You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2012.

This was a special event.  I would go fishing for the first time since moving to Texas.  New friends had invited me to join them for a fishing venture that was taking aim the coveted Red Fish, spectacular fighting, leaping Speckled Trout and fantastic elusive Flounder.

My adventure would require some research.  I wanted to know how to fish for these desirable Texas game fish.  Reading, talking and lots of listening were moments that were a part of my preparation.

Taking inventory of my fishing tackle was on my schedule.  The fun begins as I sort out my fishing gear.  Technique pre-determines the kind of equipment that I bring.

Moving has jumbled up my fishing equipment.  It take s few moments to consolidate everything related to fishing.  But, discovery, organization and selection is part of the experience of life behind the line.

Our guide sent us all a list of what to bring.  He also included reminders of how to dress.   We would be fishing from piers and jetties.

Sturdy shoes were important.  Rod and reel loaded with 12-15# line was about right.  Plenty of hooks, sinkers and leader were also suggested.

Gladly I stopped in a local sporting goods store and purchased my sportsman’s license.  Of course I picked up a couple of new pieces of equipment.  Then, it was just a matter of getting to the rendezvous site on time.

Like a typical fisherman, we chose to start our fishing day at 5AM.  That meant I had to leave home by 4:15AM.  Our meeting point was a long ways away.

We  arrived at our destination under cloudly skies and a steady drizzle.  Each of us tied up our set ups and loaded a live shrimp on a razor sharp hook.  Four lines went into the water.

Moments passed and the excitement grew.  Everyone caught something.  Only one was sizable.  My fish was NOT Texas-sized. 

The strike was not hard.  Nevertheless, I set the hook.  A minimal struggle took place, but it had all of the vibration of a fish . . .  a small fish.

When I landed this FIRST catch since moving to Texas, I chuckled.  The bait was bigger than this watery inhabitant.  I guess  that NOT everything in Texas is BIG.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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Once we decide on how much to give to the Lord’s work, we should stick to our plan.  The giving must, however, be done with a cheerful attitude.  God doesn’t need our money but He loves a giver who does so with gladness in his giving.

When we participate in giving, God underwrites all of our needs.  Giving according to His principles paves the way for His grace to abound.  We must be careful to note that He promises to take care of our “need” not our “want”. 

Mixed in with our needs being met we will also experience the great satisfaction of our efforts giving us great satisfaction.  What we do will bear fruit, be effective and have lasting value.  God is generous with those who express their spirituality with generosity. 

Those who will benefit from His generosity are those who are poor in this world.  When they give out of their poverty, God will bless them.  This is divine righteousness demonstrating itself with eternal impact.

All of the essentials for life are provided by God.  What is needed for sustenance will be supplied by God.  Miraculously He will also increase those stores in a mysterious unexplainable manner. 

Those who learn this spiritual mystery understand that the key is generosity.  If we show it in His name, He will return to us in kind.  None of us can out give God.

When we participate in caring for the needs of others, our generosity will not end with the gift.  Rather, those who are the recipients of our goodness will express their gratitude to God in quantity beyond the gift itself.

Desperate people are asking God to provide for their needs.  In many ways we who have been blessed with resources are God’s answer to their prayers.  When we give generously, we are participating in His provision for others.  That produces praise and thanksgiving from recipients to God.

Giving is an expression of obedience consistent with the gospel of Christ making a change in our lives.  It is about sharing what He has given us to be good stewards.  An additional blessing is the winning of the prayers of those who have benefitted from the gifts. 

God gives the ability to give, provides the resources to give, directs us to those who need us to share, then He rewards us with prayers and more resources.  He is truly generous.  Give generously and watch Him bless you generously.

2 corinthians 9.6-14

The sun had long set.  Night had shrouded our neighborhood.  Still, there was one more errand to give my attention to before the day could be closed.

I had to stop by our mailbox and collect our mail.  We have a community box.  The mail carrier stops at one location for about 24 homes, all clustered for a simple walk or stop-by on the drive into our neighborhood.

Even though the two of us were together, I volunteered to hop out of our rig and let my bride stay inside.  It was the chivalric thing to do.  Busily, I fumbled through my keys looking for the mailbox key.

Staying too focused on one task and not paying attention to your surroundings can get you into a laughable moment.  Just as I found my key and began to open the box, I noticed for the first time a sound that I knew in my memory but couldn’t quite place while looking for the right key in the middle of my key chain.

Multi-tasking drains us of our clear thinking.  But, while the mental process slows down for secondary matters, it eventually catches up.  My brain assessed the familiar sound, the unmistakable rat-a-tat-tat of a lawn sprinkler.

