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IMG_2958My life has officially registered decades of revolutions around the sun.  In the my mind I am experienced with life and wise to a shyster.  My heart is guarded, calloused from the past episodes of friction from undesirable lives.

Yet, in the presence of an innocent life, I am shockingly vulnerable.  She cannot even utter a single syllable that is understandable.  There is no talent or skill or knowledge that would endear her to my field of expertise.

Any sound that she makes is unintelligible.  When I speak to her she shows no interest or awareness of what I am saying.  She has no connection with titles, position, education or achievement.

No, this is not a case of disrespect.  There is no arrogance on her part.  Nor does she hold to a contrasting political or values position.

She is my granddaughter.  This summer she was born and as I held her in my arms she was a mere two weeks old.  That is a legitimate reason for her detachment from any words that I was using.

Nevertheless, while she not winning any debate or nudging me off-balance with her arguments or mesmerizing me with a well-formed speeches she did already have me wrapped around her little finger.  Maybe it is a good thing that she was able to utter a conversation that was understandable. Whatever she could have or would have asked I would have granted it or worked to make it happen.  That is the power of love, a love that melts the heart of a grandfather.

Her older brother is two years old.  He was the first newborn that competed for my heart and won it easily as well.  Now, he is old enough to affectionately hug me, run into my arms and cuddle with me when he wants a moment.  He prepared me for the “Grandparent-effect”.

I wondered when I held him in my arms as I am still wondering while I hold his sister in my arms.  How is it that I can melt into a love bonding so fast, so deeply with a human being with whom I have not even had one single understandable conversation?

It is inexplicable.  This is a phenomenon that defies explanation or reason.  Yet, I love it, embrace it and completely welcome it into my life.

Are you blessed with such innocent love?  Have you ever tried to explain it but given up and just surrendered to it?  Is it so wonderful forever?

photo credit: fong-bailey cellphone photography

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IMG_5813There is an amazing engineering feature in Houston.  It is called the Buffalo Bijou.  This is a creek for most of its existence, meandering from downtown Houston due West and into the region of Katy.

Katy is my home town and the Buffalo Bijou is familiar to me and my fellow residents.  We appreciate this cavernous grassy canyon snaking through our community because it is a constant reminder that it is ready to take away the deluge of water that visits our part of Texas several times a year.

When there is no rain and the weather has no prediction of precipitation, I along with my fellow Texans overlook this massive amount of real estate.  Green grass lines the banks of this very large creek and overpasses allow traffic to flow unimpeded.  But, it is always ready.

Most of the year a small creek travels through this piece of land.  The slow-moving waters do not cut much of a trail through the dirt.  Most adults could easily leap over the creek without much effort.

I bicycle along this body of water and marvel at its great expanse.  For miles my bicycle wheels roll along the cement trail that lines one of its banks.  Several times I cross a bridge to keep my journey going.

But, then there are those storms, those Texas-sized storms that drench our home with lots of water.  Drains, and canals flow into the Buffalo Bijou.  It comes quickly and flash flood warnings dominate the airwaves to keep people away from flooded areas.

Torrents of water turn a normally calm creek bed into a raging river.  In a short period of time a calm quiet creek fills up that entire flood plain and muddy waters threaten to lap against the massive concrete bridges that gives people safe passage over the rising waters.  I paused for a picture and to marvel at what makes people feel so small and helpless.

When God turns on the spillway of the heavens and stalls the weather front to hold a pattern over Houston, we hunker down and hope for the best.  Neighbor encourages neighbor.  It is the way of the image of God seeping through the desperation of men who find themselves in need of a helping hand.

Good engineers designed a lot of Houston to weather such moments.  I am grateful to those very good planners who looked beyond the pleasant sunny days.  Their planning for these occasional horribly rainy days has given me peace.  I thank God for them!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_5677It has been months since construction has started on a key building at our headquarters campus.  My travels bring me up to Dallas on occasion and I look with expectation at the progress of the building that has captured center stage for Dallas Seminary promotional materials.  Watching a key project take shape is fun to do and gives prayers something tangible to press on to new heights.

