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IMG_5218People go to libraries for books. They go there to read.  Serious visits to specialized libraries is all about research.  Who goes to a library because of a view?

The graduate students of DTS-Houston will come to our new library for a view.  Long hours mark every visit to our research destination library.  Eyes grow weary, souls tire and spirits need to be revitalized to press on to the next journal, the next volume or the notation corollary.

Libraries have beaten many a young scholar into submission.  But, with a cheerful environment, excellent climate control and yes, a special view to lift up a person’s eyes and rest the huge task of intellectual research could make the difference between a completed paper or a stirring footnote or a well argued logical presentation.  Our new library has that unique element of an outstanding view.

An atrium is at the center of our new campus building.  It is decorated with flora that is well designed and beams the textures and shades of life-giving green.  Tall tree trunks reach up to the sky that will always point to where our dependence should be.

IMG_5223The low-lying shrubs and bushes have variety and balance.  Palms show a delicate side of the plantings while also allowing the bark dust on the ground to highlight the color of life.  A gravel walk way invites people to come outside and enjoy a stroll around the grounds.

This is a protected garden.  The well designed building and heavily smoked windows reflect the sky, the garden and the rest of the building.  It is an oasis in the middle of busy living.

Our seminary campus extension will house only 25% of the facility to start.  It is an increase over our last location by thousands of square feet.  Parking, interior space and most importantly, a dedicated space for our library mark the improvements in our anticipated campus.

Generous donors, vision-driven leadership and talented operations people are making this event happen.  It is always expensive to move in this kind of educational scheme.  Tuition can not cover the bill.

When we put the word out regarding this vision, special people stepped up and wrote out checks.  Frugal planners kept the costs as low as possible.  Visionaries brainstormed what needed to happen and what needed to stay on the shelves.

Now, the vision is becoming a reality.  When I saw the view from the library, I could not stop smiling.  Our dream of a destination library are coming into view and we are thanking God and loving it!

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_5223How do you pump enthusiasm into an entire student body?  How do you get a group of hundreds of people from completely different backgrounds to get excited about the same thing?  When we live in an age where hopelessness is the common thread on the news channels, how can you direct people’s attention to something encouraging?

We are experiencing the miraculous move of a miracle where I work and serve.  It is not a renovation that has everyone a buzzing.  Nor is it even a new building that is underway to serve our growing student body. Instead, we are soon to move into a totally new campus!

After many discussions, brainstorming sessions, prayerful considerations we are leaving our cramped facilities and IMG_5215moving to another location.  Instead of having all of our operations for our seminary extension scattered through two separate buildings, we are relocating everything into a single building.  Everything that we have now will be accommodated in the new campus PLUS much more.

Our age-old problem of limited parking will be resolved.  We will no longer have a parking challenge in our new facility.  There will be no more necessary street parking or walking through dark sidewalks to get to your vehicle.

As our staff continues to expand there will be no more problems of giving personnel a working office space.  Every faculty member and executive will have a place to study, prepare their classes and meet with students.  Our new facility will be prepared to grow our faculty here in Houston.

The library that has tripled in size will no longer have to be separated into separate rooms.  Now, the entire collection will be housed in one room with a generous number of study carrels and quiet places IMG_5217for students to do their research.  As a bonus, the library will now have an open view to the gorgeous atrium, adding to a great environment for students to read, relax and write.

Our entire team has visited the construction site.  The demolition is done.  Now the build out has begun.

We can see the long hallways leading to state-of-the-art classrooms, faculty and administrative offices, student lounge and library.  The space that we have now has been wonderful.  We just outgrew it.

Now, the Lord has shown us great favor.  We will be able to stretch, serve our students well and equip more to be servant-leaders and bring the Gospel to the world.  All of us are jazzed!

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4434There is a recognizable and unmistakable morning sound that disrupts the deepest slumber.  Each one of us has customized that sound with the advent of cellphones and programmable sounds.  Nevertheless, we all know the wake-up call of our personal alarm clocks.

