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Unknown-2Summer marks the time when vacations, house-projects, hobby-advancements, and sleep-ins can finally be entertained. We all work hard for 9 months and need a break or at least a change of pace. Variety is the spice of life that rejuvenates our soul, right?

Nevertheless, I found a number of amazing souls that challenge that kind of schedule with mind-boggling productivity. They are the summer school students of DTS-Houston. Each one is pursuing their graduate degree with the strategy that deliberately includes summer-time classes into their agenda.

Are you impressed? They don’t let the infamous Houston heat slow them down. When the average person realizes that these budding scholars are not only in hot pursuit of their Masters degree, but they also otherwise occupied, they are taken-back. Often they have family obligations, many with careers where they must interweave their courses with their work schedule, some are intensely occupied with children and spouses, and all are actively volunteering in their churches.

My hat’s off to them. Each one is collectively on my mind as I pray for their academic and spiritual success. My work calls for a very active schedule to undergird the structure that makes their academic pursuits a possibility. It is my delight to do so. I love my job!Unknown-1

We have a world-class collection of faculty to pour their expertise into their lives. These are men and women who choose underpaid positions be they believe in the potential of these bright lights. Our faculty have my undying respect.

With purpose I will leave my office and mingle among the students during their breaks. A smile, a brief exchange, some laughter, occasional prayer, and plenty of conversation reminds me of the importance of my responsibilities. They are vital for them.

Well done DTS-Houston Summer Student Scholars. Keep on living by faith, engaging in the diligent work of your programs, and always remember there are many of us who are diligently praying you through your exercises.

photos by brucefong photography

Every time I start my day and end my day, my calendar planning is a priority. Major events and daily habits are all included in this ritual. A small part of my planning is keeping interesting upcoming sports events in mind. The NBA championship made me pay attention while our Houston Rockets were in the mix. Once they were out a lot of my attention waned.

Houston Astros are playing very well. Even with key injuries the team comes up with substitute players that keep the winning ways rolling. They are a fun team to follow.

I am keeping a close eye on the US Women’s National Team in Soccer. They are in Group F of the World Cup. Sweden, Chile, and Thailand are their F Group opponents. 24 teams from around the world are competing for the championship. The USWNT are the defending champions and the look dangerous.

My day at the office and in the field were very productive. The next several weeks are also jam packed with travel, teaching, administration, and strategizing. After a ten hour day and an hour commute in both directions, I am ready for some relaxation. My bride and I had in mind to watch the first match USWNT.

I was so disappointed when I stepped into our house only to notice a news flash on my cell phone. It announced the final score of the USWNT over Thailand. On the one hand I was bummed that the game was already over. On the other hand I was thrilled that WE had won. The bewilderment set in. “I was sure that I had planned to watch the 7PM CT broadcast of this match. Everything was correct except the broadcast was technically a RE-broadcast. Bummer!

The individual talent on this year’s team is breathtaking. Teamwork was consistently astounding. Coaching the match strategy was tactically a winning approach. Durability and endurance showed how well prepared this team was.

Sure, there is some talk about “running up” the score. But, that is really a conversation for the sports pundits. We will just let that debate happen until the next story formulates itself on this world stage.

Meanwhile, I along with many others, marvel at the domination of the USWNT. It was amazing to watch how many touches in a row the team accumulated. Their patience and explosive athletic ability were stunning. Go USA!

photos by brucefong photography

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The kitchen by no means favors me in its room to ply my culinary art. My skills are definitely in the limited category: primarily survival food. Now, on occasion I can read the directions, follow them, and proudly present the final product. Thank God that His providence functions efficaciously and directs it to be edible!

When the grandkids were en route for a long stay, a menu popped into my mind. It included sweet desserts. One was “Rice Krispie” treats.

They always look inviting. Taste is a big win. Of course there is the sticky gooey fun of eating them.

On a recipe skill level, this dessert treat is EASY. Measure this, melt this, stir this, press it down, add fun sprinkles and let it cool. By the time our grandkids roared through the front door, it was waiting to welcome them.

Our oldest grandchild buzzed over to the colorful tray with a smile as wide as the Gulf of Mexico.