There were many of disappointing glances in the past.  I do not know the engineering answer to those seemingly many visits when not progress was happening.  Someone mentioned that the sandy ground required a lot of shoring up and foundation strengthening.

Apparently, the foundation construction was done precisely to give not only the inspectors new confidence but also all of the Seminary constituency certainty about the future.  Now, whether earthquakes or storm or prophetic cataclysmic episode this building is built to withstand them all.  That is a good place to be in a seminary world of Biblical prophecy.

A structure is in place.  Progress is now something that we can all see.  After months and months of planning, promoting and raising the funds to make this building happen, it is finally taking shape.

Foundations are understandable.  So much is necessary to make a building last that is unseen.  Most of us get that.

But, it is human to want to see something happening.  Visual evidence makes the mind soar to greater heights of faith and belief.  On the one hand we live by faith.  On the other hand we live by sight.

Massive steel girders are connected and permanently locked into place.  Soon the building will be weather tight and the functional part of the user-friendly parts of the building will be skillfully installed.  Visually it will no longer be the appetite for a massive presence but then it will shift to quality aesthetics and brilliantly designed space.

The past is a testimony of God’s favor on this institution.  This building is a promise that there is more yet to come.  We are thrilled to be a part of that plan.

I am looking forward to walking in to this building.  When the dedication service happens, I will make the pilgrimage north to Dallas from Houston.  This will be HQ’s new digs and I among many am looking forward to seeing what God has provided.  That will be a time to rejoice and celebrate God’s generosity and goodness.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Israel 2014 IFL 055The Bible makes a detailed notation about the stone that was positioned to seal Jesus’ tomb.  No one knows where that stone is today.  Yet, it is described as one of specifics in the language of the New Testament that should encourage the hearts of all who follow Jesus.

When Jesus was crucified there is undisputed evidence that He died on Good Friday.  His suffering and beating was excruciating.  The ignominy of His death was torturous.

The Roman soldiers declared Jesus dead and therefore saw no reason to break His legs to expedite what they concluded had already been accomplished.  Just to be sure, a spear was thrust into his side and confirmed that He was deceased.  Jesus did not pass out, He did not fake His death, His body was not stolen by His disciples.

Those who loved Jesus mourned over His death.  Like a loving family they laid His body to rest in a tomb hewn out of rock.  Once His body was there a large stone was rolled in front of the opening, sealing it.

As an added measure to insure that no one would tamper with the body a professional pair of guards were posted in front of the tomb.  The seal of Rome was added to the stone so that no one would tamper with the stone upon sentence of death.  Rumors of a resurrection in three days had the unbelieving authorities guarding against any foul-play.

Then the Scriptures declare that on Sunday, the first Easter the stone was rolled away.  Grammatically, the Bible could have said that the stone was rolled away in one single definitive act.  That could have shown the power of God to counter the human measures to resist the Resurrection.  But, the Bible does not say that.

The Bible could have said that the stone was rolling away capturing the continuous action of the stone moving without any resistance against human endeavor.  But, it does not say that either.

Instead, the Bible uses language to say that the stone was rolled away and stayed that way.  Once the opening to the tomb was reopened, the Resurrection could not be stopped and the grave would never hold the Savior again.  He died and now is alive forever!

That emphatic piece of grammatical detail is a thrilling notation to the glory of Easter.  He is Risen.  He is Risen Indeed!

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4126A funny definition of grandchildren is that they are God’s blessing to parents who did not murder their teenage children.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Then, marvel at the wonder of words that time the unexpected with the fully understood message accomplished with a very few words.

What is nearly as marvelous as a well timed joke is the wonder of how a grandchild can capture your heart as a grandparent and never let it go.  Before there is even a single cogent conversation love is permanently established.

How is it possible to be so in love with a young life when we have never had the briefest of conversations?  Yet, devotion to this little one is permanently established.  There will be no compromise on that family bond of loyalty.

When he smiles, I smile.  Of course when he laughs it is infectious and I laugh heartily.  Even when he cries I do not panic, there is no discomfort I just love on him.

Bringing comfort to this little soul is a sheer delight.  We cuddle together and his little life quiets down.  I sink deep into my easy chair as his crying slows and transforms into a quiet whimper.

