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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

Austin 2013 109The Apostle Paul does not take issue with instructions given by Jesus regarding marriage. Instead, He is giving wise advice.  This lesson is consistent with what Jesus taught and trustworthy.

The subject that is given to the Corinthian believers is for virgins, those who have not had a sexual experience. Circumstances that make life dangerous influence Paul to advise virgins to consider a celibate life, that is, remain single. Equally, he urges the married to remain married. The common denominator is to not change. Stress levels are high enough and don’t need to be aggravated during trying times.  Marriage is difficult, so to add this to troubled times is not a wise choice.

A spiritual perspective points to how short life is. Investing in eternity should be our priority. If our interest is divided we will lose focus on what is eternally important.

True to his shepherding spirit, Paul’s primary interest is concern for the people of Corinth. The distinction is simple. If a man is married his first concern is to please his wife. The affairs of the Lord will not have the same amount of attention.

Someone who is a virgin can direct all of her interest and energies to the things of the Lord. If she is married she naturally will give her attention to pleasing her husband. There is no intent to impose a restriction with this lesson but to highlight a very good option.

Practical matters can indicate what direction someone should choose. If the urge to marry is overwhelming, then, marriage is a right choice. There is no sin when this choice is made.

Some people have a gift to remain single.  They choose not to marry.  For them that choice is right for them.  Marrying or not are both good choices.

Marriage is a durable institution, dissolved by death.  If someone loses a spouse due to death, they are free to marry again.  However, they should choose wisely and marry someone of faith.

However, once single again, the option to choose singleness is a good one.  The cares of life in difficult time allow a single person to be more efficient and effective as they live for the Lord.  It is not better but it is a very choice.

Those facing a decision to marry or remain single should do so with spiritual wisdom  How can they best serve the Lord?  This is as important to consider as the feelings of the heart.

1 corinthians 7.25-40

photo credit: brucefong 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_1832My childhood days were back in the days when a technological phenomenon forever made its mark on human history.  Both the engineering sector and the entertainment world were ecstatic about the invention and development of this game-changing industry.  It was dubbed television.

Now, the world of media could beam actual images into the homes around the world.  People could have their imaginations stirred, stimulated and manipulated.  Human creativity was unleashed on the fertile imaginations of the public.

Brilliant minds began to create stories to accomplish those purposes.  They invented characters and scenarios in the world of fiction that terrified the minds of any who saw their show.  Even in black and white, one of those movies left a lasting impression on my mind.

The title to this story was simply The Birds.  Alfred Hitchcock was the creator.  His stories etched their presence in my mind and in the memories of so many.

In a small town a weird phenomenon occurred.  For some bizarre reason the birds began to attack humans.  They were countless in number and relentless in their pursuit.

Terrified people ran for cover.  They took shelter in cars, shops and telephone booths.  If you do not know what the last place is, ask your grandparents.

Birds smashed windows, sacrificed their lives to break into havens of safety sought by people in order to give their counterparts access to wreak havoc on the town’s population. In one horrific scene the birds attacked one of their victims and gouged out his eyes.  That was shocking TV back in its day.

Now, I arrive in the parking lot of a neighborhood store.  When I step out my mind is reliving that movie in real life.  The IMG_1833trees that line the parking lot are alive.

No it is not just that they are green and growing. Rather, they serve as a perch for hundreds of birds.  These large black birds with long tails have gathered.

These feathered animals are not quiet.  Instead, they fill the evening air with a cacophony of their calling, chirping and cawing.  It is loud, nearly deafening and reminiscent of The Birds.

A small chill races down my spine.  It is a momentary remembering of the scenes still so vivid in a child’s mind now toying with the reality of a real moment.  Time to shake it off and find safety in a building with few glass windows and solid brick walls.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Jeremy's PA White Coat Celebration 2013 091My camera has an athletic events setting.  Just in case I am in a situation requiring frequent shots it is there.  I never really thought much of the option.

Now, I was at our youngest son’s White Coat ceremony.  It is the portal that these young health professionals pass through with great delight.  Now, they have finished a grueling period of rigorous classroom work.

In a matter of weeks they will begin their “rotations”.  They will be assigned to real hospitals with real illnesses and injuries.  There they will work alongside physicians and put their knowledge into

Jeremy's PA White Coat Celebration 2013 092

practice.

