’s part will exclusively be her responsibility. God will not shrink back on His love for the nation or His devotion for her. The only way that God will not provide for Israel is her own choice to turn away from God.

It is true for modern days as well. If we walk with God He will be faithful and provide for us. When we love Him and obey Him, He keeps on guiding our steps and leading us in the way in which we should go.

Joshua gives Israel a baseline for her confidence. God has fulfilled every promise that He has made to Israel in bringing them to the Land. This is without exception and should give the people confidence to respond in love and obedience as well.

More later…

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