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UnknownWork days fill my calendar for most of the year. Long 10-12 hour days define my work week. When the work week has surpassed reasonable tally, more time is poured into writing, studying, preparing for weekend ventures that support my work.

I am one of those few who loves what I do for a living. That old adage, “Find something that you love to do and you will never work a day in your life,” applies to me. I love going to work.

But, there is something that gnaws on my soul.  I, along with my wonderful wife, sigh often when we are getting ready to leave church and head back home. There are many around us who weekly gather their brood and head out for a family lunch.

We watch them laugh together, hug one another, tease each other, and agree to rendezvous for a shared meal. Sometimes, not often, they wave to us as they leave. We toss them a polite wave and nod our heads. Our smile is envious.

Can you feel the longing that we feel so deeply? We miss our family. But, the Good Lord has given me an assignment far away from our children and grandchildren.

Every chance we get, we sock away a few dollars here and there. We look long into our calendar and plan our next vacation to travel to meet them thousands of miles away. The bank savings account grows slowly but steadily so we can enjoy meals, gifts, and treats together.

Christmas is a great time to gather. The tiring air flight is worth the weariness and very-early-fisherman style wake-up time to catch the plane.  Early departure tickets are less expensive.

What else will get us up at 3AM to load luggage and make the hour-long drive to the airport? Waves of sleepiness waft over my consciousness. One helpful reward: the notorious Houston traffic is very light that early in the morning.

Air travel does not rank any where in sight of my favorite things to do. Sore from sitting too long, cramped aggravating conditions, and the nerve-wracking sneezing, coughing, and wheezing in recycling air sends chills up and down my spine can be held at bay as long as I concentrate on the embraces that are soon to come.

All is forgotten when squealing grandchildren call out our names. Enthusiastic hugs are welcomed to linger long. Words of love, affection, and delight soothe my mind. Family!

3BBF66A7-0E19-4B0B-A614-F1AB3F2B1647_1_201_a.jpegThe video played a series of clips, telling various stories of people who possessed a unique item but had no clue how valuable it was. One man had a massive pearl that he kept under his bed as a “good luck” piece. It was worth millions of dollars.

Another man owned a couple of boxes that he picked up a garage sale. Inside were nearly priceless photographic plates by a famous naturalist photography, long since thought lost in a fire. He learned that his junk was worth millions.

A garage sale shopper picked up a porcelain bowl for a mere $3. It had a saw tooth design that was later identified and validated as an authentic Chinese antique. Yes, it was valued in the millions.

We all laugh at someone’s remarkable fortune. Most of us sigh and realize that we all have piles of junk that define the word “junk”. They are worthless items.

Nevertheless, it is not always treasures measured by monetary worth that make this life remarkable. Instead, people of limitless talents, gifts, and qualities are more valuable to me. I am surrounded by co-workers who are incredible treasures.

I do not have royal jewels, ancient photographs, or antiques in my possession. But, every day I wake up and go to work with a most talented and committed group of people. They are priceless: Will, Erik, Alex, Ekpe, Adrianna, Rachel, Julia, Shannon, Chantelle, Chelsea, Stephen, Tom, Ielene, Josh, Marisa, and Andres.

Not everyone looks forward to heading into work. It is a great privilege to be one of the ones who enjoys that daily experience. Often I marvel when I watch our team in action.

So much gets done when our people are operating from project to project. Students are elated with what they are learning, because our teachers are the best. Our humble campus is always getting better because our operations are on every need.

When we gather and brainstorm we know we can get better. Fantastic ideas get discussed. Better yet, projects launch and finish to the improvement of our entire campus. Teachers are free to teach and education happens at the highest level.

People who are committed are the best treasure on earth. When, each of these is devoted to their Savior, Jesus Christ, they are an endless blessing. We stand shoulder to shoulder while put our shovels into the work. I am surrounded by invaluable treasures of the Almighty’s best.

IMG_4855.jpegThe turn into the memorial called up old feelings. We observed the modest speed limit. Clearly we were entering a solemn site.

There was a tower of chimes off to the left. It was the architect’s remembrance of the voices of the 40 heroic lives lost. Our time only allowed for the main visitor’s center.

A park ranger was looking for welcoming ears. I asked her a question. That’s all it took.

She pointed out the expanse of the memorial. Acres and acres of land had captured the vast area to capture our hearts.

Up on a hill, some what far away, we overlooked a slope that led our eyes to a distant pair of white parallel walls. Their placement kept our eyes peering for meaning. A green strip of carefully mowed grass ended at a boulder.

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Our park ranger paused. That’s it, the point of impact. Flight 93 crashed right there.

The tree line was burnt from the explosive jet fuel. Every life on the plane was immediately extinguished. The passengers were heroes.

We are not sure what great disaster their sacrifice averted, but it must have been big.

It was a reflective moment to part ways. Many of us stopped at the visitor center. President George W. Bush words played on a loop, synchronized with slides of the disaster of that day.

His presidential resolve spoke for Americans then; it was clearly resonating with all of us still. A variety of us, very diverse visitors, quietly listened. Few words were spoken among us.

