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Three days lay ahead of us.  Driving is not a favorite pastime of mine, so I have to plan and endurance schedule.  15 hours of driving make me pause long and hard.

Now it was time to get out my internet map planner and figure out reasonable distances to travel up to my final destination.  If I could drive an average of 5 hours per day, then I could manage.  My travels would target Westcliffe, Colorado.

We left Houston and planned to arrive in Ft. Worth, TX.  It was tough for me.  I got so sleepy when we started.

Then, I got sleepy after lunch.  Rats!  I should have eaten less or even skipped that noon day meal.  Now, I broke a lifelong habit of fasting from coffee.

Twice in my life I had consumed a cup of coffee.  Once was when I was in finals week during college.  Late night studies strained my consciousness.

Another cup was downed during graduate school finals week.  Yuck!  It tasted so bitter.  I didn’t like it.

After those two episodes, I did not try java again.  People have always looked at me in disbelief.  All five of our children drink coffee but neither my bride nor I do.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Sleep drove me to pull into the Golden Arches.  I stared at the menu not knowing what kind of coffee to order.

Finally, my eyes landed on “iced coffee”.  Hey, maybe that’ll be a good option for me.  When the McDonald’s worker asked me what I would like, I took a stab into the dark and order some flavored iced coffee, regular size.

We hit the road again and I sipped the beverage.  Yuck!  Memories of the same bitter flavor came flooding back.  The good thing was that I did not like the drink at all but the reaction was strong that I wasn’t sleepy any more!

That hotel was a great sight.  Sleep and a restful stay gave me renewed stamina to start driving the next day.  With one day of struggle under my belt the second day came easier.

Texas scenery changes every hour.  The elevation and the flora and fauna give the journey an amazing kind of fascination. Early struggles of tough driving moments were behind us and now long hours of driving was part of my conditioning.  Our road trip planning was paying off as a great journey.

 

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IMG_3809Yes, I along with most of the humans in the Western hemisphere have seen many movies with exotic scenes of Hong Kong as the backdrop.  Suave and daring secret agents raced through town wrecking havoc as they chased enemy spies or ran desperately away from blazing guns and razor-sharp knives.  Whether it was during the day or night, on land or splashing through the water or flying massive airplanes between tall skyscrapers, this city was the stage for mysteries, adventures and drama.

Now, for the first time in our lives my bride and I are in Hong Kong.  We are seeing sites that we only remember from the silver screen.  They are spectacular when we are in the middle of those sensational scenes.

It is crowded.  Throngs and hordes and crowds of people are going everywhere.  The sounds of so many accompany the masses.

Yet, when it is time for many to board a bus, a tram or a subway train, the people areIMG_3782 orderly.  They queue up and patiently wait in line.  There is absolutely no one cutting into line.  Such order in the middle of such chaos is a stunning sight to take in.

Then, of course the city lights at night has to be a famous feature of this city.  Whether we gazed at Hong Kong island or took the Star Ferry and looked back on Kowloon, the lights of the city were festive in an unforgettable way.  I don’t remember the last time I walked through a city at night and felt no fear, but this was a welcomed experience.

IMG_3877Our hosts told us that we would feel quite secure in walking the city at night.  No pick pockets, no racial unrest, there were no shady characters waiting to rob anyone and no dark recesses that hid nefarious activities.

Man-made buildings and transports were features of the city.  Now, it was God’s turn. From the top of Victoria Peak we scanned the gorgeous islands that made up Hong Kong.  Each protrusion from the waters of the bay were a powerful reminder that God did His handiwork to make this natural harbor a home for one of man’s freest enterprise markets in human history.IMG_3916

Setting aside human structures and stunning vistas the most remarkable feature of this special city are its people.  We have special friends here who call Hong Kong home.  They welcomed us into their hospitality and we thoroughly enjoyed the embrace of love.

photos by brucefong photography

IMG_2165When I checked the weather, the data took my breath away.  Today was a scheduled bicycle ride day.  In Houston the weather for bike riding makes year-round peddling a possibility. This news, however, could toss a wrench in my day-off plans.

The temperatures were down to 45 degrees.  In Houston terms that is very chilly.  A 5 mph wind calculates into a wind chill of 42 degrees.  On a bicycle with the increased riding speed of 15mph that would feel more like 40 degrees. Brrrr!