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“May I have some?” he questioned with the politeness that made me want to hand over the entire tray.
“You better ask your parents first,” was my safe Grandfatherly response.
“Daddy?” he looked with a longing hope.
“Sure. Which piece to you want?” his father asked.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, the second photo shows the results of his request. It was the deepest part of the tray. He knew where to drop his line for the biggest fish in the lake.

I laughed. He smiled. His munching away was off-the-charts cute!

photographs by brucefong photography

fullsizeoutput_2f09My grandkids stopped in for a long visit. They are little tykes, just 6,4, and 2. Anything that Grandpa does that is just a wee bit funny, starts them giggling.

When they arrived, they ran into my arms for a long hug. Of course they took to their age and all talked at once. My Grandfatherly skills kicked in and I agreed to everything they were all saying.

If I had to I could deny everything and blame my bad memory or horrible hearing. Don’t worry, I would fulfill all my promises as they reminded me of each guarantee that we had discussed. In the meantime, their memory was worse than mine.

They each scampered around the house. This was their first time to our home. It was an endless array of new rooms, fascinating decorations, new toys, tons of niches waiting for the imagination of children.

I warned them that I had a helper upstairs. He was a friendly plumber making sure everything with water was functioning well for our very loved guests. “Be on your best behavior,” I urged them, “You don’t want to scare him.”

“Where is he?” they forced a calm on their faces and into their voices.”
“Oh, he’s upstairs. I believe I hear him in the bathroom that y’all are using during your visit. If you want, go on upstairs and say ‘Hello.'”

They scurried upstairs and I waited for the discovery. “Oh, Goong Goong! You’re funny!”

That’s the best reaction to a simple welcome for three lives that I love beyond words. Giving them a moment of levity after days of driving half way across the country to visit was special. Hearing these little lives laugh is more than a sound. It is the reverberation of the soul.

photograph by brucefong photography

IMG_3104The number 42 made me smile today. Today is the anniversary of my wife and my wedding day. We have been married for 42 years.

In all of that time, decades of years and nearly countless days, she never once considered divorce. Now, temper that with the unsurprising reality that murder was on the table many times. With chagrin I will admit that she was justifiably and understandably well within her rights to make that choice! We had tons of adventures that makes us smile more broadly today than we did when we began our journey together.

Just weeks after our wedding ceremony we packed up our pickup truck and drove to Dallas, Texas. Good ol’ Herman, our pickup truck, didn’t even have air conditioning. My wonderful wife melted in the Texas heat but stuck with me.

Then, we packed up our possessions and moved to our first ministry post in Portland, OR. God blessed us with our three wonderful children. Many lifelong friendships began in the city of Roses.

We crated what belongings we could and moved to Aberdeen, Scotland. Our little family had a ball in the United Kingdom. Each of the children picked up a lilting Scottish Brogue. Wonderful blessings and amazing International friends packed in Highland memories for life.

Then, it was back to Portland for season. That was followed by over a decade of sacrificial ministry in Michigan. God then led us to San Francisco, CA for more amazing service. His perfect and divinely ordered journey returned us to Texas, this time in the amazing city of Houston.

My bride has been by my side through it all: blizzards, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and humidity. We have clung on to the best Christians in the world. Together we weathered human storms with His grace. I never would have survived without her.

She is my love, my confidant, my greatest fan, and most patient advisor. Happy Anniversary, My Love! May our Mighty and Merciful God generously grant us many more years of being in His service together. Joy!

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Have you ever wondered who the crazy guy is who set the alarm clock at 3:20AM with an ETD for 3:55AM? Yeah, it was me. It would take an hour to hit my rendezvous point and then to head to Galveston Island for a day of fishing with a buddy.

Once the two of us adventurers hooked up we loaded up our gear into his car. Then, it was another long drive to our next stop, bait camp. This time our long stretch was filled with great conversation.

A pint of live shrimp would do. Yes, we stood in line behind a dozen other hearty souls. Everyone was ready to chase their evening meal and fill their freezers with great food for the next several months.

We drove our vehicle on to the automobile ferry. The day began to wake up while we leaned over the rail and enjoyed the cool breezes and sounds of calling seagulls. Today the rising sun captured the silhouette of a shrimp boat trying to make a living for its captain and crew.