It was too late.  My mailbox key had already been inserted.  I just submitted to the inevitable.  The water sprinkler washed my legs from top to bottom.

After rolling my eyes, I grabbed all of our mail and locked our box.  Assessing my options I checked out the sprinkler that had machine-gunned me with its powerful soaking spray.  Maybe I could jump to my left and avoid another baptism.  Too late!

Right at the time when I decided to see where the sprinkler was in its cycle of spraying, it reversed itself and came back.  Yes, I was right in the path of the deluge of made-man showers.  If there were any dry spots on my lower extremities, now there were none.

I climbed back in the car.  I heard some feminine snickering.  Or more accurately, it was feminine giggling.  Some comment about me being “all wet” was somehow a part of the peanut gallery’s pronouncement.  Oh, well, it’s just water.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

High on my priority list to get myself geared up in my new position in Houston is setting up my office.  This would be a place where I will putting in a lot of hours, interacting with a lot of people and hosting many important meetings.  It would be a place where lasting impressions in the minds of important contacts will be formed.

The office must be professional of course.  That means that is must be clean, uncluttered and meaningful.  It doesn’t mean sterile. 

Personality must emerge as much as avoidance of negative impressions.  A balance must be sustained along with functionality.  Something also has to reach out and grab attention but it must be done subtly.

My home office is much different.  There my fun personality is clearly in vogue.  I can let aesthetic rules find some freedom or even some rebellion.  It is my refuge after all.

In my professional office, however, I need to manage the visuals that will form opinions in the minds of many.  To enlist some helpful expertise, my wife and daughter came in to assist me with wall decorations.

They tore into my wall hangings with gusto.  It wasn’t just rearranging them but it was also reframing them.  Color and texture and positioning were all topics that they discussed freely as I stood there totally dumbfounded. 

When they were done, I was amazed at how fabulous everything looked.  I smiled and complimented their artistic touches.  Giggling they accepted the adulation and handed me the bill for all of the changes.

Something was missing though.  I had inherited a clock in the office.  It was an 8 inch round plastic clock.

In its place I hung a large 18 inch time-keeper.  This addition elevated the aesthetics of the time but also kept the time accurately, which the old clock was incapable of doing even twice a day.  Yet, professionalism isn’t always me.

I wanted to add something that reflected my fun-loving animated side.  So, I added another clock.  This time it was understated with joy but certainly unmistakably smile-initiating. 

Time is important in my business.  I have a huge clock for that purpose.  But, in a world where circumstances just don’t allow for rigid appointments or fast-paced schedules, there is another clock for that.

Maybe a single word for that extra counting of the hours and minutes should be “whatever”.  Or maybe it should be “eventually”.  Of course it may simply communicate the message of “I’m confused”.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

We often do a working lunch.  Picking a fun place to press our ideas and talk through others deepens our relationship and solidifies our trust.  It also teaches us so much about the perspective held by one another.

We were being too polite with each other, “You pick.” “No, you pick.” “I’ll go anywhere.”  After that servant-hearted exchange we headed for Cajun Cuisine.  Yes, you heard it correctly, it was time for some spicy fare.

I had no idea what I wanted to order.  There are perhaps two or three times in my lifetime that I have had this style of food.  All I know is that it is often seafood and the meal is kickin’ good.

Those vague memories of the past served me well.  Looking at the menu did not help me so I asked the waitress for her recommendations.  She looked at me with discerning eyes, asked a few questions and then clearly, definitively and certainly suggested an oyster poor boy and cup of jambalaya. 

We were lost into our business of the day.  Ideas flowed from our three lives.  Quickly and definitively we were laying out pursuits for our near future institutional developments. 

I tracked with my fellow brain trusts and gleaned their perspectives and great ideas.  I jotted them down in my notes app on my phone.  It was a very productive meeting.

Then, the food came.  I could not believe my nose.  The oyster poor boy was mouth-watering good. 

As if that sandwich wasn’t good enough, the jambalaya was stunning.  My first taste sent shock waves over my taste buds.  That’ll wake you up any time during the day.

Houston is not only a massively large city, it is cosmopolitan in its table fare.  Living in the variety that is here is a treat.  It always makes for deepening friendships more efficient.

It is a spiritual virtue to enjoy a meal with friends.  Even more it is a treat to make friends through a meal.  There are so many lives already that are intertwining with ours.

But, back to the kickin’ food.  I was so into what I ordered I didn’t even notice what my colleagues had ordered.  But, I did make a mental note to tell my bride about my meal in a text.  She wrote back and told me that she was having crackers and cheese.  Gotta get her to come with me to this kickin’ place.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

There are three draws to the movie Trouble with the Curve: a strained father-daughter relationship, baseball and Clint Eastwood .  Admittedly, there are additional attractions to this film, but at the very least it can be said that these  three bring people into the theater.  Once they are in the seats, other features keep them entertained.