Now, it was time to think and remember where I stored my cold weather riding clothes.  40 degrees is about my limit for comfort when it comes riding a bicycle outdoors.  Anything colder means that I have to carry an ice pick and stainless steel flask filled with hot chocolate.

My base layer was set.  All of the gaps for exposed skin were closed up.  Good socks fit into my riding shoes.

My riding jacket was ideal for this kind of weather.  Of course my long finger riding gloves were essential.  My last item, however, eluded my searching.

That is one of those rarely used items that you relished on your last cold weather ride.  But, my short term memory was no better than my long term memory on this search mission.

I looked in boxes upstairs, downstairs, garage, closets and miscellaneous containers.  There sure are a lot of miscellaneous containers around our house.  Each one is filled with really useful and valuable stuff.  One of these days I am going to sort out and organize all of it.

So, I paused to think.  Where would I have put that one last cold weather piece of clothing.  Ahah! With a quick step into the garage and a look inside my gear for motorcycle riding, I pulled out that special items, Balaclava!

No, it is not a Middle Eastern dessert.  There are no nuts or honey with this piece.  Instead, it is made from bamboo, making it tough.  It is light weight and just enough coverage to make it comfortable for my head not to freeze during a cold weather ride.

Now, I was ready.  I pushed off and settled on to my bicycle seat.  Soon I was getting into a rhythm for riding.  The exposed parts of my face felt the chilly temperatures bite into my tender skin.  But, the specialty clothes that I wore kept me very comfortable.

It was a reminder that the world that the Creator gave to us has its down sides.  But, with some great choices a careful pattern of dress could easily protect us against the elements.  Keep on enjoying His presence and the good feeling of a brisk morning ride.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

 

 

 

13_Hours_posterA lot of anticipation preceded this film. Its public announcement both in the news and through trailers stirred a massive amount of interest. But, I wondered, “Would the film live up to anyone’s expectations?”

It is a very good movie well worth seeing. But, prepare yourself.  This true story will affect you deeply.

On the 11th Anniversary of the unprovoked attack on the United States’ World Trade Center and Pentagon, hostile forces attacked the US diplomatic center and CIA “Annex” compound. A small band of 6 CIA contractors made up of former Navy SeALS, Marines and Army Rangers take the initiative and do all they can to defend the Americans who are in the crosshairs of the terrorists. These 6 faced overwhelming odds yet managed to fend off the waves of attacks.

A historical fact that left me mystified at the outset of the story is that the USA has over 200 diplomatic outposts of one nature or another around the world. Of those there are around a dozen that are classified as severely hostile and dangerous. The two most dangerous are both in Libya: Tripoli and Benghazi.

Every other country had pulled its diplomatic teams out of Benghazi.  The USA was the only country with a remaining contingency.  It was a city torn by military factions and violent extremists yet its two sites were woefully under-protected.

When the US Ambassador to Libya came to town, he had a protective team of a mere two US combatants.  The compound was primarily protected by local police and native personnel who ran away as soon as the attacks began.  No one trusted these local hirelings so there was no surprise when they betrayed their clients and ran for their lives.

As the story developed, the dangers of a planned attack showed heroism in action.  No help was forthcoming but the few did not hesitate to put their lives in harms way to protect those who were in danger.  Even in the face of administrative fear and hesitation, the 6 fought off wave after wave of terrorist combatants.

Respect for the courage of the few Americans skyrocketed.  Sadness sank into fearful desperation when the US government failed to send in the resources necessary to render necessary aid to the brave 6.  Those two words make up my summary of how this story affected me: respect and sadness.

photo credit: film promotion release poster

 

 

IMG_1426We were created to live according to a cycle of work that takes a break from the daily routine and then rests.  God designed creation to function with a Sabbath rest included in our weekly routine.  There is no legalistic basis to rigidly observe a specific day of rest any longer but the principle of a day of rest has never been rescinded in the Bible.

My calendar is typically very full.  My normal work week starts early and ends late.  A two digit-hour work day is more usual than not.

Most of my colleagues rarely see my routine.  I will pass multiple shifts in a single day.  Often when I see them, I simply flash them a smile.

My years on this earth have taught me a lot about myself.  I can actually feel the need to find a respite.  An urgency of the soul whispers that I must look for a break and get away.

Once I scheduled time-off in my calendar, I guard it.  Just committing to an appointment gives me the final measure of endurance to finish my schedule.  Then on the appointed day I am packed and off to a destination to rejuvenate my soul.