There were nods shared among total strangers. Whispered words from a Vietnam veteran Staff Sgt. broke our silence. We thanked him for his service.

Yes, I recall my promise to never forget. I have kept that promise. It is not possible to forget.

IMG_4872.jpegExperiencing this memorial, feeling the solemnity, hearing Bush 43, and sharing with fellow Americans what words could not capture, remind me not just to remember but realizing what cannot be forgotten. Heroes were among us. Today many still surround us.

A flag flies in front of our home to commemorate this American change from so many years ago. Many of my neighbors have placed a flag to wave along our street so that we can all remember what none of us can ever forget. May God bless America.

photos by brucefong photography 

Unknown-5.jpegCommitment, sacrifice, and duty add up to include some of the finest people in our country. They are our US military. It was my privilege to serve as the keynote speaker at their 2019 Officer’s Christian Fellowship in White Sulphur Springs Conference Center in Pennsylvania.

There was quality all over the center. The best of what America is all about filled our meeting room, dominated the conversations in the chow hall, and electrified the lines for horse-back riding, bowling, hiking, and the shooting range. Each conversation was marked by the serious devotion to Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Included among the service personnel were the families. Spouses that knew the life of military personnel was a part of this amazing family. Hardships due to deployment separation, financial stress, relationship strains, and the like were shared freely and generously soothed with understanding ears and souls.

These devoted lives gave me a welcomed invitation to bring the Word of God to them. It was my humble contribution into their souls that I have prayed and did pray that the Almighty would sear it into their lives. We had a great connection for several days together.

Locking our hearts into prayer for the retreat, several of us met each morning at the throne of grace to entreat God to do the work that only he could. Through tears, laughter, curiosities, and wonderment we discussed the things of God and how they could be a salve, an encouragement, and vision for their future.

Unknown-11.jpegTheir world is so full of different stresses than mine. The choices that demand immediate attention rarely enter into my routine. Change of not only major proportions but frequent visitations flood their lives. These matters alone would drive me crazy!

Pray for our brothers and sisters and their loved ones who protect our nation. Entreat our Father in heaven to undergird them, provide for their needs, give them wise discernment, and surround them with the kind of Christian edification that will make their journey a blessing. Thank God that so few, who do so much, to give the rest of us our liberties, have stepped up to serve.

Not only do they do well in protection our freedoms, they also do so much to keep the spirit of the warrior strong. Each one is flexible and creative in accomplishing so much with so little under remarkable duress. They have my respect. They are in my prayers.

photos by brucefong photography

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

Green BookCuriosity drew me to see this film. The trailer caught my attention several times. It was odd that no one in my circles had been talking about it.

Nevertheless, my far-from-perfect instincts would prove worthwhile on this occasion. I saw the movie on an outbound business flight. It moved me.

During a typical working weekend, I found myself reminiscing over episodes from the story between Dr. Shirley and Tony. Some of those thoughts were reflective. Others were humorous. Yet, others found me marveling.

I deliberately chose to watch the movie a second time, just a day later, on my homeward bound flight. Certain that my initial reflections were reenforced, I recommended it to my wife. We watched it together. That was my third viewing in a week’s time.

When the key characters lived through many life moments, tension ratcheted up. Each individual, except Dolores, had glaring shortcomings. Bigotry was layered in both men. Insecurity leaked out in triggered scenarios. Scarred personal identities became more apparent over time.

Comic relief eased the natural uncomfortable crescendo in this racially charged story. Repeated moments similar to these took a quiet but powerful tone. Relief emerged as transformation. Personal prejudices genuinely eased as friendship emerged. Acceptance was easier than could be imagined. Courage was shared, winning respect. Long suffering grew stronger.

We could only wish for this story line to be repeated as a national or international phenomenon. At least it was true for these two men. It was after all a true story.

Maybe the truth in story on film will touch others to wonder about the possibilities. Perhaps more friendships will stir because of it. Friendship is a powerful human link. There are subtle movements of love, Christmas, letters, and romance that add dynamic texture to the narrative.

I for one could applaud this film and highly recommend it. The story is sure to touch the souls of many. Quite possibly could it shrink the ugly tide of racism to a noticeable degree?

Obviously a film cannot do much to transform the landscape of wicked human behavior. But, people might be attracted to the hope of such change and join in it themselves. Who knows what miraculous moments can happen when genuine friendship discovers true love and righteous people mix it up with a true story.

photo credit: Google image

We don’t have time to add concerts into our jam-packed calendar. But, we make time. It is worth it.

Getting up close and personal with gifted artists is the focus on experiences that enrich life. There’s no use staying busy if there is no room to enjoy the life that we are living. Just to exist has its merits. But, experiencing life beyond just existing is sensational.

IMG_2700Andrew Petersen came to town. He was our guest artist for our seminar students at DTS-Houston. This was a gift for our hardworking students as a respite in the final semester of the academic year. 

It was a closed-audience concert. We were able to get very close to the performance. None of us left with any disappointment. Rather, we unanimously sensed the satisfaction of an intimate ministry served to our souls.

Peterson wove his personal story into his songs. He interacted with the audience, asking for favorites. His personal banter made this concert extra special. 