Hard work and daily work and very early work is the life of a shrimper. They were smart men, experienced men, and persistent men. Yet, they were at the mercy of how God orders the cycle of life of the decapod crustaceans. Some call them the broader category of these creatures: Caridea.

Fish like to eat them, so they just serve a particular purpose for me. We have often joked that we could quit fishing on a lousy weather or bite day and just cook and eat our own bait. No matter how many times we joke about it, we still laugh.

Now, it was time for us to cast our lines. Our first efforts paid off. Fish tugged and pulled. They tried to get away but when they took our bait, their destiny was sealed.

The few hours that we invested in the morning were filled with fun moments of fighting fish, marveling at the variety of species, and taking in the sunrise when we had a moment to reflect on the Creator’s provision both for food and for serenity. It was going to be a good day, a very good day. Any day starting with fishing made the day excellent and filled up the beginning week with only more good served up by the generous hand of the Almighty.

photo by brucefong photography

IMG_2894.jpegWhen a sight makes my eyes bulge, it’s worth a long look.

My friend’s ranch is a great place to relax and let the anxious feelings that build from perpetual responsibilities drain into the soil of Texas. Burdens concerning the lives of people, choices determining the future of our organization, and little foxes nipping at the grapes in the vineyard reach a critical point early each Spring. My calendar reminds to schedule vital down time in the woods.

The cool of the evening promised a good night’s sleep coming in a few hours. Quiet sounds of the country replaced the constant buzz of people, machines, and city noises. Birds chirping, the breeze soothing, and orange sun settling down on the horizon, performed their excellent massaging of my soul.

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Near the border of the ranch property, I found a perch that was elevated off of the ground about 8 feet. I climbed the ladder and settled into a comfortable folding chair. Now, I could enjoy the theater performance of the creator’s sunset. It was going to be beautiful.

That’s when the heavy hooves trotted in a growing crescendo behind me. Whatever it was, it was big. Slowly, I turned my head toward the thudding sound.

At a lilting quick trot a Watusi cow came into view around a low growing tree. It emerged from the guise of the boughs uninterested in a puny human. Instead, it had caught the fragrance of corn feed laid out for its evening snack.

She was followed by three other cows of lesser stature. They were huge animals with a powerful gait. The earlier decision to ascend to my perch was a very good decision in hind sight.

IMG_2899But, there was more. These four cows were merely the vanguard. The real beast made his way to the corn feed. He was massive.

My guess is that he would weigh in at 1400 pounds. His body mass clearly made him the dominant bovine. He was the bull.

As impressive as his bulk was, I was lost in the size of his massive horns. They were so large that the word “hoax” did enter my mind. When it strolled down the two track, it kept a cadence to the rhythm of his swaying horns.

I had no words. What a sight. I gazed in wonder at these Ankole-Watusi of unusual size. The Creator makes so things really big.

photos by brucefong photography

 

mrB4PXHJQn2p3WjskrVNyAThe weather could not have been more perfect. In the Northwest, when it is not raining, you hold your breath and wonder what the weather is about to do. That day, however, it was an ideal balance of sun, warmth, and breeze; yes, perfect.

Business took me back to my alma mater. I showed up early. It was the perfect scenario for a stroll down memory lane. New buildings stood in places where I only knew woods in the past. But, the old structures that housed my early days as a collegiate were still standing, sporting fresh paint, and reorganized walls.

PV101 is the corner classroom where I was trained in my theology. My systematics were formed right here. This is where it had its genesis. OPPdv4mKTB6u51N+TKkKYQ

Then, there was life in the dormitory. Great friendships that lasted a lifetime found adventure, conversation, laughter, wonderment, and fellowship in those halls. Now, the building houses the offices of a growing faculty and modern classrooms.

Naturally, I headed to the overlook that takes in the Vistas of the Willamette Valley. Many nights on a bench afforded me an audience of One. I prayed and asked God to use me, give me the discernment to see that path qaLKMNtaQcOBJqlWyxBwYAhe wanted me to walk, be stirred with courage to face the troubles with faith, and help as many along the way to find their peace with God, embrace the joy of sharing his love, and satisfaction of serving the body of Christ in the church.