Mine sounds loudly at 5:00AM in the morning.  Admittedly, there are times when I am awake, waiting for the sound to start my day.  But, there are just as many days when the sleep spoiler jars the most peaceful moments of a deep repose.

Now, the fast-paced routine begins.  My shower, shave and clean-up climax with my wardrobe selection for the day.  Breakfast and lunch are checked off and it is time to climb into our commuter machine.

My bride and I have been  alone since we climbed out of bed.  Now, we enter the road system at 5.55AM and we are no longer the lonesome duo.  Instead, we are mixed into the masses on their way to work into Houston.

Seriously, there are thousands of vehicles merging on to the freeway system.  The sky is still dark. Even the sun does not want to rise this early.

Headlights illuminate the black asphalt.  Reflectors built into the roads and strategically call attention to road signs.  Mostly, it is dark outside, very dark.

Stop-and-go is the best description of the daily commute.  Some drivers have their radios blaring.  One guy with his custom exhaust system loves to fall back then accelerate quickly so that everyone else can hear the rumble of  his loud pipes.

I have a different practice.  My bride and I carpool together.  We have wonderful conversations on the way into work.

Sometimes we laugh. Other times we discuss an important national or world issue.  Many times we are discussing the meaning behind a particularly interesting passage of Scripture.

Of course we have a running commentary on the driving habits of those who are around us.  We like the majority of drivers who obey the law and are courteous to others.  There is also our common dislike for the impatient driver who is zig zagging in and out of traffic because they are in a rush.

Perhaps the best part of all is the traffic lightens up for us after a brief two mile stretch.  That is when we are allowed to enter the HOV lane and dispense with the traffic jam and reach nearly posted speeds all of the way into work.  It is more than a small blessing and we are grateful.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_3128Plans for this work-related road trip were on the calendar.  Promises to a student for a personal appearance while he preached at the church where he serves were made.  My word is my bond and my joy.

It took some planning.  The church where he serves is a two-hour drive away from my home.  That is when the traffic is not an issue.  In Houston traffic is ALWAYS and issue.

My home is in Katy, Texas.  The church is in Galveston, Texas.  Houston is in between these two locations.

Before I could leave on this road trip, I considered the traffic flow.  The good news is that I would not be able to depart until Saturday evening.  I was already scheduled to teach an all-day class on that Saturday.

It was possible to leave for the church on Sunday morning.  But, my assistant discovered that the church service started at 830am.  Yes, that is AM.  That would require a 630am departure.  At least the traffic would not be a problem on an early Sunday morning drive.

The other dynamic is that we would have been exhausted from a long eight-hour day of teaching, followed by an early morning wake-up call and a longish two-hour drive.  Who wants to go to church when they are already tired and sleepy?  Would I ever lived down an episode of falling asleep in church while representing the seminary? Yipes!

It was time to come up with a new strategy.  Instead of trying to wake up early we would travel down to Galveston after teaching my class.  It would be two-hour drive when I was tired but at least we would make the journey during the waning daylight hours, camp out in a comfortable hotel and then get up at a reasonable hour and go to church.

The plan was ideal.  We were able to enjoy a pleasant meal, get a good night’s rest and then make easily to church on time.  Church was worth it too!  The worship was exhilarating and the preaching by my student made me as his teacher very proud!

Our fellowship after the service was only about commendation and encouragement.  The people in that church are blessed to have a man with solid convictions, outstanding preaching skills and a heart that will love on his people as if Jesus the Savior Himself was there doing the loving.  In fact when pastoring is done right, He is there loving through His servant.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3159This night is a highlight for our hard-working team.  For several it will be their first gathering with us.  Our faith and our fellowship drive us together.

All year we work diligently at our jobs and produce very well-trained and educated seminary students ready for a lifetime of effective ministry.  Each one of our posts contributes to the whole of what we see march across a stage and grasp on to their sheep skin, a testament to their academic prowess and personal spirituality.