This is a major milestone for these students.  It is worth the pause to celebrate.  A ceremony when they put on their white coats is the symbol of that achievement.

Knowing that our son’s passage across the stage would happen quickly, I remembered the athletic action setting.  Once it was clicked into place, I just snapped away.  Each motion moment was captured on digital slides.

Jeremy's PA White Coat Celebration 2013 093A faculty member introduced Jeremy by name.  Cheerfully he sauntered across the stage.  Another faculty member held out his white coat.

Jeremy put in one arm.  People were applauding.  I know that our family was cheering.

Then, the final arm slipped into place. He adjusted his shoulders like a man donning a new suit.  It looked good.  It seemed to fit him just right.

His faculty member smoothed out the creases.  A pat on his shoulders with a beaming pride came Jeremy's PA White Coat Celebration 2013 095from teacher to student.  I was smiling while snapping away.

Then, there was a hug.  That’s not usual.  At least in my experience I did not commonly see such affection in a commencement ceremony.

Words were whispered that we in the crowd were not privy to.  It was one professional speaking encouragement into the next generation of professionals.  If that is what bedside manner is all about then these people did something very good in the educational process.

Jeremy's PA White Coat Celebration 2013 096

One more faculty member was on stage.  She was not about to be short-changed from a congratulatory hug and special words whispered to her student.  It was all happening so quickly.

Every family member and friend who came to the ceremony waited for their special member to walk the stage and be gowned in their professional white coat.  We all got into the mood and cheered every graduate whose name was called.  The athletic setting worked just right.

photo credit: brucefong photography

No one told me to do it.  It wasn’t even in my job description.  But, there is something about investing in people who are innate in what my calling is in life.

I seek out men who are going to “show up” when they are supposed to.  They are kind of guys who are dependable.  Their word is their bond.

Responsibility, priorities and obligations are a part of their identity.  Convenience isn’t their motto.  Loyalty and faithfulness are.

Men who take seriously the role of just “showing up” are the kind of men that are on my list.  Title or office are not the same as showing up.  Rather, influence and example are.

Service is another feature that stands in the lives of men that I seek out.  These men give to others. Often you find men who are looking for a perk for themselves.  Overly concerned about losing something or feeling obligated or fearful of getting stuck in something tha they don’t want, those are not the guys on my radar.

Instead, these men are spending time with others in need.  They are investing in helping those who need help.  There is an intuition about these men that gather others around them and render aid. 

These guys are the down and dirty.  They don’t count hours, worrying about expenses or regret giving up something of themselves.  People look up to them from every strata of life.

Men like this are servants.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming that they have the absence of ability.  They are amazingly talented, gifted and successful men.  Simply put, they lead not to gain anything for themselves; rather they give generously of themselves driven by a gift that they have already received to give back to others.

Men on my search list are sincere.  They want to grow no matter where they are in life.  Humility keeps them hungry to learn, develop and become more effective.

Men like this are teachable.  They have an appetite to learn from someone else.  There are no better students in the world than men like this.

I left a group of seven like this back in San Francisco.  They are fabulous guys.  Spending time with them was a personal highlight of my time in the Bay Area.

Now, I’m in Texas.  I’m hunting for more men like those I left behind in Cali.  They’re here, I just have to find them.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 Some travelers get anxious about climbing aboard an airplane.  The thought of gravity, thirty-thousand foot elevations and hurtling 560 mph in the sky is unnerving for some in our population.

I’m a little different.  In fact after all of the preliminaries to get me security-approved, I like getting on a plane and relaxing in my seat.  After the stress of the boarding process, I’m happy to look forward to the end of the flight.

My least favorite part of the journey: the dreaded security line.  The line was long as it snaked back and forth around the switchbacks of temporary barriers.  Bumping into people is usually not normal but this guy behind me kept jostling me.

Finally, I turned to look at him and he apologized.  His next sentence followed without a pause, “Why don’t you go to that line?” Two desks of security checkers were in front of us.

“That’s for First Class,” I pointed out to him.

Right away that clumsy oaf push around me and hurried over to the line for classless dudes who have a very small concept of personal space.  My cat-like reflexes saved me from a very embarrassing fall into the people waiting behind me.  It was going to be a long flight home.

When it was my turn for security, I was directed into the naked tube.  That’s the latest security screening unit that sees “everything”.  I assumed the posture of international surrender long before the agent finished instructing me how to do it.  Pictures on the window make quick work of the needed instructions.

