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IMG_3214Life has many mysteries.  Many we have heard about but nothing heightens our senses like our first hand experiences.  That is a good way to explain my first foray as a grandfather.

I used to think that grandfathers were old people.  That is a notion that I have jettisoned very quickly.  Yes, as soon as I was notified that my daughter was expecting, I decided that grandfathers are very young!

My life was not blessed with a lot of interaction with that generation ahead of me.  I saw a picture or two but I do not have many memories.  Certainly there were no conversations that I had with my grandfather.

I hope that if God’s good grace allows many conversations await my grandson and me.  In fact besides just talking I hope that there will be many shared experiences.  Planning those touch points is not a problem.  What has surprised me are the many moments of pause.

Both of my parents are gone.  On the paternal side of my immediate family, I am the aged one.  Yikes!  That is a scary thought.

But, fear does not dominate my thinking much.  Instead, I am often amazed when I look into my grandson’s eyes.  He is pure, innocent, simple and with only potential in his body.

There have been no disappointments, no hurts no pain with people or tragedies that have scared his soul.  Hopefully, I can help him negotiate any of those inevitable tough times in life.  In the mean time it is time to bond with this third generation.

I hold him on my knees and I am amazed that I love this little life so much and we have not even had one intelligible conversation to date.  But, when we hug it is full of life.  Our checks squish together and the warmth and freshness of his cleanness easily breaks out a smile on my face.  His wiggling around and purring sounds melt my spirit.

When he laughs, I drink in the sound of his cheer.  His giggling is not couched in words just overflowing with happiness.  Each time his eyes focus on something, his little brain is making notes, growing his curiosities and trying to form the endless parade of questions that grandpa will get to answer.

Whatever privilege I have to pour into his soul the wisdom of the ages, I will do so.  Maybe we will sit on a dock with fishing poles in hand as he fills my heart with inquiry and I fill his life with life experiences that will make his life very beneficial to the lives that he will touch.

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IMG_3107Have you ever stumbled across a world-wide website that gave you a grand idea?  Did you, like me, disparage the novel thought with skepticism?  I have dismissed many good ideas that captured my attention in cyberspace.  This time I thought that I would give it a try.

Many of us who have very busy lives know by experience the crush of the morning rush.  We are trying to pull everything together that we need for a productive day.  If we can answer some emails, text messages and social media inquiries that we squeeze them into to packed first-light-of-day.  A quick glance at the keeper of time and we realize that we lost track of time.  It is time to grab what we can and drive to work.

We are clothed, brief case is packed and the vehicle is ready for the commute through heavy traffic.  There is that last moment of thought: breakfast.  If I only had a hardboiled egg to take with me.  That little morsel of food would tie me over until my lunch engagement.

That’s when we triple check the clock and realize that time will not allow for a boiling of an egg.  Mentally we make a note to boil several eggs in the evening, store them in the refrigerator and further hurried mornings would be served well.  Of course like many of you that kind of mental note is lost several times over.

Even when I have remembered and boiled a half a dozen eggs, then I try and figure out how to separate them from the fresh eggs.  Is it one of the worse things in life to grab a seemingly hardboiled egg and crack it only to realize that it is a fresh egg?  Gross!

Now, thanks to the www tip, I now put however many fresh eggs into a pot of tap water  and turn it on to high.  Then, I add the skin of a brown onion to the water and cover the pot.  Once the water heats up into a rolling boil, I set the timer for 5 minutes.

When the timer goes off, I turn off the heat but leave the cover on the pot.  After about 15 minutes I flood the pot with tap water, remove the onion skins and place all of the hard-boiled eggs that all have brown shells into the fresh egg containers ready to leap into my hands on those very rushed workday mornings.  Yay for the WWW!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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From our home to yours,

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sound in joy

No more let sin and sorrow grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of his love
And wonders of his love
And wonders and wonders of his love!

Happy Birthday, Jesus! Hallelujah!

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IMG_3128Plans for this work-related road trip were on the calendar.  Promises to a student for a personal appearance while he preached at the church where he serves were made.  My word is my bond and my joy.

It took some planning.  The church where he serves is a two-hour drive away from my home.  That is when the traffic is not an issue.  In Houston traffic is ALWAYS and issue.

My home is in Katy, Texas.  The church is in Galveston, Texas.  Houston is in between these two locations.