Along the way, we look forward to our team gathering for fun, food and fabulous fellowship.  This is our annual Christmas gathering.  The expectations were high.

IMG_3160When we entered the cool air was left outside and the warmth of welcome engulfed us.  The aroma of the meal was filling our senses.  We could already taste the delicious meal that was waiting for us.

Colorful decorations, bright twinkling lights and the sounds of Christmas music topped off our welcome.  More and more colleagues arrived.  Each was caring a contribution to our shared meal.

Laughter and teasing were as bountiful as any feature of our party.  Smiles erupted with the good-natured banter.  Children were a part of our gathering as well.  Families are welcome on our team.

IMG_3161Suddenly the audio disappeared.  Our host announced the 3 minute warning for the food.  But, with that came the panic.  Before we would pray each guest was invited to recite a Bible memory verse.

It was the fastest I have ever seen cellphone whipped out and team members quickly scrolling through “apps” and minds refreshing themselves with the specific combination and order of words.  We laughed. We teased.

Lengthy verses were not the norm.  These had to be some of the shortest IMG_3162verses in all of Inspired Scripture.  Yet, they were good words.

Nearly forty of us shared a sample of the Living Words from the Living Word.  In the midst of the frolicking, I marveled at this collection for fabulous people.  Each one is precious and dearly valued.

Together we make up the heart and soul of what happens on the campus of DTS-Houston.  Selfless, hardworking, cheerful, helpful, energetic and trustworthy people are growing into a wonder of God’s presence in one of the newest Global cities on earth.

IMG_3163Of course we ended with some raucous fun.  We played the game Taboo: Men vs. Women.  It did not take long for the women to pull ahead in points while the men teased and made bold false claims to egg on their competition.  Merry Christmas, everyone!  You are loved!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3097Some people make a living by studying Jesus.  Over 2,000 of them gathered in the Hilton of Baltimore this past week.  I was privileged to be among them.

For days we gather in multiple locations to hear our colleagues read papers of their latest research.  It is stimulating, challenging, provocative and encouraging.  We hear about the latest in debates over theological issues.

The brain power that occurs at this convention is mind-blowing.  Publishers come and set up their booths.  Sure, they want us to buy their latest books but just as importantly they are seeking acquisitions.

Plenary sessions gather the thousands in a huge hall.  One presenter captures our attention.  While we are all from different parts of the world, we share in common a huge passion for the Bible.

Some look at the Bible as a mystery or the “Good Book” or a lucky charm to keep in the house.  None of those views are held by my fellows at the Evangelical Theological Society.  These conferees are all serious scholars and academics who treasure the Scriptures.

With learned skills and endless peer reviews on millions of words both written and spoken, these colleagues have served as the guardians of truth.  They are driven by conviction and commitment.  Among them they share a devotion to their craft and do not allow room for sloppy research.

IMG_3098Besides the intellectual stimulation there is amazing fellowship here.  Several times I heard my named called out.  I stopped walking and turned to see an old friend from many years in the past.

Sporting huge smiles we clasp hands, hug tightly and laugh uncontrollably.  Quickly we exchange a thumbnail sketch describing years of God’s faithfulness in our lives.  We exchange our latest contact information, wave farewell and head to our next chosen meeting.

For breakfast I awoke early.  Once I had washed up, planned my day and headed out, breakfast with our seminary alumni association was waiting.  Graduates from DTS gathered.

The room was packed.  Breakfast was good.  Reunion celebration was unparalleled.

We heard about God’s favor on our ala mater.  It was marvelous to see the numbers, hear the reports and see pictures of the past and the future.  Excitement has a way of stirring the spirit and show our connection with this massive historical privilege.