Gus is a long time scout for the Atlanta Braves major league baseball team.  His age is catching up to him and eroding the confidence that younger personnel members of the Braves organization.  Our hero suspected that time was catching up with him, but he was in denial.

Behind the scenes the influencers of the organization were pressuring the decision-makers to let him go.  A young computer savvy up-and-comer was vying for the GM spot and envisioned himself taking the organization to new heights through software analysis of players.  He had no more time or patience with the old way of scouting for talent.

Gus was given one more chance to prove his value to the Braves.  He was to travel to North Carolina and assigned to assess the young prospect that was garnering so much attention in the sports world.  To insure his success, Pete, part of the influencers in the management level, asked Gus’ daughter Mickey to go with him and make sure that everything worked out.

Mickey is a young corporate attorney.  She is a hard driver and talented.  Her ambition puts her on the fast track to become her legal firm’s first female partner.  One more successful case and the partnership was all but assured. 

Now, the crossroads appeared.  She could not both join her father on a scouting trip and work the important case for her firm.  Drawn to her dysfunctional relationship with her widowed father, she went on the scouting trip, hoping to manage the legal case via internet remote options.

Gus’ instincts for the game led him to a conclusion about the baseball prospect.  Atlanta was not happy and chose to discount Gus’ advice and draft according to their preconceived plan.  It proved to be a mistake; Gus was right.

The story line was very predictable.  But, while some may consider that a negative, I like happy endings.  The surprises along the way is what makes a story worth watching.

What made this slice of life fascinating was the revealing circumstances that made Gus send his daughter away after his wife, her mother, passed away.  It was riveting, surprising and satisfying.  People jump to the negative conclusions about others so quickly.  This was a good movie to see.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

“Any reason for a party” is a good motto for life.  It is human to celebrate, isn’t it?  There is something about anthropology that suggests that our very existence calls for jubilation.

The three of us entered Papadeaux’s for a night of commemorating Rick’s birthday.  Our cheerful greeter asked with a beaming smile, “How many?”  In responsive cadence, “Three.”

That’s when the fun began.  Pointing to Rick with my thumb, “Do you do anything special for birthday boys?”   A simple innocent inquiry had him aghast.

“Bruce, don’t. Don’t. Don’t,” he was gasping for words.  Too late, she smiled with equal mischievousness, “Oh, it’s his birthday.”  I liked the sound of her brain cells purring.

Once seated we presented our birthday boy with his gift.  It was funny how he carefully pulled out each part of the gift bag like it was a bomb.  He unwrapped a corner and peaked inside, chuckled and put it back in the bag.

We had fun putting it together.  Now he can eat ethnically, practice his dexterity at every meal and sip his evening beverage.  Of course he can have dessert and push around a wild animal all at the same time.

Our evening had so much laughter.  We reminisced over friends, tracked our spiritual pilgrimage, rehearsed the blessings from the lives of our children and detailed our journey in our local church worship experiences.  It was just three great friends out for a great evening.

The food was spectacular.  It looked great but tasted even better.  To top off the evening we enjoyed an amazing array of desserts.

That splendid part of the evening fare was accompanied with a gathering of the restaurant staff.  They presented Rick with a candle-lit dessert.  Then with the enthusiasm that attracted the attention of then entire gathering of guests, they sang. 

It was a fun song about something to do with birthdays.  My bride and I laughed.  Rick blushed as red as the Cajun food peppers that we had eaten. 

Happy Birthday, Rick!  You are a true friend and an amazing blessing even though you are a Baylor alum.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photo

My office is getting more completed every day.  Furniture, books and equipment have mostly taken their permanent places.  Occasionally, when I need a break from the brain strain, I’ll fix, move or adjust something in my office.

One of the pieces that was frustrating was the clock.  It was in my office when I arrived.  The problem was not appearance, although it was not a spectacular looking time piece.

A twelve-inch wall clock is fine for the size office that it was in.  At the same time, there was no aesthetic design or appearance that made it unique.  It was purely a functional piece of equipment.

Maybe its simple purpose made it emphatic that it was an annoying piece in my office.   It didn’t keep accurate time.  Usually it was falling behind by 12 minutes each day.

Twice I replaced the battery with a fresh one.  Momentarily, that is for a few hours, it would then be accurate.  But, by the middle of my jam-packed schedule, it would fail me.

Purposely, I tried to ignore the clock and take my signals for my appointments with my wrist watch.  But, there is something commanding about a wall clock.  inadvertently, I would glance up and gauge my departure based on what I saw. 

