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FullSizeRender-2This was going to be a particularly difficult day.  Pressures at work, a long line of demands had been queuing up for months, responsibilities were pushing the limits of our sanity.  My bride and I were comparing notes and it was going to be a tough day to start the work week.

On top of our regular routine we have a major trip coming up in a matter of weeks.  Details of overseas travel are horrendous!  We had to find time to invest in that preparation.

Departure times and dates are already getting tangled in our scheduling.  Today we would have to make sure we made those adjustments.  Double booking ourselves is an inconvenience for everyone and could easily undermine our efforts to be effective at all of our responsibilities.

We both heaved a deep sigh of dismay, loaded up our car with our bags for our day and drove off into the dark morning for our long commute.  My thoughts were lost in our need to get over the financial hump of needed changes, travel expenses and time investments.  If I could I needed to think about relieving my bride of the pressure she was feeling.

Now, we discussed possible drastic changes in our circumstances.  What dramatic changes could we live with if that meant the relief of life pressures?  There were no easy answers.

Then, we rounded the arching on ramp to the Interstate freeway.  The Houston eastern skies were waiting to cut short the threatening discouragement.  In front of us the Creator was putting on a show.

Clouds burst out of the east, pointing to the west.  Behind those finger shaped clouds were the indescribable colors of the divine palate, splashing reds, oranges and yellows in balanced effect.  Blue skies in the background were pushing the loud colors , pressing the daylight splendor.

We both smiled at the interruption to our concerns.  The God of all gods was breaking into our worrisome souls.  It was sensational sunrise.

He was starting the day off with a splendid artistic masterpiece.  In massive swathes of colorful strokes that were changing by the minute, we could only watch as He finished up the waking of a new day.  No words but just splendor.

We got the message.  What did we really have to worry about if He was in charge?  Now, we had a day to look forward to instead of dreading.

photo credit: yvonne fong photography

 

IMG_1390Our realtor was our guide to our newly adopted megacity of Houston, TX.  We had no idea where to live or what to look for in local construction.  A vague budget was in our minds.

She showed us a house with all of the basic room necessities and good curb appeal.  Some of our wants were also on the list.  Most importantly the price was within our target range.

Yet, a price range for a couple like us that was devastated in the housing market crash didn’t have much to put down for a new home.  I looked at the construction issues with the very used home and figured out that the next decade of our life would be saving up to make major repairs on this fixer-upper.

Houston is famous for its heat.  Good windows are a must to fight the blistering temperatures in the summer months.  Keeping our air conditioning system happy was important.

IMG_1396The windows would eventually have to be replaced.  We had that in mind when we made on offer for the house.  Now, it was time to sign a contract and replace the windows with new ones.

Old windows are being torn out.  New well-insulated and excellent guaranteed windows are going in.  The installers are doing a superb job.

Half the windows are now done.  I can see clearly now!  The old broken seals and fogged up windows are going away.

The new glass is clean, clear and firmly mounted with strong heat resistant materials and block out unbearable temperatures. When the fogged up windows of our home make it impossible to enjoy the views it is sad.  The whole house feels ugly.

FullSizeRender-1Now, the improvement has given us a lift.  Looking outside is fun again.  Watching clouds float by and the daylight turn into night is enjoyable.

When we open the windows to let the cool winter breezes flow inside, the windows slide easily.  We don’t have to grunt and tug to get old corroded windows to scrape painfully across worn out tracks.  Figure tip control of well-made locks and well-lubricated tracks bring a great enjoyment to our home like few other purchases could.

Cost? Yes, it must be one of the most expensive home repair options that an owner must face.  We counted the cost, prayed over the options and even took on additional income jobs just for this very reason.  Then, God gave us His favor in an unexpected way.  He is good, all of the time!

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

 

FullSizeRenderEach time God moved me from one ministry to the next I made the same petition through prayer.  I asked God to give me a love for the city and direct my steps to encourage others and impact the lives of people. Now, He has had me here in Houston for three years.

Our prayer was the same.  When my bride and I drove in from the West, we asked God to give us a love for the city.  As time has progressed we are falling in love with Houston more and more.

Each day as I began my hectic schedule I pray again that He would direct my steps to encourage others and impact the lives of people in this fastest growing city in the USA.  Over 2,000 people move here every week.  The prosperity of the state and the flourishing business climate of Houston attract thousands.

Some of the largest churches in the nation are here in Houston.  They span denominational lines as well.  When attendance exceeds 2,000 we all stand amazed!

Now, each morning my bride and I make our commute into work.  On one of the off ramps we are often greeted with a great view of the Houston skyline.  It reminds us to pray for and love this city where so many people reside.

In the greater metropolitan area 6 million people call this city their home.  Truly this massive population  represents a great field that is white and ready for harvest.  The Gospel is not just a fad for people who concentrate on talking, this is a place where the Good News is shared and lived out.

As the sunrise lights up the city, I rehearse my duties.  People fill up my calendar.  Students, colleagues, visitors and guests are spaced apart from each other’s appointments so that I can give them the attention that their interests deserve.

His brush strokes are colorized, better than the real buildings of colorless concrete and dull building materials.  It is as if the Creator is blessing the city with a touch of His creative hand that man cannot come close to matching on his own.  That contrast is fine by me.

A new beauty is ready to bloom in our city.  When the Father decides to bless our city with a special touch of His gracious hand, Houston will forever be changed.  Lives will take a new eternal course and the new life in their hearts will spread to family, friends and colleagues all because of love.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRender-1This special and favorite topic has found its way in my writings many times.  It is my favorite time of day.  Sunsets are great but if I am forced to choose, I would cast my ballot for a sensational sunrise.