He snuggles into my arms and breaths like he is relieved.  Tears soak into my shirt and little brown eyes stare up into mine.  A gentle smile breaks out on his countenance and I melt in a deeper sense of commitment.

Yes, I will teach him many ways to enter into mischief.  Together we will laugh through adventures and make fabulous memories together.  We will learn about fun, humor, the outdoors, the Bible, faith, hope and love.

Honestly, I will love passing on the lessons of life and the joys of daily living to this precious little one.  Who knows but God what the potential of this one life will be.  He will bring great blessing into the lives of many.

In the mean time I will laugh when he goes through his antics.  Each time he achieves a new landmark in his progress I will smile.  Eagerly I will look forward to the many firsts of his life and chuckle while he finds his way through the maze of growing up.

Pictures will remind me of those times since thousands of miles will separate us for most of the year.  Videos will allow me the joy of reliving those life stages especially when I cannot be physically present.  Grandchildren are a miraculous bundle without a doubt.  They are treasured gift from the Lord.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

IMG_3108This is a special season of the year.  We laugh when a turkey is gobbling up a storm.  Children dress up in costumes made from brown paper grocery bags always wins a smile.

There are images of a perfectly aromatic turkey with all of the trimmings highlighting its presentation.  The horn of plenty is seen in advertisements, grocery story decorations and even on an occasional greeting card.

My fellow Americans are planning gatherings with loved ones.  Family is a big deal during this holiday season.  Invitations have been sent out. Menus have been divided up and everyone is planning their favorite recipes.

At work Human Resources has announced the hours for this special week.  Paid day’s off for salaried workers is deeply appreciated. Some have tacked on personal time in order to make a long drive or a flight during off-peak days.

Our Thanksgiving will be quiet this year.  We are going over to the new home of some very good friends.  All of us are separated from our families this year.  They are too far away.  However, I am thankful for friends.

My work requires me to be here on Saturday as well.  It would not be worth the expense to make the long trip to family.  Nevertheless, I am thankful for a job that I love.

This Thanksgiving we will communicate with our family via email, texting and maybe even Skype.  It will not be that same as being there in person but I am thankful for amazing technological communication options.

My checklist for the home is very small now.  Most of the major home improvement necessities have been completed.  I am thankful for a house that we have been able to transform into a home.

Soon we will be able to travel to see family for the Christmas season.  The tickets have been reserved and paid for by now.  We are very thankful for hope, expectation and anticipation to be with family soon.

I walked around our yard and took care of a few minor problems.  My walk paused and I scanned over our abode.  This has been my favorite house that we have ever lived in since we married.

We have lived in four apartments and five houses while answering His call in our lives.  For a brief moment I thanked God for His blessings in our life. He has been wonderful to us and I am very thankful.  Nevertheless, I will sorely miss our family this Thanksgiving.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

July 13.2012 005Moving is an adventure.  There are few words that describe this transition in life better than this one term.  In three syllables it encompasses joy, newness, glitches, concerns, shock and awe.

Timing is everything.  Trying to plan a home purchase, utilities sign-up, insurance costs, bank accounts, automobile registration, licensing and smog inspection along with church shopping, store shopping and post office shopping, the list is long for setting up our home in a different state, culture and neighborhood.

Yet, it is invigorating to start-up a new life.  New friends abound, new sights fill up our eyes, new road trips lead us in all directions of the compass.  Of course our palate is looking for different ways to cook beef, chicken, pork and fish.  Here in Texas there are distinct flavors of food that make the locals very proud.

The Texas heat made us get creative quickly.  We found places to go where the inside A/C was so refreshing.  Sometimes it was a shopping mall, other times it was a movie theater.  Still at other times we let the air conditioning of a friend’s home welcome us inside from the heat.

High on our memories of our move to Texas one year ago was juggling the timing of purchasing a home and moving our “priceless stuff” from the West Coast.  Our home in Texas had not yet closed.  The moving company was ready to pick up our possessions in California.

Movers charge according the time that personal goods are in their possession.  Keeping that time to a minimum was important.  Stewardship means a lot to us.

