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FullSizeRender-7Our ATV was bouncing like it should.  Gary was racing through the fields because he knew every pothole and gully and tree row.  Ahead, he spied his tour highlight on the front 40.

The sound of rich green well-watered Texas grass brushed against the chassis of the ATV like waves under a sailboat.  “There!” Gary sounded the discovery.  “Under the trees,” he added to the alert.

He deftly guided the ATV to a stop as we saw animals scurrying in the shadows of a deep draw, crowded by trees.  Once movement stopped, we started again, this time slowly into a gully, negotiating the descent with care.  Up the embankment on the opposite side we cautiously crept over the top and came to another stop in the rich pasture.

Ahead, gracefully moving as a herd aware of the presence of humans but certain that the distance was a safe margin, a herd of elegant Blackbucks meandered out of a row of trees.  One dominant buck was directing  its herd of doe.  It was the closest I had ever been to this exotic wildlife animal outside of a zoo enclosure.

Karl and Beth’s Texas ranch served as home to several gorgeous species of wildlife.  It was a privilege to feast my eyes on this majestic animal that God created.  They are fast, graceful, intelligent, agile and colorful.

In this herd the buck showed off its long, thick and perfectly formed spiral horns.  His coat covers his top half in dark brown, almost black.  God contrasted that with a white underbelly and chest.

Its face sets him apart with both eyes encircled with white patches.  When it stares at you its nose is also ringed with white.  Out in the open the colors seem aesthetically balanced.

Yet, take that same animal and let it melt into the woods and it disappears. God created these magnificent animals with both beauty and practicality.  The Blackbuck is no exception.

While the male stands out as bigger, decked with powerful horns and marked with distinctive colors, the doe are different.  All of them are light brown, slender and ready for flight.  They are different but the same as their dominant leader.

Smoothly, they glide through the pasture like they are gently carried along by the Texas breeze.  We quietly watch and marvel.  Then, they run and disappear as if by a wave of a massive magic wand.  God created a masterpiece and He let us watch them.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRender-3My cellphone was right on time.  Yup, I set the alarm clock to start ringing at 530AM.  A short two night respite in the country had come to an end.

Now, meetings, appointments, errands and projects waited for me back in the city.  On our campus people would be buzzing with activity.  This was an “all hands on deck” kind of event as we celebrated our new campus.

Sometimes I stack my calendar with day after day filled with activities.  This was one of those weeks.  Nevertheless, in the middle of the week I creatively squeezed two nights in the country.

Yes, it just means that I order myself to relax.  “Now, relax!  Start to unwind quickly before time runs out!  Hurry up!”  It’s comical, unrealistic yet the reality of the life l live.

My routine to get to reenter the faced paced life of my role at the seminary was about to kick in again.  I expressed my gratitude to my hosts, loaded my gear and drove out the gate of their fabulous ranch.  My sleepiness was tugging at my eyelids.

Down the country road for a short distance blended me on to a State Highway.  Traffic was non-existent.  Fog shrouded the landscape and turned everything into a monotone.

My radio kept me company.  Memories of the last few days played out in my mind.  Then, a morning hope became my entertainment.

The distant Texas sky exploded out of the low-lying fog.  A monotone world was shattered with splendid vibrant colors.  Our sun with its signature blazing ball was creeping over the horizon.

Now, it was show time for the Creator.  He put this drama into motion when He made this world.  The physics, the astronomy, the aesthetics, the life, the sensation are knitted together for a daily spectacular show for anyone to enjoy.

A sunrise wipes away the fear of what the day will bring.  There is a power and size in His presence all too magnificent to ignore.  We at least naturally grin and the pleasure and reminder of His display that He is still in charge.

We humans worry too much and trust too little.  He still invites us to warm up under His generous grace and relax with a touch of His mercy.  Step more lively into the day as He welcomes us into His care.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_0841-1Stress is a modern-day downer.  It creeps into everyone’s life.  At first it is subtle and only modest in occupying our routine.

That’s why it’s a beast.  Slowly, incrementally this small influence grows into a controlling behemoth.  The rheostat keeps turning up the heat and before you know it we have been overwhelmed.

Busy people snap.  We fold under the constant pressure.  Our health is compromised and our well-being slides into the realms of darkness.

Wise living means that we manage our stress.  We can never get rid of it.  It is a part of living to those who live to make a difference.

Fishing helps me cope.  There are very few activities that I totally rest my mind from the heavy responsibilities on my daily plate. Some how this activity takes my soul to another place where I can recuperate, rejuvenate and restore.