Before I could leave on this road trip, I considered the traffic flow.  The good news is that I would not be able to depart until Saturday evening.  I was already scheduled to teach an all-day class on that Saturday.

It was possible to leave for the church on Sunday morning.  But, my assistant discovered that the church service started at 830am.  Yes, that is AM.  That would require a 630am departure.  At least the traffic would not be a problem on an early Sunday morning drive.

The other dynamic is that we would have been exhausted from a long eight-hour day of teaching, followed by an early morning wake-up call and a longish two-hour drive.  Who wants to go to church when they are already tired and sleepy?  Would I ever lived down an episode of falling asleep in church while representing the seminary? Yipes!

It was time to come up with a new strategy.  Instead of trying to wake up early we would travel down to Galveston after teaching my class.  It would be two-hour drive when I was tired but at least we would make the journey during the waning daylight hours, camp out in a comfortable hotel and then get up at a reasonable hour and go to church.

The plan was ideal.  We were able to enjoy a pleasant meal, get a good night’s rest and then make easily to church on time.  Church was worth it too!  The worship was exhilarating and the preaching by my student made me as his teacher very proud!

Our fellowship after the service was only about commendation and encouragement.  The people in that church are blessed to have a man with solid convictions, outstanding preaching skills and a heart that will love on his people as if Jesus the Savior Himself was there doing the loving.  In fact when pastoring is done right, He is there loving through His servant.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3195Glancing at my watch I just had a minute to wrap up a project.  Then, I would have to dash to a meeting in the Houston Heights.  If traffic was not too much of an issue then I would arrive in time for my lunch gathering.

This would be a new eatery for me.  New friends would be gathering.  They are a delightful bunch.  We serve together at our church and have fun doing what we do.

The five of us were enjoying our visit.  Sometimes we laughed, other times we caught up on each other’s happenings and of course we had some serious conversations about studying the Scriptures.  The brainpower of my colleagues is very stimulating.

Our fellowship was interrupted by waiter.  He announced that there were several options that were not listed on the menu.  Then, he recited about five dishes.

Politely I listened but that courtesy stopped when he described their Texas chili.  My ears perked up.  When he asked me about my order, I asked him if their Texas chili was made without beans.

His smile erupted like a spontaneous dancer who just got caught up with the music.  Affirming my inquiry, I filled him in on my interest.  “I have been in Texas for a year and a half and have not found a place to try real Texas chili with out beans.”

Continuing his animated conversation, he assured me that their Texas chili was one of the best in town.  I confirmed my order.  This was going to be a check off the list of to-dos in Houston.

My lunch order arrived piping hot.  They often refer to Texas chili simply as “Red”.  It is not that it is so hot that it burns.

Rather, Texas chili made commonly on the ranch or on the trail, always simmered a long time.  The natural spices and herbs were allowed to cook in and blend with the beef.  Any flavor of raw spices was melted away over time.

Ground beef or chunks of beef are a toss-up depending on personal tastes.  Texans appreciate tradition but as aficionados of this Tex-Mex food staple they also without apology act through their individual independence.  If they want to substitute another kind of meat in their Texas chili no one is going to tell them otherwise.

Texas Red is wonderful in flavor and individuality.  Chili competitions have rotated around many offerings.  What counts is that you try it, love it and pass it on.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3159This night is a highlight for our hard-working team.  For several it will be their first gathering with us.  Our faith and our fellowship drive us together.

All year we work diligently at our jobs and produce very well-trained and educated seminary students ready for a lifetime of effective ministry.  Each one of our posts contributes to the whole of what we see march across a stage and grasp on to their sheep skin, a testament to their academic prowess and personal spirituality.

Along the way, we look forward to our team gathering for fun, food and fabulous fellowship.  This is our annual Christmas gathering.  The expectations were high.

IMG_3160When we entered the cool air was left outside and the warmth of welcome engulfed us.  The aroma of the meal was filling our senses.  We could already taste the delicious meal that was waiting for us.

Colorful decorations, bright twinkling lights and the sounds of Christmas music topped off our welcome.  More and more colleagues arrived.  Each was caring a contribution to our shared meal.

Laughter and teasing were as bountiful as any feature of our party.  Smiles erupted with the good-natured banter.  Children were a part of our gathering as well.  Families are welcome on our team.

