IMG_5223How do you pump enthusiasm into an entire student body?  How do you get a group of hundreds of people from completely different backgrounds to get excited about the same thing?  When we live in an age where hopelessness is the common thread on the news channels, how can you direct people’s attention to something encouraging?

We are experiencing the miraculous move of a miracle where I work and serve.  It is not a renovation that has everyone a buzzing.  Nor is it even a new building that is underway to serve our growing student body. Instead, we are soon to move into a totally new campus!

After many discussions, brainstorming sessions, prayerful considerations we are leaving our cramped facilities and IMG_5215moving to another location.  Instead of having all of our operations for our seminary extension scattered through two separate buildings, we are relocating everything into a single building.  Everything that we have now will be accommodated in the new campus PLUS much more.

Our age-old problem of limited parking will be resolved.  We will no longer have a parking challenge in our new facility.  There will be no more necessary street parking or walking through dark sidewalks to get to your vehicle.

As our staff continues to expand there will be no more problems of giving personnel a working office space.  Every faculty member and executive will have a place to study, prepare their classes and meet with students.  Our new facility will be prepared to grow our faculty here in Houston.

The library that has tripled in size will no longer have to be separated into separate rooms.  Now, the entire collection will be housed in one room with a generous number of study carrels and quiet places IMG_5217for students to do their research.  As a bonus, the library will now have an open view to the gorgeous atrium, adding to a great environment for students to read, relax and write.

Our entire team has visited the construction site.  The demolition is done.  Now the build out has begun.

We can see the long hallways leading to state-of-the-art classrooms, faculty and administrative offices, student lounge and library.  The space that we have now has been wonderful.  We just outgrew it.

Now, the Lord has shown us great favor.  We will be able to stretch, serve our students well and equip more to be servant-leaders and bring the Gospel to the world.  All of us are jazzed!

photo credit: brucefong photography

Austin & San Antonio vacation 2013 154

Psalm 42

“For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. 1As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 4These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. 5Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed† within me? Put your hope in God,† for I will yet praise† him, my Savior and 6my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. 7Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. 9I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” 10My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 11Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

This popular psalm of encouragement has cheered the hearts of the saints through many generations.  I include myself in that population of believers who have had their souls stirred by these inspired words.  There have been low points in life when mean nasty people or painful circumstances have clouded our view of eternity.

Then, this psalm fills our mind with a redirection to thirst after His presence in our lives.  With His company we find a solace that salves the hunger and quenches our thirst.  The deer that is in the image of the psalmist may very well be the Fallow Deer.  It is indigenous to the Israel.

The Fallow Deer with its spotted, chocolate, black or white coat is a beautiful animal.  It can run at spurts of speed up to 30 mph.  Striking palmated antlers are sported by the bucks of the herd.  Think of this deer when this psalm crosses into your mind.

photo credit: brucefong photography

wildlife by Bruce 038February 19 is the start of this year’s Chinese New Year.  Of course everything really unleashes on New Year’s Eve, Wednesday February 18.  The firecrackers and lion dances will signal the beginning of the biggest party of the year.

This is the most important celebration for Chinese families in China and in countries dispersed all around the world.  For many in countries where it is recognized, workers enjoy 8 days off of work.  In the western calendar the dates are February 19 to March 5.

Officially work stops for the first three days of the Spring Festival.  However, practice has evolved into including New Year’s Eve and the following three days as well.  Naturally, the following or closest weekends are included.

Central to the festivities is a family time with relatives and the closest of friends.  This is the holiday when families convene for a feast and reunion.  Multi-generational gatherings are the standard.

It is the year of the goat.  Do not laugh.  The goat is highly regarded among the Chinese, especially ancient Chinese.

This 8th animal from the Chinese Zodiac embodies many wonderful qualities.  Those who are born in the year of the goat are calm, gentle, creative, thoughtful, amicable, persevering, frank and honest.  It is suggested that being born in the year of the goat makes someone most suitable to become pediatrician, actor, teacher, interior designer, musicians and editors.

It is also speculated that these persons are tough on the inside, quiet yet powerful in performance.  While they enjoy quality in the things that they buy they are by no means snobbish or ego-centric.  In fact they are often withdrawn, lost deep in thought.

While there are over 4,000 years behind this tradition, the pathway to real life solutions is not found in country or position.  Earthly wealth is not the key and certainly a life warding off evil spirits leaves a lot to be desired for any kind of personally satisfaction.  Yet, the attempts over the 4,000 years of this celebration reveal a telltale sign.