Karl invited me to enjoy his ranch.  I planned it into my schedule with delight.  That kindness was one that I gladly welcomed.

This visitation was marked on my calendar and I protected it with administrative dexterity.  Deftly I redirected other appointments and demanding issues around those dates.  My smile grew wider as those days drew closer.

Finally, with my duties complete I drove West.  My gear was neatly stowed in my pickup truck bed.  The scenery of the civilization melted behind me.  Now, the country engulfed me.

The next morning Gary and Klark picked me up in an ATV.  We talked fishing all the way down to the lake.  Strategy, tackle, technique and ideas flourished.  The only noticeable thing missing were any promises. There is a reason why this activity is called “fishing” and NOT “catching”.

When we stopped on the shore, it was involuntary to pause.  The view was captivating.  Mirrored on the stone stilled lake water was the skyline of jade green trees, sparkling blue sky and lazy puffy cumulus clouds.

Stress-slaying relaxation was taking over.  The kind of smile that emerges at such a moment is soulish. Deep within a revived spirit sings.

My tackle box offered many options.  Scanning with experienced eyes I remembered that my quarry from a distant state had found a black and white rattletrap tantalizingly appetizing.  Trying to read the waters I chose to retrieve my offering along a submerged tree.

The pull and tussle were familiar.  An arching throbbing fishing rod tip was electrifying.  Finally, after the catch the release showed domination and gratitude. Ah, so relaxing.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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The air in Houston is just plain HOT in the summer.  Temperatures soar into the high 90’s and stay there.  By the middle of the morning the nasty partner of Southern heat joins in the unpleasantries.  High humidity.

From practical terms we refer to such days as two shirt days.  I carry an extra shirt in my truck or make sure that one is handy in my office, neatly hanging behind the door.  On especially sweaty days I will head to the club, swim a half of mile and then take a long cool shower.

Time and appointments are not always friendly to a human seeking relief from the relentless heat.  There are moments when the air conditioning of my office, my truck or my home is like a refuge where island hopping is the standard fare for the day.  The temptation to complain is high but never recommended.

Instead, we Texans learn to put on a happy face and say something good.  “The humidity is good for your skin,” we laugh.  No one really believes this words but it certainly brings about a moment of laughter that brings just a moment, ever so brief from the brutal weather outside.

Duty called.  I needed to get to other side of our building.  If I had wanted to I could have keyed the entrance passed through several doors on my way to the other end of our campus.  Instead, I braved the idea of walking through our outside atrium.  It meant stepping into the outdoor weather, albeit briefly.

Steeling my soul, I opened the door and walked briskly through the garden.  Surprisingly, the temperature and humidity did not grip my breath away.  In fact the weather, while warm, was quite pleasant.

My steps slowed to a casual stroll.  Why wasn’t the torturous Houston summer weather strangling me?  I stopped and looked up.

A canopy green took the place of a human-made ceiling.  Trees nearly blocked out the sun.  Well-watered flora moderated the small oasis.  Here I smiled at the summer and thought, “A true respite is built into this building.”

I am going to like it here in our new campus.  This unexpected feature was value-added to our bustling campus of students digging into their graduate studies.  Stumbling into and onto this refreshing discovery made for a memorable day.

Do you have a place of relief from the summer heat?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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Processed with VSCOcam with s1 preset

My bride’s cellphone rang.  I heard its distinctive sound from my second floor office.  When she answered she was animated, excited and filled our home with laughter.

Those sounds brought a smile to my face.  Inside I felt the balloon of joy filling up.  Before I was invited, I shut down my computer, moved my work into a manageable pile and stood up to close my office light.

After two steps toward the stairs I heard the invitation.  My bride’s familiar voice of 38 years of marriage beckoned me to come.  Without her detailed explanation I suspected with anticipation that we had received an unexpected call from the grandchildren.

“Coming!” I replied right away and energized my steps.  It is beyond fun to approach the head of the stairs looking forward to interrupting my writing and research.  Someone special was on the phone and I wanted to be a part of that conversation.

Bounding down the stairs was not really an option.  Young people can do that.  I remember when I did but that is no longer a smart choice.

My bride and I snuggled together in front of her cellphone camera.  Our 2-year-old grandson’s animated face and enthusiastic voice was luring us in.  At our daughter’s prompting and his own energetic excitement he announced, “Happy Grandparent’s Day!”

I melted.  My heart nearly burst.  A grin took over my face.

We chatted with this little guy for long moments.  He showed us his new dump truck.  Never leaving his left hand was on of his favorite toy cars.

