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The grounds of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley were warmly welcoming.  All of our now adult children joined us for this first-time experience.  Our first grandchild added a lot of joy to this visit.

It was breathtaking to take in the expanse of the 100 acre mountainous Southern California setting.  The land for this special memorial center was a private donation.  We paused several times to enjoy the vistas before we ever entered the library.

Our family gathered around the elevated bronze sculpture of President Reagan that greeted all guests.  His cheerful smile made me smile with all of the confidence that he poured into his leadership of our great land.  I remember the confidence that I hoped my children would someday sense as young Americans.

Inside of the museum we sat down to view a welcome video with words spoken by Ronald Reagan himself.  He told us of his intentions when he first stepped into the office of the President of the United States.  They were historic inspiring words.

His hope was to restore the American spirit.  He knew that the problems facing the USA were grave.  Our national economy was in trouble.

American morale was dangerously low.  Hope in the American dream was waning. Our national election gave Ronald Reagan our trust to change things back to the exceptionalism that was woven into the very fabric of this great country.

At the inauguration ceremony Reagan’s swearing in was done using his mother’s Bible.  Today that Bible is encased in the library opened up to 2 Chronicles 7.14  ”If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal the land.”

His mother inscribed in her Bible a thought for the day: ”You can be too big for God to use, but you cannot be too small.”  Did she have some inclination that this would help chart the course for her son?  It is a valuable piece of wisdom for any who would enter a position of notoriety and influence.

With every display and around every corner there were insights into what made this man into a remarkable leader.   Reagan would realign America with the great blessings in its founding.  He would also influence the world to find a better course toward peace.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_1968It is a whirlwind of traveling for us.  For months we have been in touch with on-line travel, hotels and scheduling.  Adjustments to our itinerary, purchases and plans built up to the anticipation which so much of the season.

We landed with luggage that was loaded.  Our rental car held it all.  Mile after mile we rendezvoused with as many relatives as we could.  Still, sadly we had to miss some.

On the road we sent an email with our personal season update letter.  They were scattered around the country and the world.  We do not remember how many we sent but we hope that we delivered more than we missed.

Touching base with our family and friends is a treasure to us.  We would never want to miss anyone who shared their love with us.  Sending a note of our love to others is a blessing for us.

It was an endless journey from party to the next.  Yet, the growing joy of the reason for the season was growing inside of us.  There was no temptation to “Bah, Humbug!” anyone or anything.

Instead, the JOY of the season was glowing brighter and brighter.  Love from family and friends was producing a smile on us both.  During the journey from one gathering to the next was a time to reminisce over past wonderful gatherings.

We talked about special people who have meant so much to us over the years.  Many of our closest friends are too many miles away for us to enjoy this year.  Maybe during another year we can embrace, love on them and build more memories.

Tonight we will enjoy worship, praise and celebration at the heart of the season.  We will gather with a body of Christian believers that we do not know but share so much in common.  Jesus will be there and that is what truly counts during this season of His birthday celebration.

Gifts will be shared with loved ones.  Laughter and pictures will be recorded in our spirits and on digital memory cards.  Delicious meals will be consumed.

Soon after the celebration we will make the long journey back home.  We will both smile often remembering a smile, a touch and many words.  God has blessed us with great wealth with wonderful family and loyal friends.

Merry Christmas!

photo credit: KJB photography

 

IMG_4873Christmas is way too busy for us.  We are juggling work, travel, gifts, letters, projects, bills, parties and life so fast that jingling bells are hard to hear.  A lot more silent night and still the night would be welcome in our souls.

A balance is struck from a familiar favorite place.  For many Americans and world-wide Christians this is a shared respite during this hectic season.  This place is featured on Christmas cards, television shows, screen savers and ornaments.

Sometimes the scene is a snow shrouded clearing in the woods.  Horse drawn sleighs are parked in front.  Multi-colored lights transform a living tree just off to the side.IMG_4875

Often the Nativity scene is partnered with this place of comfort.  Joseph and Mary watch over the newborn baby Jesus while animals quietly look on to the miraculous scene.  Visitors flock to the sound of music coming from inside of this haven.

It is the picture of a church building.  Inside the alive church of followers of Jesus are celebrating this anniversary birth.  A Savior has been born.

IMG_4878Our busy lives pushed all of those demanding stress-causing matters out in our POV (personally owned vehicle).  I shut the doors and locked them in.  Then, my bride and I carried our Bibles and hand in hand we walked into church.

Gifted decorators decked out a tree that was gorgeous.  We did not rush by it.  Instead, captivated we stopped and admired it from several angles.IMG_4879

Once inside the auditorium the orchestra and choir and worship team blew us away.  Our spirits soared with the familiar Christmas carols.  Then stunning orchestral and choir supported anthems took our spirits and we worshipped together.  It was awesome!