I have come home smarter just by hanging out with very smart Jesus followers.  They sharpened me.  Iron does that in the honing process with other iron.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2977Long memories of wheel barrels, shovels, hoes, tillers and rakes come to mind.  Back breaking work moving loads of gravel, sand, top soil and bark dust still make me grimace.  Tons of reading on how grow a lawn.  Weary moments of organizing and reorganizing the growing supplies, tools and library to do gardening right.

I drew and redrew master plans for our yard.  Endless trips to the DIY store filled up my one precious day-off a week.  Experiments with clever borders, creative materials to make the yard look customized, fencing to help contain everything occupied my mind.

Spending time in the earth was spiritual. It reminded me that for a man to toil in the ground is part of the consequences of original sin.  Labor for man is part of our existence, we cannot escape it, we must align ourselves with this as inevitable for us all.  Rats!

There is some redemption if I may so selectively use this term in the results of gardening.  When soil is freshly tilled, it has a fragrance that is spirit-stirring.  After hours and days of preparation, to plant a lawn by seed and to watch it germinate is deeply satisfying.

Organizing flowering bushes and mixing in annuals to accent color, height and depth is very rewarding when God does His creative work with the palate of colors and textures popping out just as each plant is genetically responding to water and sun.  A full garden with amazing colors that form a wall of a living lush display pulls a smile from my spirit.  But, I am older now.

I still appreciate the orchestration of a Master Gardener who plants, waters and nurtures the flora to make their planned appearances.  When my bride and I take a stroll through a city park and the flower gardens are in full bloom, I appreciate the effort and artistry that is there.  Not infrequently we will enter a large greenhouse with plants from around the world and our cameras are snapping away, logging scores of pictures.

The biggest difference is that I do not like the work any more.  I have given away most of my garden tools in the various moves from one state the next.  Our vagabond days have drained my dreams of sitting among my plants with a pleasant ice-cold glass of tea.  These days, I keep my values of a beautiful garden but cast my ovation to others who do the work and earn the praise.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2903Long days are usual for me in the post that God has given to me.  Our team is wonderful and I enjoy our co-laboring in the Lord.  They are tireless workers, they help each other, they are cheerful as they do their work, even when it comes time to overtime, they do not hesitate to jump in with enthusiasm.  Nevertheless, the days of our workdays are long.

My responsibilities pour into the weekends as well.  While our team observes 4 ten-hour days with Friday as our official day-off, I fulfill my obligations as a representative in our local churches.  This means that my preparation time often consume a good chunk of Friday and Saturday with the delivery accomplished on Sunday.

It was a Monday after a bushel of 7 day work weeks.  I was tired.  My faithful truck navigated the heavy rush hour traffic.

In the background I had a local Christian radio station giving me some soothing music to relax my mind and spirit.  Even a few impatient drivers cutting off other drivers including me could not cause me to build up any more anxiety than the months of never-ending labor had stored up.  Then, God gave me a gift.

Ahead, the sun was setting quickly into the Western horizon.  Suddenly, the sky lit up with hues from the red side of the color spectrum.  The clouds enhanced the display.

The sun was half-way submerged below the horizon.  A layer of clouds rested just above the fiery ball.  The splash of colors and light were magnified by the cumulus formations.

Striking rays of blistering light shot out from the grey layers of airborne moisture.  Above the clouds the sky was radiant with oranges and yellows.  Highlights of white light outlined billowing cloud formations.

Wisps of other thin clouds were nearly diluted by the bright setting sun.  There was no chance of rain tonight.  But, the light display gave me a show to enjoy nearly half of the long commute home.

It was easy to let the cars around me pass.  I was in no hurry nor eager to join them at speeds well in excess of the limit.  This spectacular sunset was a gift from the Creator and I was going to enjoy it during every mile that the display was on the stage of creation.

This was not just a show of creative proportions.   It was therapy for my weary soul.  The Almighty was massaging my soul and it felt good.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2834The day began badly.  My sleep ended abruptly.  Bad thoughts of my evening before haunted me.