When the morning breaks, long before the sun rises I smile and often mouth my greeting, “Good morning, Lord!”  It is a reminder of grace.  No matter what we failed to do the day before or how we might have messed up or the wrong choices we made, we get a “do-over” with every new day.

When it is time, an agreed departure moment on the clock, my bride and I load into our transportation machine.  It fires up on command and moves at adjusted speeds just like it was designed to do.  Soon we join tens of thousands of other commuters on the asphalt arteries leading into the city.

Darkness fades.  Other vehicles and buildings along the way come into view.  Dawn is upon the city of Houston.FullSizeRender-3

Yet, like so many mornings, the rising sun announces its coming with a warm up act.  The horizon glows as if a massive fire is spreading across the sky.  Brilliant colors mix in perfect harmony not according to fashionistas but according to eternity planned schemes of the spectrum of light.

Yellows, oranges, reds and purple blend into each other.  All during our route into our destinations, the sky is brightening up.  Like the climactic lever controlling the lights on a stage, a masterful performance takes over.

This is not about what is to come.  No one rushes the presentation.  There is no hurry to finish this show.

FullSizeRenderNor is there ever a boredom because of familiarity.  A repeat is never identical.  Shades, shadows and sparkle are always in different proportions.

It is impossible to be bored with something that is new every morning.  The variety defies human understanding and results in human marvel.  Beauty from the hand of the Creator never ceases to stir the wonder of the created.

The sunrise is the beginning of every new day.  Every sunrise is a marvel of God’s creative hand.  Each one is new in shades, combination and sensation.

Capture the soulful joy of every new day with a one-of-a-kind sunrise.  Each one is tailor-made for what the Almighty has customized for the day for everyone who draws breath to live one more day. Bask in His reminder that He starts the day, rules the day and ends the day.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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

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

IMG_4873Christmas is way too busy for us.  We are juggling work, travel, gifts, letters, projects, bills, parties and life so fast that jingling bells are hard to hear.  A lot more silent night and still the night would be welcome in our souls.

A balance is struck from a familiar favorite place.  For many Americans and world-wide Christians this is a shared respite during this hectic season.  This place is featured on Christmas cards, television shows, screen savers and ornaments.

Sometimes the scene is a snow shrouded clearing in the woods.  Horse drawn sleighs are parked in front.  Multi-colored lights transform a living tree just off to the side.IMG_4875

Often the Nativity scene is partnered with this place of comfort.  Joseph and Mary watch over the newborn baby Jesus while animals quietly look on to the miraculous scene.  Visitors flock to the sound of music coming from inside of this haven.

It is the picture of a church building.  Inside the alive church of followers of Jesus are celebrating this anniversary birth.  A Savior has been born.

IMG_4878Our busy lives pushed all of those demanding stress-causing matters out in our POV (personally owned vehicle).  I shut the doors and locked them in.  Then, my bride and I carried our Bibles and hand in hand we walked into church.

Gifted decorators decked out a tree that was gorgeous.  We did not rush by it.  Instead, captivated we stopped and admired it from several angles.IMG_4879

Once inside the auditorium the orchestra and choir and worship team blew us away.  Our spirits soared with the familiar Christmas carols.  Then stunning orchestral and choir supported anthems took our spirits and we worshipped together.  It was awesome!

A soloist made the rafters shake with her rendition of “Do You See What I See?”  We rose to our feet with great applause.  All of us could see!

IMG_4880Pastor Gregg Matte delivered an encouraging word from the Word.  He has a gift of making the truth practical.  The Spirit used it to touch so many lives.

In the end the choir and orchestra dismissed us with a majestic finale of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.  With a family like serendipitous moment the choir motioned for Pastor Gregg to join them in the loft for that final song.  All of us sounded not just “good” but “glorious” as we gave our Almighty God our collective gift of worship.  Merry Christmas!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

FullSizeRenderGetting up and getting going to depart for our workday commute takes a lot of gumption.  There is the inevitable magnetism of a comfortable bed that is tough to escape.  The ease of staying put all curled up and tucked in is very inviting.

Nevertheless, will power and responsibility win the day and soon we are washed up, fed and loaded up for our 24 mile commute.  Rolling into traffic reminds us that we are glad that we did not procrastinate.  Already, traffic beginning to build up.

The vast majority of Texas drivers are polite and safe.  Usually, there are a few who got up late and are in a big hurry.  They take advantage of everyone else as they zip in and out lanes.

So, the rest of the courteous drivers, shrug their shoulders and drive on to their destination.  Maybe that is why the Lord blessed so many of us with a sensational sunrise.  It began slowly but steadily.

In the East there was a glow on the horizon.  Someone could have mistakenly thought that a massive fire was lighting up the sky.  In some ways the sun is a fire-ball but off of our planet and orbiting in space far away to keep us from burning but close enough to provide light and warmth.

The Creator was amazing in the proportions of distance and angles to best show earth how His design was stunning.

With more and more miles falling behind us, the glow ahead grew and splashed against the dark sky of the receding night.  Like the dismissal of an undisputed champion, the night is not even missed.  Instead, the crowds of commuting humans have to smile at the free light show that is capturing the skies.

Bright yellows lick away the night.  Then, glowing oranges take the broad brushstrokes of the low hanging clouds.  Reds trim the front assault of the orange strokes.

There is nothing human about this display.  Everything about it is heavenly.  Both in expanse as well as in dynamic shifts the hand of God shows off His creative display.

For all that we commuters tolerate for the sake of life and duty, we do get this occasional treat.  The Texas skies seem to be prepared canvas for the intricate creative strokes of the Almighty.  It both takes your breath away and gives you a reason to keep on breathing at the same time.

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

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