The morning of my single day of revival began long before the sun came up.  All of my gear was stowed where I could retrieve anything that I would need for my day of solitude.  At a rendezvous point, I met my guide.

Robert pointed me to my destination.  He gave me the lay of the land.  Now, I could hike and roam and explore what the Creator had left for us to enjoy.

The sunrise was glorious.  It was like coming alive after a long and arduous workout.  Relief was welcoming like releasing the barbell at the end of a rigorous training session.

Our sun lit up the woods where I wandered.  Green grass, healthy trees and a backdrop of an endless sky with crystalized clouds surrounded me like a canopy easily designed by His creative finger. A natural smile erupts on my face while I pause from my hiking and take in expanse, beauty and wonder of His creation.

If you haven’t been in the habit of working hard for six days and then resting or doing something enjoyable for a seventh, then give it a try.  After a while the rhythm of life will make you far more productive and deeply appreciative of the life you live. Really!

photo credit: brucefong photography

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There is an insatiable appetite among humans.  No, it is not about food or possessions or achievements.  Neither is it about money or position or power.  It is about grandchildren and the unending joy that they bring to the experience of a grandparent.

We have been overwhelmed with the love that is generated in our hearts for our first grandchild.  He lives 2,000 miles away and makes for rare hugs and kisses during the year.  Yet, the fountain of desire never ceases.

Now, we have been ready and eager to welcome our first granddaughter into our lives.  She was not like her brother who came five weeks early.  Instead, she pushed the limits of her due date and made her grand entry just two days before her designated day for her birth.

I have not yet met her in person.  That will happen soon.  So far it has been text message announcements, videos and of course pictures sent through cyberspace.

Yes, the objective observer no doubt sees a newborn picture is like every other newborn picture.  But, through the guys of grandparent, the view is much different.  This child is perfect.

Like an angel sent directly from God to bless our family, we celebrate the stewardship of this precious life and welcome her into our hearts.  The love is welling up in a reservoir waiting to be lavished on this little life whenever we can make the pilgrimage to her home.  In eager anticipation we look forward to filling up our grandson’s life and our granddaughter’s life with all that good grandparents are supposed to give.

How can we be so much in love with another human being with whom we have not yet met and one with whom we have never exchanged a single word of a conversation?  This is the mystery of grand-parenting.  It is a wonder yet it is clearly an indisputable reality of life.

When God designed grandparents, He used that season of life as a reward for parents who restrained themselves from murdering their teenagers.  The tough years are washed away as if they never occurred.  This blessed bathing of the human memory is not unlike the greater picture of the redemptive story by our Savior.

So much is washed away by a single act of selfless love.  Grandparents know this dynamic.  It is a reason that we stretch the theology of “angels” and apply it to newborn grandchildren.  Don’t you think this is a great way to stretch a Biblical metaphor?

photo credit: Bailey photography

IMG_5813There is an amazing engineering feature in Houston.  It is called the Buffalo Bijou.  This is a creek for most of its existence, meandering from downtown Houston due West and into the region of Katy.

Katy is my home town and the Buffalo Bijou is familiar to me and my fellow residents.  We appreciate this cavernous grassy canyon snaking through our community because it is a constant reminder that it is ready to take away the deluge of water that visits our part of Texas several times a year.

When there is no rain and the weather has no prediction of precipitation, I along with my fellow Texans overlook this massive amount of real estate.  Green grass lines the banks of this very large creek and overpasses allow traffic to flow unimpeded.  But, it is always ready.

Most of the year a small creek travels through this piece of land.  The slow-moving waters do not cut much of a trail through the dirt.  Most adults could easily leap over the creek without much effort.

I bicycle along this body of water and marvel at its great expanse.  For miles my bicycle wheels roll along the cement trail that lines one of its banks.  Several times I cross a bridge to keep my journey going.

But, then there are those storms, those Texas-sized storms that drench our home with lots of water.  Drains, and canals flow into the Buffalo Bijou.  It comes quickly and flash flood warnings dominate the airwaves to keep people away from flooded areas.

Torrents of water turn a normally calm creek bed into a raging river.  In a short period of time a calm quiet creek fills up that entire flood plain and muddy waters threaten to lap against the massive concrete bridges that gives people safe passage over the rising waters.  I paused for a picture and to marvel at what makes people feel so small and helpless.