Then, Steven Curtis Chapman also came to town. That was an open concert. He took the stage trotting on to an enthusistic ovation. 

Unknown-3His story unfolds in his songs too. What God has taught, provided, and enriched his life were episodes pervasive in his music. All of us laughed, wept, and wondered as he spoke as much as he sang.

On the drive home, my wife and I conversed not just about SCC’s music but even more about his story. We felt the deep challenge. Live music is so effective. Listen and live is the beautiful impact from the stage.

photo by brucefong photography

Unknown-8We still are in an age when Christian films fill spectators with fearful expectation. All of us who are people of faith want Christian films to do well. However, we have come to expect a low-budget embarrassment that is a step backward from hoping a transformative message can work its way into the lives of people who are in desperate need to discover a redeeming message for their eternity.

After comfortably settling into my reserved reclining seat, the film “Running the Race” began. Slowly, my anxiety of expecting embarrassment melted away. Very respectable acting won the day. Good!

Character development of key roles and fascinating curiosities unfolded. Fun moments, good humor, anxious developments, clever dialogue, tension building choices, wise words from smart people, and a surprising hero all made the movie worth seeing. Even more so, this is a movie I am pleased to recommend as one worth seeing.

Brother loyalty is a powerful narrative. This film captures it well. Eternity is an unparalleled dynamic in human life. This film represents it attractively. Tragedy in life is a reality from which we must all emerge. This film develops it effectively. Choices turn our lives from loss to gain. This film captured this in the heart of its message.

This is a movie worth seeing. Bring a friend. Then, recommend it to others.

photo by bruce w fong photography

31531388_2135635573119502_1994887011911073792_nEducation has fallen on hard times. Enrollment is one of the non negotiable items in the world of higher education. Administrators lose sleep over declining numbers with each passing academic year.

Private institutions of higher education are feeling the tightening belt even more. That magic number attached to enrollment makes heads spin, competent employees to panic, and media sites to attack the topic in a feeding frenzy. Education finds its identity in the numbers census of bodies in desks.

This is my world too. Education is my field of specialization. There have been hours and days and weeks and months that I have discussed, studied, and pursued students to enroll into our institution.

Here is a lesson that has helped me: Work hard to do all you can. Then, trust the final results to God.

In 2 Kings 6 Israel and Aram were at war with each other. The Arameans were making a killing by robbing Hebrew caravans of rich cargo. Their king secretly plotted ambush and ambush and absconded with great wealth.

Finally, the man of God, Elisha intervened and told the King of Israel all of the Aramean plans. His prophetic foresight thwarted further Aramean raids. Irritated, the King of Aram first tried to blame one of his own officers for leaking their top-secret plans.

A quick thinking officer plays his “get out of jail card” and informs the king that Elisha the prophet tells all of Aram plans to his king in Israel. The Arameans send an army to surround Elisha. His servant sees the enemy threat, panics with desperate fear, and exclaims, “What shall we do?”

Elisha is the portrait of calm. He simply prays that God will open the eyes of his servant and allow him to see what God has done to protect them. In answer to Elisha’s prayer, the servant sees that there are angels and fiery chariots from heaven surrounding Elisha. The words of this amazing prophet are worth remembering: “Those who are with us are greater than those who with them.”

Remember: God will often have a solution ready before we even realize that we have a problem. Use eyes of faith to see what God has already done. Fear not, even with huge problems like enrollment.

 

 

IMG_1746The world of academics, especially in higher education, climaxes every year with commencement. Every student, faculty member, staff, administrator, family and friend has this same date circled on their calendar. It is the target date to unleash the greatest celebration and ultimate relief all at the same time.

That special occasion is now over. The pomp or circumstance has been completed. Photos now are in high-capacity review.

Graduates are scattering all around the world. Students have geared up for their summer schedules. Faculty has climbed aboard planes for parts un-known to practice what they teach.

A few of us are left on the grounds of our campus. I walked our empty halls. Quiet classrooms lined my walk like hollow cauldrons hungry for purpose again.

This was a wonderful time of personal reflection. God had given a great year. It was the best year in the history of DTS-Houston.

Our largest graduating class in the history of this extension campus walked across the stage this year. We celebrated 58 graduates from our Houston campus. Three of our graduates were lifted up by the entire DTS faculty with Commencement awards. They were the best among all 400 plus graduates from all of our campuses.

In addition this was our 25th year of operation here in Houston. Since 1993 DTS has had classes offered in the 4th largest city of the nation, the most diverse city in the USA, the home of the largest port of America, site of a world-class medical center, and a theater district with seating second only to New York. We who live here love our city and pray that our small part will be a part of making this city a hub for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Names and faces and testimonies swirl in my mind. The graduates whose laughter, tears, conversations, sermons, and prayers serve as a cacophony of memories while I wander our empty halls. This will always be a special class from a special year with a force in numbers that may never be rivaled any time soon.

It has been a privilege, an unparalleled honor to have served these delightful souls. Being a part of their journey to answer God’s call on their lives was a treat. I love them all. This is what God has called me to do and I treasure serving in this ministry.

photo by bruce w. fong photography

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