Decades later, the iron rail is rusty, the overlook is crumbling, CLOSED signs surround this overlook, keeping visitors from enjoying the stunning landscape.  It evokes memories of many prayers, hopes, and dreams. God has been very good to me through these years and I have been honored to still be in his service.

SoGmUXUCSFWTJk0k3vkucgOne last memory was on my checklist. It is a hallway. In the main administration building, my classmates would find ourselves gathering for the favorite meal of the week. It was Sunday afternoon.

After church we would line the hall waiting for the cafeteria to open. Many of my friends were amazing singers. Someone would start a song and our voices and hearts would fill that hall with sounds of praise. I loved those spontaneous concerts. Memories like that are special when they imprint themselves in my mind. Come to think of it, I can still hear the singing.

photos by brucefong photography

fullsizeoutput_2ca0A quick glance at my watch told me that I was early for my appointment. Now was a good time for a stretch along with a brief walk. So, I climbed out of my car and scanned the area for an interesting destination.

It must be normal to look up and away when exploring for a direction. Back forth my head bobbed, gathering my bearing to make a choice. Time to kill was the objective. Nothing earth-shattering here.

Maybe it was random. Possibly it is a habit that I do not usually notice. But, with no real direction and plenty of time to fill in my objective, I happened to look down. It was time for a pause in my searching.

There, in the grass, tiny flowers of different colors spread throughout a small meadow. It was attractive. When I drove up in the rental car I did not notice the display. Stepping out of the car and looking for a way to make my time brief spare time enjoyable this scene did not register.

fullsizeoutput_2d3cMaybe it was the wind. A small breeze sensed my random mood. It whispered that I should look down.

Rustling grass leaves were loud enough for lingering gaze. Maybe I have a soft spot in my soul for the overlooked, the small guy doing his best, or a collection of insignificant memories that are special for reminiscing.

See in the grass, there are hundreds of blooms. Each flower adds their splash of color in the Spring time outdoor extravaganza. Most who pass this way overlook the these little ones. I was almost one of them. Not this time.

Colors, textures, plentiful stages of display are all peeking out for my appreciative eyes to see. In this one spot my entire “spare time” was spent. The Master’s touch of this miniature floral presentation was solitarily mine for a marvelous few moments. It was nice, very nice.

photo by brucefong photography

Unknown-1Walking up on an unsuspecting magnificent beast in the woods is not new in my experience. This has happened for me in many places and many times. But, the moment is never ordinary.

The Texas morning sun welcomed me to a new day. I was up and washed up before the sunrise. This way I could be walking in the woods and feel the splendor of a new day awakening.

It wasn’t long before the vestiges of the human settlement disappeared behind me. A few more steps and the trees and brush swallowed me up. Now, I was alone in the woods.

Something was running through the grass. There was more than one. I stopped and smiled.

The sounds confirmed that the scurrying was a pair of squirrels. They were doing their Spring thing. Yes, Thumper had it right. These little energetic rodents were “twitterpated”. Up a tree they raced. Dodging limbs and knots they disappeared in a thick clump of leaves.

My walk continued. Maybe I was lulled into carelessness. Frankly, even if I were ready, the explosion of a herd of pigs makes most humans quick to jump.

A 90 pound sow raced out of a brush pile. She was slicing through the grass, mowing everything down in front of her. A passel of cute piglets squealed, snorted, and grunted trying to keep up with momma. It made me laugh on many levels.

As that brood of pork disappeared into the tall grass, I froze. Maybe it was experience, maybe providence, or maybe hope made me do it. But, movement to my right directed me peer through the wall of flora.

It wasn’t the wind moving branches. Instead, several brown mounds in the grass a mere 50 yards away came into focus. The movement that started this visual moment was a massive set of antlers on the King keeping a steady eye on his harem. That gigantic crown  swayed gently but powerfully in the shadows cast by the trees.

The wind was in my favor. Plenty of trees gave me good cover. I moved silently to cut our distance in half.

Our creator masterfully designed this great bull, powerful, massive, and courageous. He rolled his head enough to rest his right antler on his back. It gave him a steady rest for his head and powerful neck. He was resting. I had enjoyed him enough. It was my cue to disappear and leave this herd undisturbed.

photo by brucefong photography

 

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