IMG_3161Suddenly the audio disappeared.  Our host announced the 3 minute warning for the food.  But, with that came the panic.  Before we would pray each guest was invited to recite a Bible memory verse.

It was the fastest I have ever seen cellphone whipped out and team members quickly scrolling through “apps” and minds refreshing themselves with the specific combination and order of words.  We laughed. We teased.

Lengthy verses were not the norm.  These had to be some of the shortest IMG_3162verses in all of Inspired Scripture.  Yet, they were good words.

Nearly forty of us shared a sample of the Living Words from the Living Word.  In the midst of the frolicking, I marveled at this collection for fabulous people.  Each one is precious and dearly valued.

Together we make up the heart and soul of what happens on the campus of DTS-Houston.  Selfless, hardworking, cheerful, helpful, energetic and trustworthy people are growing into a wonder of God’s presence in one of the newest Global cities on earth.

IMG_3163Of course we ended with some raucous fun.  We played the game Taboo: Men vs. Women.  It did not take long for the women to pull ahead in points while the men teased and made bold false claims to egg on their competition.  Merry Christmas, everyone!  You are loved!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3164Every parent of little ones knows the charm of the Church Christmas pageant.  With video camera and SLR in hand, eager parents stake out seats close to the front.  It really does not matter what part their child has in the annual thespian performance.  In their minds their offspring is the star.

Parents take turns popping up and capturing their legacy leaving an Oscar-deserving or Grammy-deserving presentation that left everyone speechless. Or at least the average person could relish the raw talent that was on display.  These images captured on digital cameras would be fodder for the grandparent machines or distant aunts and uncles.

Yet, there are additional roles filled by those who will still the show just because they are amazingly IMG_3167cute. Their personalities and soft pet-table demeanor give them the advantage to steal the show every time that they are folded into the Christmas extravaganza.  These supporting cast members are the livestock.  Yes, they are real live animals that make the Christmas story have a reach out and pet me warmth to it.

On my way out of the church from our morning men’s study, I saw the temporary corral in the courtyard.  Inside there were creatures stirring and moving about their grassy turf.  How can you not smile when you see these animals on display?

IMG_3166The donkey was the biggest of the four-legged stars.  He was being protective of the other critters in his enclosure.  With one wary eye on me, he walked a sentry line making sure that all of the resting animals were under his watchful eye.

Donkeys are legendary as protectors.  They and their half offspring, the mule, have long been added to herds of grazing cattle and horses to ward off coyotes, wolves, bear and other nuisance predators.  This totally cute brute was living up to his reputation as the protector of the beasts.

Nuzzling together while lounging on the grass was a ewe and its single lamb.  Their sides were IMG_3165rhythmically beating with their heavy breathing.  They must be high-strung.

In the center of the corral were the most adorable young goats.  Their small horns had pierced the tops of their heads and were minuscule compared to their heads. Yet, their faces were the perfection of young, new and full of life.

Each of these barnyard animals was docile.  They were calm and enjoying a good lounge on the lawn.  When the program kicks off, they will be hopefully just as serene when they walk into a building full of music, thousands of humans and followed closely by the pooper scoopers.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3130My busy life at the office has very few gaps in a tightly wound calendar.  It is a place where I engage people, planning, personnel issues and programming that challenges patience, problem-solving skills and perpetual glitches along the road of progress.  However, I love doing what God has called me to do.

There was a moment to breath.  It is right after Thanksgiving and just before a busy Thanksgiving weekend of service.  That is when I climbed the stairs of our home on a search for a special box.

A few years ago I found that box in a store.  It was on sale.  For my purposes it was perfect and cheap too.

I brought it home and unpacked its contents.  This was a three foot tall Christmas tree.  Not only was it tiny but it was also easy to assemble.  I had it put together and standing on its own without even looking at the instructions.

Now, this little tree has followed me around the country.  I put lights on it, ornaments and even have a tree topper.  Over the years it has brought cheer to me and my office staff.

This year it has made its appearance again.  When I found it in our storage closet, I picked it up with care.  The years had worn out the box.  If I picked it up without holding it together, the cardboard box would pop open and dump that contents on the floor.  It is probably time to find a more permanent storage container for this little guy.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving I brought it into my office.  It only took moments to set it up.  Since it is so small a single strand of lights is all it takes to trim this little pine tree.  Then, I hand a bag full of ornaments.  The tree topper is a moose, my favorite wild animal.