Everyone wants hope.  But, this appetite is not found in superstition or good luck charms. Instead, real hope can be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is real while so much of the Chinese New Year Celebration is built on human imagination.  Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again so that He could show His victory over death.  Put your faith in Him.  Accept Him as your Savior and you will be blessed.  That will be a real reason to celebrate for eternity.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.30.37 PMBuilding buildings is a grandiose task that will negate the energy of an army of very good men and women.  But, we need a new building.  This is not an option.  If we do not then we will severely limit our growth.

The one we have has been under repair for years. We repair that wall, fix that office, reconfigure the desks, spruce up the classrooms, upgrade the equipment, rearrange office space, et cetera.  The major items like HVAC, plumbing, electrical, windows, roof leaks and the like leave us shaking our heads.

However, it is not the maintenance that keeps us wondering.  Instead, it is the space.  Enrollment has been steadily growing in our extension campus for successive years.

More students mean more faculty and staff.  More personnel means more office space.  Square footage has been as creatively sliced and diced as much as possible.

Parking is a big deal.  We have 275 students and only 50 parking places.  The neighboring streets are lined with cars and students have to walk to class in the dark.

A serious graduate school needs a research library.  Our little library has tripled in size over the last three years and it has overflowed the room where the stacks cannot be spaced any closer together.  We converted a classroom for an auxiliary library space.

It was time to move.  Hours of meetings, real estate conferences, drawings and discussion ate up time and resources.  Money was raised, donors smiled, prayers were lifted up and God blessed.

The new building was chosen, papers were signed, demolition began and architects designed the space.  Soon the dust will clear and new walls, halls and spaces will be set up.

Parking will not be a problem in the foreseeable future.  The library is the centerpiece of our new digs.  Offices are grouped for growth.  Class rooms are designed with intention rather than adapted to whatever is available.

Our Communications Office produced an artist’s conception of the new configuration.  Everyone is excited about the future.  It is just around the corner.

This summer we hope to move into the new location for DTS-Houston.  Plans are shaping up for our move.  Everyone is talking about the excitement.

Soon we can concentrate on seminary education at the highest level.  The puzzle of what to do with what we have will be a historic dialogue.  All of the energy that poured into short-term fixes will now accelerate outstanding seminary education at the highest level.  Now, that is bodacious!

photo credit: DTS Communication Department

IMG_5191Most of what I do in my profession is deeply satisfying.  Sometimes what I do professionally goes beyond deeply satisfying and enters the world of unbelievably splendid.  This especially happens when people invite me to a location that makes me marvel.

Some friends and I gathered at a ranch not far from Houston.  Busy men rendezvoused over a six-hour span of time.  Some drove a great distance while others just knocked off an hour or so from their office.

The first day of a short retreat was having its intended effect.  Men were relaxing.  De-stressing was happening faster than anyone thought possible.

One after the next men talked about the easing of pressure.  “Just what the doctor ordered,” passed the lips of men carrying major responsibilities.  This ranch was easing the weight of a lot of life.

Once breakfast satisfied our hunger, we strolled outside.  The sun was warm for a February Texas winter.  59 degrees and sunshine is a blessing.

Together we piled into a four person ATV and went for a ride.  Our hosts introduced us to their livestock.  A nice herd of Texas Longhorns took center stage.

Satisfying words described their prize bull, pregnant cows and newborn calves.  Steers looked longingly through their pen fences hoping beyond hope for a better future than the auction yard.  Ranching is a tough business calling for cold calculating decisions.

Then, we rolled up to some of the personality of the ranch.  Three donkeys were grazing lazily at the perimeter of the cattle.  Their role in this menagerie of beasts is fascinating.FullSizeRender

While some poke fun at these creatures, the rancher was seriously elevating their part in the ranching dynamic.  These three critters naturally took on the overwatch duties of the grazing cattle and horses.

I learned that if a coyote or a pack of coyotes entered the pasture and stalked a newborn calf, these tenaciously loyal and protective animals will confront the predators.  If a battle ensues, the donkeys will win.  The predators that would normally frighten off many living creatures have learned to steer clear of these adorable comical creatures.

We received the welcome greeting.  Even though these animals all muscle and fierce protectors, they only showed us their warm and humorous side.  Humans often laugh but rarely learn that these four hoofed beasts are just the opposite of the end of so many jokes.  Hee haw!

photo credit: brucefong photography

Christmas 2014 052

I was on a walk.  Yes, I had a specific destination.  However, I did not have an appointment.

There was no hurry to get where I was going.  The ease of no promises to keep or schedule to drive my hours felt very good.  My mind was taking in the journey.