More than once I would push my current project up to the moment that I had to bolt for my next engagement.  Providentially, my body clock alerted me.  I would double-check my watch, gasped in horror, close my computer, grab my phone, thrust my keys in my pocket and head out of my office.

That kind of last-minute stressful moment is not my favorite.  In fact I like to avoid those unscheduled disappointments.  When my tardiness inconveniences someone else, it is being disrespectful in my mind.  There is not excuse for disregarding someone’s time because my late arrival.

A solution had to be generated.  It wasn’t hard.  I stopped at a local variety store and found my way to the section where clocks were being sold. 

Some of the clocks were the same size as the one that I was ready to replace.  But, I opted for something different.  I chose an 18 inch clock to replace the malfunctioning machine. 

I passed on the artsy clocks.  Nothing in the unique clocks fit my personality.  This was purely professional and functional.

My new time piece has served me flawlessly.  The old clock is in the garbage.  It will never make anyone late again.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

We men are a resourceful bunch.  When we are accompanying our wife on a shopping adventure, there is not a lot a hunter or gather can do.  Women are investing soul into the relationship with products while we men pass the time like an off-season outdoorsman waiting for the moment to reenter the field.

So we wander the aisles, poking at this or glancing that.  If we were younger we would avoid stepping on the cracks between floor tiles.  Or if we had a sibling or two we could play hide and go seek in the clothing rounders.

But, I was alone and at a  more distinguished age without the option to subvert myself to an enthusiastic pastime.  Sighing deeply along with a cheerful smile helps for a few seconds.  But, I needed a distraction.

Then it came.  Right in front of me was a display of children’s clothes.  The traditional pink, blue, pastel yellow and green were the choices at hand.

However, another choice grabbed my attention.  There was no quiet smile from me.  I spontaneously burst out laughing.

I was gazing at an infant clothing set.    It was all packaged in a single box.  Five pieces were included: a jump suit, bib, bottle, slippers and pad. 

On the front of the package is a photo of a one year old baby all decked out in the enclosed outfit.  This baby is ready for the woods.  Yes, the entire ensemble is camouflage.

Now, that was really funny.  The baby will not know the difference.  But, one or both of the parents are living vicariously through their baby.

It’s a gift for parents who want to have fun with their family time.  Whoever put this together made me laugh.  Surely, there are parents out there who are going to get some humorous miles out of this wardrobe addition.

However, there ought to be a warning on the package.  It should read: WARNING – use of these clothing items may result in the temporary state of your baby being hidden in plain sight. 

Maybe a coupon should be added so that the parents could send away for a discounted face paint kit with camo colors.  Of course the paints would have to be baby-skin-safe.  A camo tent, sleeping bag and infant-sized camo rucksack could be one of the accessories that are in the “complete your set” option.  This one item kept me entertained until it was time to move on to the next shop, what fun!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Busy is a word that describes my new life in Texas.  Don’t make the mistake, however, of assuming that busy is a synonym for “bad”.  In fact I can’t imagine being happier!

However, my daily schedule is amazingly full.  The routine on my calendar has very few gaps in it.  I love doing it all.

In the middle of this hectic schedule was another event, an appointment for my post that I was required to attend.  The faculty of Dallas Seminary gathers for an annual workshop at a Christian camping and conference center near Tyler, TX.  It is called Pine Cove.

I joined a collection of over 80 faculty from DTS as we prepared our hearts and souls for the beginning of a new school year.  It was time to get pumped up, encouraged and excited to meet our students for another installment in their preparation to answer God’s call to His service.  As one of the three new faculty, I was ecstatic to meet new friends and colleagues.

We had to be creative as we engaged one another for conversations.  The program was packed with meetings.  I learned early that this gathering was not called a “retreat” but a “workshop”.

From the moment we arrived we were in meetings.  Presentations of the most intricate kind were our normal fare.  The brain power that was in the room was stunning.

To be a part of those discussions was fascinating.  But, we had to stay sharp.  Topics changed from session to session. 

Listening to others contribute to the topic at hand was intriguing.  It was my introductions to the challenges facing the seminary and the creativity of my colleagues as we charge forward to make seminary education the best that it can be.   My mind was spinning with the new ideas, options and adjustments that lay in front of us.

But, there were breaks during the two days that we were together.  One time I sat on a bench on a deck overlooking a lake.  The beauty of that scene was mesmerizing.

Do you remember one of those moments?  All of your being was embroiled in intellectual and spiritual issues.  Then, for a moment everything paused. 

You drank in your environment.  It gave you peace.  That’s what it was like for me in that place at that time for just a moment.

God’s hand of creation engulfed me.  I was refreshed.  Someone called my name and I returned to the next meeting, eager to go at it again.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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