There are special moments in life for everyone.  Plugging in the lights and throwing the power switch is one of mine.  I am no longer a kid but this special moment never ceases to make me smile.

Standing back and gazing at my little tree captured my imagination and plunged it into my memories of Christmases long long ago.  My office lights were off and the only source of light was from this single strand of Christmas lights.  The ornaments were reflecting the lights and magnifying their effect.  Such a little tree, making a big splash in my office and in the soul world of memories.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3147Thanksgiving was really fun.  We had laughter, great food, fun football, new friends, old friends and time to relax.  But, it was also the best time to look forward to Christmas.

We went shopping for some of basic life needs.  Christmas decorations are basic life needs.  Putting up just a few little features makes Christmas to be enhanced.

We have two outside lights, one on either side of the garage.  I replaced the bulbs with holiday red lights.  They are low-wattage lights, a mere 25 watts each.  However, when I turn them on at night they give off a celebratory glow.

Just below each light I hung a plastic bow.  It too, like the lights, are a bright red with glitter.  At night the lights enhance the bows and the bows reflect the light and magnify the glow.

On our front door we hung a beautiful wreath.  It is a circle of greenery decorated with Christmas features.  Anyone who comes to our home will sense the living spirit of Christmas is present in our home.

Once the wreath was hung, I stood back and smiled.  It is all part of the anticipation.  Looking forward to the celebration to come is a symptom that the meaning of Christmas is a very real part of our lives.

Next, I walked into my garage and flipped on the decorated outside lights.  With a smile of anticipation I walked out to take a look at my handiwork.  I was not disappointed.

My grin broke into a wide smile.  Christmas is coming.  This special season of the year to count our blessings, celebrate Jesus’ birthday and consider the most amazing gift ever given.

Our decorations are simple this year.  One wreath here, a few lights there, a bow here and a small, a very small tree in my office is all we have put up so far.  Every one of our family is else where in this vast country.  Once we had a house full of children and we decorated together to make our home festive.  Now, they each have their own homes and are off doing their own Christmas celebrations.

Yet, it is not just about the children.  When I turned on our modest Christmas lights, I smiled.  After I stood back and gazed at our glistening bows, wreath and my humble little office tree, I loved that moment and the pleasure of anticipating the celebration of my Savior’s birthday.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3062There was no wind.  The skies were clear and the sun was still low enough to keep the temperatures comfortable.  Morning shadows were long but growing shorter with the passing moments of a new day.  It was going to be a perfect day-off for some archery.

Mentally, I checked off all of my gear.  My crossbow was loaded in its case.  I had it checked out the day before and it was lubricated, operational and ready for some long-range shooting.

My Calwell stand was folded and neatly stowed in my pick-up bed.  It was now becoming a familiar tool and I could quickly adjust it from several backyard practices.  Holding the bow steady while I sighted in the scope was a snap with this quality piece of equipment.  All doubt about accuracy were dispelled when this stand was rock solid.

A plastic garbage bin held my field pointed bolts.  There were plenty for lots of shooting and less retrieving.  In my miscellaneous bag was a field quiver but this would be perfect.

Then, I threw in a folding field chair.  Sitting on this stand was the perfect height for use with my Calwell stand.  There would be no excuse for exact deliver of a bolt to the target.

Of course I needed my layered foam target.  It promised to hold my bolts and stop them from being lost in the tall grass.  At least that was my hope.

My backyard only allows for shooting at a maximum of 20 yards.  This trip would take me out to a field to try shots of 30 and 40 yards.  If I missed this target, most likely I would lose the bolts in the ground and tall grass.

Once out in the field, I set up my custom target range for 30 yards.  That would be a 50% increase from my past experience.  My bow was cocked and bolted.  Comfortably seated and with correct posture, I breathed deeply.  Exhaling once my scope cross-hairs were aligned on my target, I squeezed the trigger.

On a crossbow the force is sent forward.  There is no recoil.  Mentally, everything was concentrating on the small target ahead.  Our mind is an amazing highlight of God’s creation.

At a blistering speed of 330 feet per second I never saw the bolt’s flight.  All I saw was my foam target jump back sharply.  With binoculars the satisfaction of a bull’s-eye was smile-breaking.  At 40 yards the smile was even broader.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

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