A soloist made the rafters shake with her rendition of “Do You See What I See?”  We rose to our feet with great applause.  All of us could see!

IMG_4880Pastor Gregg Matte delivered an encouraging word from the Word.  He has a gift of making the truth practical.  The Spirit used it to touch so many lives.

In the end the choir and orchestra dismissed us with a majestic finale of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.  With a family like serendipitous moment the choir motioned for Pastor Gregg to join them in the loft for that final song.  All of us sounded not just “good” but “glorious” as we gave our Almighty God our collective gift of worship.  Merry Christmas!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

IMG_4861The ranch foreman drove me around the thousand acres of Texas that he was thrilled to manage.  We were bouncing around in a crew buggy touted to work hard and ride smooth.  But, the rough ride was not because of the stiff suspension but because of another problem.

Wild hogs have invaded this pristine Texas ranch.  At night or early in the morning they began to forage.  As a herd of hungry wild animals they go in search of food.

Rooting is a natural behavior of pigs.  It is believed that their ability to pick up iron in the dirt keeps them from suffering from anemia.  If they discover insects or worms or anything else that is edible they will continue to dig up large areas of land.

This normal but destructive behavior makes wild hogs unwelcome by ranchers.  The land that they root up transforms a smooth meadow into a bumpy upturned ground where the grass for grazing cattle is destroyed and ATVs now have a rough go of it.  They steal cattle feed, deer feed and make the land difficult for cattle to graze.

The next morning professional pig hunters were brought on to the property.  There were four tough looking, seriously equipped and rough talking men who showed up.  Each was armed and equipped with the latest in tracking equipment.

FullSizeRender-1Besides the souped up ATV’s these hunters brought seven highly specialized and trained dogs.  They had noses ready to track down the pigs and teeth raring to grab some live pork.  It was going to be an experience watching these men work.

The motorized machines slid to a halt at the corner of the ranch.  Each of the hunters unleashed their dogs.  Our convoy of ATV’s followed while the dogs ran and sniffed the air.

It was over an hour of slowly moving through the woods.  Suddenly, the still morning air erupted with the baying of dogs.  Clearly, they were excited and the sound of their alarm moved quickly in a singular direction.

A pig, one of those destructive creatures was trying to elude capture.  This adaptable four-footed animal was using every trick to escape the jaws of the dog pack.  It ran out of tricks.

The one who was created in His image and his best friends prevailed.  Tenacity, technology and teamwork overcame the base instincts of the beast.  One down many more to find and eliminate.

photo credit: brucefong photography

1237515_10152571662945975_7245741172097343646_nWe are two thousand miles away from our grandson, our only grandchild.  Ministry is my calling and profession, which does not allow for a lot of extras for frequent flights across the country.  When we do go it is a treasured journey filled with invested moments of smiles, laughter and deepening love.

The marvel of being a grandparent pushes my personal spiritual pilgrimage as a follower of Christ to a new dimension.  For years I soaked in the intricate lessons from the Scriptures about a three generational legacy, a vertical legacy.  Pouring into our children was a blessing but now considering being a part of the spiritual vitality of a third generation is mind-blowing.

For sure when God gave us the great news of each child being conceived and then born, they were sensational moments.  Adding “parent” to our resume is an unparalleled delight and privilege.  The next step to sharing in the next generation is one that we are far removed yet deeply engaged.

Playing with our grandson stirred new moods in my soul.  How could be that I could be so much in love with a human being with whom I have never even had one measurable conversation?  When our grandson first hugged my knee, I  knew that affection could be immeasurably more stunning than the joys of marriage or parenting.

Now, every day while thousands of geographical miles away, my bride and I look hungrily into cyberspace for new pictures and videos of our little guy.  We are always tickled when we receive and email invitation to “Skype” with our grandson.  This latest one was a memorable treat.

He has learned sign language along with his growing months toward conversation.  On this cyberspace conversation our kids asked our grandson to show the sign of a “baby”.  He cradled his two hands palms up together and rocked them back and forth.

It was cute.  Each time he has communicated with sign we have been impressed.  But, we were not prepared for the next presentation.

Our kids then asked him to show where the baby was.  He immediately pointed to our daughter’s womb.  Oh, yeah!

Grand baby #2 is in the oven.  By God’s wonderful grace the third generation legacy will expand next summer.  Words will never express the joy of this anticipation.

The depth of blessing from our Heavenly Father are too generous.  The breadth of blessing is so great.  I am a very happy grandfather.

photo credit: KJB photography

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