Juggling our California departure, my Texas work start date and the closing of the house all had to be coordinated.  If you take it too seriously, you could lose your mind.  We were determined to roll with the punches, adjust and flex.

To do so meant that we ended up being in our new home before our furniture arrived.  Trying to be prepared, we threw a folding table into the back of my pickup truck along with two folding chairs.  Then, we added a box of pots, pans, dishes and flatware.

Once the real estate agents handed us the house keys, we ceremoniously walked into our new home.  It was very spartan, almost “collegesque”.  To us it was part of the adventure.  It was like a picnic in our newly adopted state.  God gives us blessings no matter how odd they may seem.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

The air is cool and the wind is brisk.  We bundle up tightly and sort out the errands to run before we meet up at the home for the family meal.  It’s Thanksgiving and it’s all about food.

Times are tough for our country.  People have been out of work for a long time.  Others have resorted to lessor jobs or unpleasant ones just to make ends meet or to get by until happy times come again.

It might be years before our economy improves but until then, we press on and make the best of the situation that is at hand.  When you decide to play the hand you are dealt or choose to fold and wait for another deal, we keep on going.  We cut corners, do with a little less here or there, we dip again into savings and share a little more with those that we love.

But, when it comes to family we manage to collect all who share our blood and a few more.  Then, we hug, smile, wipe away a tear and tease each other mercilessly so that our memory-making skills never cease.  Decorations will be more modest, food delicious  but with a missing dish or two and then we will pause to pray.

Like every Thanksgiving we turn our hearts to our Creator, our generous Almighty God  and thank Him for what we do have.  Gratitude in the tough times wins favor for the future blessings to come. 

For a respite we pause.  We drink in the sight of family gathered around the table.  The loud roar of people talking, details of life episodes fill the air and of course the reliving of goofy moments blend into a single cacophony that makes family a special time, a precious possession and our unforgettable blessing.

Somehow when some have less, others fill in the gap.  Tough moments don’t crush families.  Instead, we support each other, cheer each other on, gladly give to help. 

In the body of  Christ, Christians are called upon to do the same.  When others in the family of God are hurting, we help.  We gladly reach out and encourage those facing tough times.

Once in a while people mess up, betray, ignore, judge or resent but those are only occasional oddities uncharacteristic of what Christ asks us to do.  Instead, the beauty of the LORD in all who are born again is commonly a beautiful expression of grace and mercy.  That’s a reason for families giving THANKS.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Once we decide on how much to give to the Lord’s work, we should stick to our plan.  The giving must, however, be done with a cheerful attitude.  God doesn’t need our money but He loves a giver who does so with gladness in his giving.

When we participate in giving, God underwrites all of our needs.  Giving according to His principles paves the way for His grace to abound.  We must be careful to note that He promises to take care of our “need” not our “want”. 

Mixed in with our needs being met we will also experience the great satisfaction of our efforts giving us great satisfaction.  What we do will bear fruit, be effective and have lasting value.  God is generous with those who express their spirituality with generosity. 

Those who will benefit from His generosity are those who are poor in this world.  When they give out of their poverty, God will bless them.  This is divine righteousness demonstrating itself with eternal impact.

All of the essentials for life are provided by God.  What is needed for sustenance will be supplied by God.  Miraculously He will also increase those stores in a mysterious unexplainable manner. 

Those who learn this spiritual mystery understand that the key is generosity.  If we show it in His name, He will return to us in kind.  None of us can out give God.

When we participate in caring for the needs of others, our generosity will not end with the gift.  Rather, those who are the recipients of our goodness will express their gratitude to God in quantity beyond the gift itself.

Desperate people are asking God to provide for their needs.  In many ways we who have been blessed with resources are God’s answer to their prayers.  When we give generously, we are participating in His provision for others.  That produces praise and thanksgiving from recipients to God.

Giving is an expression of obedience consistent with the gospel of Christ making a change in our lives.  It is about sharing what He has given us to be good stewards.  An additional blessing is the winning of the prayers of those who have benefitted from the gifts. 

God gives the ability to give, provides the resources to give, directs us to those who need us to share, then He rewards us with prayers and more resources.  He is truly generous.  Give generously and watch Him bless you generously.

2 corinthians 9.6-14

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