When God turns on the spillway of the heavens and stalls the weather front to hold a pattern over Houston, we hunker down and hope for the best.  Neighbor encourages neighbor.  It is the way of the image of God seeping through the desperation of men who find themselves in need of a helping hand.

Good engineers designed a lot of Houston to weather such moments.  I am grateful to those very good planners who looked beyond the pleasant sunny days.  Their planning for these occasional horribly rainy days has given me peace.  I thank God for them!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRender-3My perch was comfortable and safe.  A modern well-running ATV would speed me away from any hard charging Texas Longhorn.  All of my experience with these creatures is very limited.

Rawhide, the TV black and white cowboy series of cowboys driving herds of beef to the railroad loading points was my first and roughly the limit of my exposures to these fascinating critters.  They did not seem nearly as big on the TV screen as they did now that I was in the pasture hanging out with them.  Now, they were huge and their horns were massive and seemed incredibly large and pointed in the innocuous direction of anything or anymore who needed a piercing.

It was mid afternoon in Texas.  The temperatures were warming up and most of the herd decided to lie down in the pasture and casual chew a cud.  One little calf seemed to have different ideas.FullSizeRender-1

Can you see it in his face?  “Come on you guys!  Let’s do a little jousting.  At least let’s do a few head buttes just to exercise our bones and stiffen up our neck muscles.  Anyone game?”

He is alert and raring to go, while the rest of the herd and his fellow calves yawn at all the noise of a monologue.  I loved the life in his little frame.  His DNA lay right behind him but what did not yet have in girth he clearly had in a rambunctious spirit.

Then, his sister pulls herself up from her lounging and walks away, “Mom, can’t you tell Johnny to pipe down?  He is jabbering about this and that without ceasing.  Then, he deserves a time out of butting whenever I am not looking.  If he keeps it up I am going to shove him into the lake.”

FullSizeRender-2“Now, Penelope, don’t get your tail all in a tizzy.  He is your brother.  Unless you want him caught of in the roundup and becomes someone’s veal dinner, love him while you have him.  Be his best friend.  You are family and that counts for a lot more than just a few inconveniences now and then,” her mother mothered.

“Good afternoon,” Elsie. “I hear your offspring are keeping the herd entertained for the day.  You handle those feisty calves with wisdom straight from the Creator.”

“Well,” she replied between cud chews, “we all had our day of snorting too much fresh air and forgetting that we are all someones’ dinner.  In the meantime get all cleaned up for the rodeo tonight.  The boss has a contest for us all to enter.”

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_5318One morning I woke up to an uncomfortable feeling.  My throat was itchy.  A hacking cough exploded from my lungs.

It sounded terrible.  Something has found its way into my lungs.  Every breathe irritated a build up and stirred a headache causing more coughing.

My body was aching.  Pain in my head seemed to spread into more pain in my joints, muscles and normal functioning was uncomfortable on its way to being more and more sore.  I groped for my cell phone.

As comfortable as I could get, I began canceling appointments, rearranging other meetings and contacted key people with whom I needed to meet.  For one of those very rare times in my life I sent a note to my office that I would be taking two sick days.

Two speaking engagements loomed on the horizon.  One was the next day.  A second one was not only in three days but it would also require a plane flight to another state.

Just to be on the safe side, I called my medical clinic and scheduled a visit to a quick exam.  Have not all of us been through IMG_5319enough illnesses  to predict how things are going to pan out.  I would be worse before I got better and maybe if I went to my doctor early enough then I could get some meds and shortchange the bug that was growing inside of me.

Like so many of my machismo brothers we self-diagnose and self-over-the-counter medicate until we break down and go in only to be told that we are getting better.  We who are the sick ones know that we are getting better but the doctor’s office said that they had no openings until the next week.  This time I was going in before I passed the worst of my illness.

My regular doctor was out of the office.  They scheduled me with someone what had an opening.  I was ushered into the waiting room by the nurse who took all of the preliminaries.

Then the P.A. came in.  She was friendly, professional and knowledgeable.  All of the symptoms were discussed and the test results showed no evidence of Flu or Strep.

Is it not amazing when serious options are eliminated and I cannot help but be a little disappointed?  If it was neither the Flu nor Strep then there was nothing that the doctor could do!  Rats, since the medical clinic cannot do anything to help my illness do I really have to fork over the co-pay?  Yeah, it is a guy-thing.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone 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

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