Then, our three-month old granddaughter was placed in the camera lens.  She was sitting propped up by her infant chair.  Snuggled in, she seemed content.

Then, my bride began talking with her.  She talked back!  No intelligible words could be understood.  But, the garbling, cooing and grunting made the appearance of a conversation with her and her grandmother.  It was so special!

This episode was our first Grandparent’s Day moment.  First’s are amazing memories.  FaceTime made it possible.  The internet is a massive blessing to families separated by so many miles.

No, I can’t bound down the stairs, no can I always figure out technology but I can surely enjoy this incomparable season of life. Being a grandparent is a joy unending.  I have gladly traded some advantages of youth for this finest of human connections.

photo credit: KJB photography

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Processed with VSCOcam with t3 preset

Anticipation grabs the human soul like no other electrifying experience.  So, I played it cool when we boarded the plane in anticipation of spending time with our first granddaughter, our second grandchild.  Everyone took their turn while I gave my attention to my I-phone.

Eventually, just as I suspected, someone asked, “Do you want to hold her?”  I looked up surprised and acting detached and other-worldly occupied, “What? Oh, sure.”

This little life was carefully handed over to me.  She was so tiny.  The warmth of her little body felt good in my arms.

With attention I cradled her in the crook of my arm and caught her in the palm of my left hand.  There was no weight to this little package.  It wasn’t long before I melted into her world.

Her soft breathing made me sigh with joy.  Carefully I took her little hand in between my finger and thumb.  The tender skin, perfectly formed appendage broadened my smile.

It was natural to rock the newest member of our family.  Gently I hugged her.  Then I kissed her.

Babies smell so good.  They wiggle in grasp of their grandfather.  Surely, they love the comfort of protection, affection and admiration of their favorite relative.  It is instinctive.

In this small world between granddaughter and grandfather, the other people around us faded away.  Now, for all time a bond was forming that would be everlasting.  Nothing could break was being established at this moment.

I was falling in love with another human being with whom I have not yet had a single intelligible conversation.  Nevertheless, no one would dispute its reality or its beauty.

There is nothing comparative about a Grandfather’s love for his grandchildren.  Love is never about such small distractions of others.  Instead, Grandfathering is only about concentration on the blessings in the arms at the time.

Favorites are not allowed when love is completely pure, unselfish, giving and overwhelming.  We who wear the badge of Grandfather can’t be bothered with attention hived off to total strangers.  Love is fully devoted to a the little life at hand.

That’s what the touch of a granddaughter  will do.  It melts the strongest of men, the most accomplished of me into a bowl of gelatin ready to be molded into whatever this little life desires.  That’s why God created little ones with little fingers; just the right place to wrap Grandpa around.

photo credit: KJB photography

IMG_0731Admittedly, my expectations were not high.  I have seen many “Christian” films in my life and they have mostly fit in a similar category.  To be Christian these films were low on quality, low on talent and very low on budget.

The message was usually very important but became diluted with the lack of media quality in the production.  Often I would see the film as a show of support.  Too frequently I would leave thinking the same word: corny.

To my surprise, pleasantly so, I was delighted with War Room.  I highly recommend it.  Besides being one of the most popular movies currently being shown, it has a spectacular message, excellent acting, surprising cinematography and very creative writing.

Can a movie on prayer where the name of Jesus Christ as central actually have a survivability in today’s critical market?  Perhaps the hostility of America actually futures an appetite for such a film.  There are generous subtleties of American exceptionalism and patriotism without being preachy or gratuitous that give the message substance.

It really isn’t where prayer takes place as much as with whom we talk to during our prayers.  Selfish prayers don’t accomplish much and real answers to life can come through the intercession of people who come to God with humility and dependence.  Lives of people changed and love restored are enough of an apologetic to get anyone to watch a movie like this.

We arrived at the theater 25 minutes early.  There were less than a dozen of us there to see the movie.  But, in the next 30 minutes the theater filled up.

During the showing the crowd laughed heartily, cheered vigorously and applauded loudly.  It was the most participation that I have ever seen in a movie showing.  That being a part of something was special and worth the price of admission.

Marriages that are on the rocks due to selfishness are a shame.  It is happening too often.  Can prayer really make a difference between two people who are both feeling like giving up?

What does it mean when two parties equally put the blame for a dissolving marriage on their spouse?  Can human selfishness and self-centered ego really be so deluded?  Both want the other to change, to align according to personal expectations and conclude that they deserve better?

Watch this movie and see how a disaster can be averted.  The power of prayer is not in our entreaty.  It is in unleashing the power of God.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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