That is when I paused.  My eyes picked up a bright colorful splash near my feet.  It was appropriate to stop.

Flowers decked the foliage below.  I do not know what kind of plant was there but the blooms were wonderful.  Of course the plants were green making these bright yellow flowers pop.

The Creator’s design of these flowers was simple.  Like a round marshmallow in the center, the flower puffs delicately.  Pedals radiate out from this center.

The slightest breeze made this tiny display rustle and shake.  Its beauty and fragile nature suggest that it will not be long on this earth.  There will be a short lifespan devoted to the propagation of the plant, then it will whither and fade away.

Splendor in a bloom is as marvelous due to its temporary nature as its actual color and bright display.  Value increases with the brevity of existence.  Humans have long loved flowers for this very reason.

This flower was too small to harvest for any indoor display.  It was perfect for the great outdoors.  A myriad of similar flowers covered the ground.

Yes, insects are attracted to these blooms to help pollinate the plant for propagation.  But, the human eyes, at least mine, were drawn to them enough to place my journey on pause.  I was enjoying this special display of life.

Maybe I was too long in admiring these little splashes of color.  Near to the ground I felt like a giant peering into a world where I was only allowed as a short-term visitor.  Yet, these colorful blooms were welcoming.

They were like tiny suns shining up into a big world.  Or they could be flash bulbs snap photos of the humans that pass by.  Then, again they could be the tiny worlds way of smiling up at the big people.

In any case no matter how goofy our imagination, it is worth the effort to pause.  Then, look down.  Never be in so focused on the destination that the journey is not a part of the life of joy that we have been given as a gift.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Christmas 2014 078There is an amazing blend between brilliant engineers, skillful craftsman, highly trained pilots and a country that stands behind them all.  I had read about President Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One as a part of his Presidential Library display but I had no idea that it was on the inside.  When the doors opened and there it was I was impressed.

The wing tip was just out of reach.  But, the marvel of aeronautical physics was not elusive.  To imagine that so much metal and so much weight could actually fly was mind-blowing.

In this aircraft the President of the United States and his first family would swiftly travel from one key event to the next. Those who designed this aircraft did a great service to the Reagan’s.  Safety and efficiency are all over this airliner.  Its sleek appearance was also reflected inside in the accommodations.

What we do not see are the marvels of structure under the skin of this powerful airplane.  The electrical maze alone that was carefully crafted so that it would not only be dependable but also durable makes me shake my head in wonder.  Men and women who were very good at what they do, implanted their pride in the construction of this fine product.

Pilots and their crew were meticulously trained.  They would after all be the frontline to serve and protect the President of the United States of America.  Each of these personnel would be trustworthy, diligent workers and loyal to the nation and its highest office.

Jelly beans were prominent in the plane.  There was a cheer in Reagan’s life and those around him felt it, joined in on it and appreciated it.  For him personally the jelly beans helped President Reagan stave off the cravings from the habit of cigarette smoking that he had overcome but kept on keeping at bay.

Whenever I am in a jetliner and that massive amount of weight with equipment, structure and passengers takes off, I continue to marvel at the laws of physics.  God established them.  They are dependable.

When a special passenger is on board, we trust those same laws and the skills of those who follow those laws for a safe flight.  This display of Air Force One is a reminder of how important safety is, how trustworthy are the laws of God and how those who depend and obey Him will be blessed.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Christmas 2014 053Someone decided to add color to the garden where guests would first walk on to the property.  Whoever chose these lilies did a splendid job.  They caught my eye.

This was not at the entry to a green house.  The environment was not controlled except by the Creator Himself.  He directs the sunshine, the temperatures, the winds and the insects.

Possibly this flower was delicate and vulnerable.  Lilies at least appear fragile. Horticulturalists smile and shake their heads.

The amazing appearance of these radiant blooms belies their durability.  They exist in hostile climates.  With rambunctious critters all around them and harsh weather pounding on them they display their brilliant colors and deck the environment with variety and cheer.

A nameless Master Gardener planned this display.  He or she saw in their mind’s eye and then created the flower garden.  Just as they had envisioned it, the plants grew and sprouted their flowers.

Like a composer writing a masterpiece, the gardener watched the colors burst out in their planned order.  Texture, shades and expanse detailed the arrangement of plants reward the eyes of visitors to a symphony for a season.  Waving a trowel signals the preplanned display.

God made the order.  Man observes the pattern.  Master gardeners note the matrix and reproduce it with a personal touch.

Whoever this gardener is, captured my attention.  I paused.  I admired.