What could cause such a disturbance of a man’s soul?  My computer was not acting properly, of course.  Not being a natural geek has its downside for sure.

Part of the problem was the choice to upgrade a memory-soaking Bible software library.  The Logos reconfiguration was loading a voluminous collection.  That is when a warning sign flashed on my screen.  There was an insufficient amount of free space on my hard drive.

Groan!  Now, my technical prowess was going to be tested to its modest limits.  I need accessible IT support or I might as well return to pen and paper.  Are you familiar with those implements?

My only hope was to bring my three laptops to work and hope that I could snag some time with our IT wizard.  Will has been great in the past.  I hope that he could set my machines up so that they could automatically sync and leave me to my productivity without any more technical trouble.  Yes, I was hoping for a miracle.

Providentially, Will had some free time.  I told him my problems, he smiled and went to work.  There were a lot of “hmmms” and many more “I wonder why…” and of course there was laughter with the comment, “Will you look at that” or “That’s odd…”

Eventually, he gave me the diagnosis.  “How old are these two PC’s?”  Without hesitation I told him the ages.  “Oh, ah, now this makes sense.  Your machines are in the geriatric season of their lives.  They can’t handle the applications that you are asking them to do.”

“You can’t be serious,” I protested.  “Too old?”  That PC might be old.  It is probably about seven years old.  But, the other one, ” I exclaimed with enthusiasm,” it is going on its fourth year.”

“Don’t shoot the messenger,” Will chuckled. “Your machines are ancient.  They are both on an active sensor, waiting to crash when you are the most vulnerable.  I can fix them for a while but you need to come up with a plan to keep your work productive.”

“What do you recommend?” I asked with a sincere dream to turn on the computer, work and then turn off the computer when my work was done.  Who has time to do all that fancy schmancy technical stuff?

“Get me the Geritol and prune solution, please,” that was the best response that I could give.  It is time to completely shift to my Mac.  This day was coming.  I tried to avoid it.  But, it is time to eat the apple.

IMG_2885Dawn was crowding out the night.  The hazy horizon was becoming clearer as the rising sun was lighting up the eastern tree line.  My early morning walk started out in the dark but the skies were rapidly erupting into a new day.

A pond appeared over the rise.  It made me pause and drink the sounds of the awakening day.  Birds were chirping, frogs were croaking, fish were splashing and a family of deer caught my scent and peeled off to run away from their morning drink.

Now it was to time to breath.  After weeks and weeks of six-day schedules and long hours in each of those days, I was looking forward to a break.  Serenity is a place to recharge for the next round of frenzied activity.

My hosts smiled.  They pointed me to the bunk house where I set up a couple of days of my retreat.  One of the ranch hands commented, “Best place for some peace and quiet and a good dose of relaxation.”

I sat by the pond and watched it come awake.  The smooth water surface burst into countless puddles of feeding fry.  A turbulent splash and side of a feeding fish broke the surface.

Then, a shadow above caught my attention.  I froze to let whatever bird make its entrance to the pond feel safe. IMG_2888 A lone Egret glided to the ponds edge.

It landed in the water and immediately struck out with its bill to snag a single minnow in its bright yellow beak.  Then, this perfect fishing machine tilted its head back and flipped the fish into its mouth and swallowed it.  God designed this bird perfectly for this task.

None of the bird’s movements were fast or quick, that is, until it was ready to strike.  Then, it was acted with blazing speed.  Until then, however, it moved with slowness, cautiously, carefully, watchfully.

When it walked it moved deliberately.  Slowly it picked up one foot at a time and placed it into the water with very little disturbance.  You could see its eyes concentrating on the next lung of its long neck and needle sharp beak snapping up a morsel for its progressive meal.

Some times the Egret would crouch low, getting a better angle on the highly reflective water surface.  It looked like a panther on the prowl for a wily prey.  This was hunting perfection, a perfectly created creature in pursuit of its daily bread.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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