Stepping out of the tube, I was halted by one of the agents on the other side.  He informed me that I needed to be scanned again.  Naturally, I turned around to reenter the tube but was rebuffed for doing so.

I don’t think they want passengers to see the highlighted picture on the tube that shows suspicious areas on my private person.  Soon he ordered me back into the tube.  It’s going to be a long flight home.

Once again my physique was teleported to whoever wanted to get another eyeful.  That same security agent informed me that now he had to pat me down.  The same position of universal surrender now was my posture for the third time.  I don’t like being patted down.  It’s going to be a long flight home.

 

What is unusual leaves a lasting impression.  A walk through the Conservatory gave us several of those special moments.  I’m not a flower-kind of guy but I did marvel at so many blooms that I saw.

At first I thought that the word delicate described the exotic fauna.  But, they are actually tough.  They grow in inhospitable climates.

These remarkable combinations leave me wondering how anyone could see them and believe that they are a product of chance.  Instead, it makes sense to me that there is a design here.  It is not just a design but a masterful creative act that came up with the variety and intricacies that I see.

Color combinations are stunning.  Shapes are continguous yet symetrical too.  As marvelous as these flowers are there is a reptition that is reproduced with each bloom. 

Then, there is something unique about each variety.  Orchids capture many of those exotic flowers.  Sometimes there was only a single plant.  At other times there were was a mass section of the garden covered with the same plants.

God knew what He was doing when He designed these marvels of the garden.  No one could have come up with the endless variety from a human mind.  The quickness of our visit slowed down considerably.

A very unique plant captured my attention.  It was a cactus growing out of a pot.  Gardeners had placed this specimen on a large roack.

Who thought of this figured it correctly.  The single bloom from this prickly plant was larger than the cactus.  It looked like a star fish that had just been reshaped to enter into space as an alien traveler.  This was truly a remarkable sight.

Whether the unique flowers were large or small, odd or stunning they each captured my attention for a few moments.  Very smart people know the names of these living plants.  Very very smart people know the scientific names of them.  I just liked what I saw and enjoyed the show.

One of my personal weaknesses is that I don’t have an aesthetic eye for color combinations and shades, nuances or subtleties associated with anything artistic.  God does not have that problem. While I could never do it let alone understand it, I could deeply appreciate such a skillful God who has not only done these amazing things but He made them alive destined for repeat performances every Spring. 

photo credit: brucefong photography

It’s time to trade in my faithful Bubba for a new and improved version. That’s tough for a life that is wired to be loyal. Brand loyalty, friendship loyalty and of course family loyalty are all free-flowing throughout my blood system.

He still had great shine on his coat.  The premium wheels added to his unique rugged appeal.  Even the carpet had done well to show very little wear over the years of transporting so many friends, family and business connections.

I did my homework.  Like every guy who loves his truck I had to know the realistic numbers.  What would this world which only puts its stock in profit, grapples with countless vehicles that flood the used car market estimate the value of my trusty steed?

I went on-line to Kelly Blue Book.  It is the standard that everyone uses to find an objective pricing for a used vehicle.  Every question I answered with objective bias.

The  moment of truth arrived.  With one more key stroke I would see a value flash on my screen.  Already I could feel my body tense and my mind fill with the preparation for a shockingly undervalued estimate of my priceless truck.

Yes, I was not to be disappointed.  It was unbelievably low.  But, snarling at the computer for its assessment never accomplished much in the past, so I didn’t say much but only frowned at my portal into cyberspace.

That was actually weeks ago.  In the mean time I let the stunning annoying insult simmer.  Slowly, I came to grips with the reality of the situation and swallowed hard to accept the disappointing news.

However, armed with the facts and the affirmation of the objective standard price in my mind I entered the world of shopping-for-a-new vehicle.  When the pro smiles and asked me for the keys to my rig I proudly handed them over for their inspection.  I was sure that they would love my truck, compliment me on its great condition and offer me a great trade-in price.

The earlier shock in front of my computer doesn’t compare to the stunning news delivered to me in person.  These guys liked what they saw.  Of course they could see detailed upkeep had been showered on my 4×4 but after they told me how much they would give me in trade . . . I’m still driving my faithful ride today, at least for a little while longer.

photo credit: google image

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