Then, I took a picture to forever remember the radiance of this moment.  This flower was simple.  There were not a myriad of colors in it, just a few.

Nevertheless, I like the simplicity.  Symmetry was present like all lilies.  It mirrored one side to the other.

All of the stamen had the little variation of color.  The pistil was ready to receive the pollen.  Each of the colored pedals waited to attract the insects that would assist in making the pollination a reality for future plants and blooms.

And the cycle would go on and on.  As the seasons marched by the flowers of these gorgeous lilies would reappear, multiply and spread the beauty for passing eyes to see.  There is no touching allowed, just gazing and letting the fragrance remind us what God has planned for those who take the time to relax and enjoy His creation.

Are you in too much of a hurry to smell the flowers?  Then, you might be living life too fast.  Pause when you see the colors of the Creator and drink in His creation.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Christmas 2014 105Step away from the pressure.  When life becomes complicated and confusing, make sure that you get away from those issues just for a moment.  Refresh your soul and you will last longer at whatever you are doing.

When our field trip stopped at the end of the road, we were transported to a place where we could rest, relax and release.  Each of us stepped out of our vehicles and quietly smiled.  It was natural reaction to close our eyes and breath in and exhale with a deliberate effort.

The view into Simi Valley, California was wonderful.  Sunny skies enveloped us in our destination.  Off in the valley we could see enough trees and foliage to sense that life was here and tugging at our hearts to sooth our stressful lives.

There was the distance rumble of heavy equipment.  Hard working men were building something.  Vehicles off on a road far away looked like ants on a journey to a particular destination.

Men had built houses in the landscape.  Farmers had planted crops that were growing.  Others had small orchards with fruit that had long been harvested.

The ribbon of man-made roads woven in between parcels of land.  They determined the route of busy drivers going from place to place.  Engineers in part followed the contours of the land for these pathways of commerce.

In the bigger picture the rendezvous between sky and land was a standout.  The skies were grey, purple and white.  They shaded the distant mountains with their lavender hue.

On the earth green captured the lion’s share of the vistas.  Light green decorated the pastures.  Dark green colored the forests and trees.

The details did not occupy my mind.  It was the big picture.  Everyone of the humans running around in that portrait were filled with troubles, stress and problems.

Individual difficulties seem to be diluted to insignificance from so far away.  That thought gave me more reason to pause in a new world.  It was a moment but a moment well lived.

Tranquility is a rare commodity in our busy lives.  For some life is unbearably brutal.  Others it is so filled with responsibility and stress that two lives cannot bear the pressure let alone one.

But, when moments afford themselves and we can decompress, a rejuvenated life can go back and tackle the challenges that will still be there.  Find a place to breath deeply.  Then, return there often and enjoy His design for rest.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4761The beginning of every new semester is packed with familiar routines.  Alarms go off early in the morning.  Lesson plans fill each of our rolling bags.

As two teachers our minds are racing through the highlights for the day.  Particular students are on our prayer lists. Specific skills dominate our intention as we think about the teaching process for the day.

A full day of teaching and engaging the lives of our students drains us both of our energy.  Each of us glances up at the clock several times, looking forward to the end of the day.  Our second wind for the semester has not yet kicked in.

I picked her up at her school.  Gratefully, we merged into the High Occupancy Vehicle lane.  The sluggish rush hour traffic for tens of thousands of Houstonians were standing still to our right while we whizzed along at a very comfortable pace.

The routine commute home was relaxing and welcomed.  But, the remarkable display that lifted our spirits was stunning.  We drive west, so the sunset is a part of our journey home.

The long tiring day was now forgotten due to an emblazoned sun splashing massive sunbeams through the clouds.  Like a torn curtain unleashing light across the shadow of the ending day, the sun’s beacons reminded everyone that the One who made the earth could dazzle us all with a free display.  Was it a divine wink?

Maybe instead of a wink it was a flash of His smile.  Perhaps He wanted to remind us all that our tiring busy day was in fact a purposeful blessing where He wanted to touch the lives of others through us.  Can you imagine that our lives can be the answer to someone else’s prayers?

God smiles when we serve and obey Him.  Our defining moments of a productive day may in fact be touch points of eternity for someone else.  Now, that thought can make me gaze at a sunset and smile back in return.

If life is not about us but instead being a blessing to others, then our days have been lived well.  With the end of each day maybe instead of breathing a sigh of relief, we can smile as we review the lives of people that we had the chance to touch. Today when you end your day, lift up your eyes and take in a sunset of day lived well.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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