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The kitchen by no means favors me in its room to ply my culinary art. My skills are definitely in the limited category: primarily survival food. Now, on occasion I can read the directions, follow them, and proudly present the final product. Thank God that His providence functions efficaciously and directs it to be edible!

When the grandkids were en route for a long stay, a menu popped into my mind. It included sweet desserts. One was “Rice Krispie” treats.

They always look inviting. Taste is a big win. Of course there is the sticky gooey fun of eating them.

On a recipe skill level, this dessert treat is EASY. Measure this, melt this, stir this, press it down, add fun sprinkles and let it cool. By the time our grandkids roared through the front door, it was waiting to welcome them.

Our oldest grandchild buzzed over to the colorful tray with a smile as wide as the Gulf of Mexico.

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“May I have some?” he questioned with the politeness that made me want to hand over the entire tray.
“You better ask your parents first,” was my safe Grandfatherly response.
“Daddy?” he looked with a longing hope.
“Sure. Which piece to you want?” his father asked.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, the second photo shows the results of his request. It was the deepest part of the tray. He knew where to drop his line for the biggest fish in the lake.

I laughed. He smiled. His munching away was off-the-charts cute!

photographs by brucefong photography

fullsizeoutput_2f09My grandkids stopped in for a long visit. They are little tykes, just 6,4, and 2. Anything that Grandpa does that is just a wee bit funny, starts them giggling.

When they arrived, they ran into my arms for a long hug. Of course they took to their age and all talked at once. My Grandfatherly skills kicked in and I agreed to everything they were all saying.

If I had to I could deny everything and blame my bad memory or horrible hearing. Don’t worry, I would fulfill all my promises as they reminded me of each guarantee that we had discussed. In the meantime, their memory was worse than mine.

They each scampered around the house. This was their first time to our home. It was an endless array of new rooms, fascinating decorations, new toys, tons of niches waiting for the imagination of children.

I warned them that I had a helper upstairs. He was a friendly plumber making sure everything with water was functioning well for our very loved guests. “Be on your best behavior,” I urged them, “You don’t want to scare him.”

“Where is he?” they forced a calm on their faces and into their voices.”
“Oh, he’s upstairs. I believe I hear him in the bathroom that y’all are using during your visit. If you want, go on upstairs and say ‘Hello.'”

They scurried upstairs and I waited for the discovery. “Oh, Goong Goong! You’re funny!”

That’s the best reaction to a simple welcome for three lives that I love beyond words. Giving them a moment of levity after days of driving half way across the country to visit was special. Hearing these little lives laugh is more than a sound. It is the reverberation of the soul.

photograph by brucefong photography

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My bride’s cellphone rang.  I heard its distinctive sound from my second floor office.  When she answered she was animated, excited and filled our home with laughter.

Those sounds brought a smile to my face.  Inside I felt the balloon of joy filling up.  Before I was invited, I shut down my computer, moved my work into a manageable pile and stood up to close my office light.

After two steps toward the stairs I heard the invitation.  My bride’s familiar voice of 38 years of marriage beckoned me to come.  Without her detailed explanation I suspected with anticipation that we had received an unexpected call from the grandchildren.

“Coming!” I replied right away and energized my steps.  It is beyond fun to approach the head of the stairs looking forward to interrupting my writing and research.  Someone special was on the phone and I wanted to be a part of that conversation.

Bounding down the stairs was not really an option.  Young people can do that.  I remember when I did but that is no longer a smart choice.

My bride and I snuggled together in front of her cellphone camera.  Our 2-year-old grandson’s animated face and enthusiastic voice was luring us in.  At our daughter’s prompting and his own energetic excitement he announced, “Happy Grandparent’s Day!”

I melted.  My heart nearly burst.  A grin took over my face.

We chatted with this little guy for long moments.  He showed us his new dump truck.  Never leaving his left hand was on of his favorite toy cars.

Then, our three-month old granddaughter was placed in the camera lens.  She was sitting propped up by her infant chair.  Snuggled in, she seemed content.

Then, my bride began talking with her.  She talked back!  No intelligible words could be understood.  But, the garbling, cooing and grunting made the appearance of a conversation with her and her grandmother.  It was so special!

This episode was our first Grandparent’s Day moment.  First’s are amazing memories.  FaceTime made it possible.  The internet is a massive blessing to families separated by so many miles.

No, I can’t bound down the stairs, no can I always figure out technology but I can surely enjoy this incomparable season of life. Being a grandparent is a joy unending.  I have gladly traded some advantages of youth for this finest of human connections.

photo credit: KJB photography

Every news media outlet was buzzing over the release of the movie “American Sniper”.  Some touted it as a fantastic portrayal of patriotism, liberty and American pride.  Others vehemently condemned it as an exploitation of war or a misrepresentation of snipers as heroes when in the warped opinion of the critic they were in fact cowards. A few even claimed it was of such poor cinema quality that it did not deserve any attention at all.

Admittedly, I was shocked by the animated negative opinions.  Now, I believe that in a nation that protects the freedom of speech, these critics have a right to their opinion.  What was stunning to me was that these vicious views would be directed to oppose such self-sacrificial lives.

I was reading the book when the movie debuted.  Through each chapter I was tracking with Chris Kyle’s life, moments of maturing, struggles with family and horrific episodes in the battlefield.  War was not glorified but devotion, commitment, family and country were.

Clint Eastwood directed the film.  I thought that he captured so many moments of fear, frustration, courage, conflict, joy, encouragement and family.  In a matter of seconds Eastwood told the story of many pages with a single take in the film.

Despite the critics I learned about a man whose sacrifice and skill keeps my liberty safe.  My life has been protected by Kyle’s service.  I for one am very grateful to him and to his family.

I am left wondering how a movie theater in the second week of its release is so full.  If there are pundits out there who insist that we believe and adopt their negative and critical spirit, then why are so many turning away from their stinging words and going to see the movie?  In my mind there are many Americans who love this country and lift up the military with respect and appreciation.

It was not just  the courageous deeds of Chris Kyle on the battlefield.  His wife Taya sacrificed too.  Her steady care for their family during Chris’ deployments were a testament to the family courage.

She was there to help Chris find a way to let go of the war.  It had so captured him that the commitment to let it go and really return home was a much a part of the message of the book and film as was his faithful service.

I heard Taya’s moving words at Chris’ memorial service.  They touched  me as did the movie.  Thank you to the Kyle family for your service and sacrifice.  God bless you and God bless the USA.

Motorcycle to Banff 2008 144This is a special day.  We stop whatever we are doing and pause to remember. It is an honorable recollection.

For some of us the BBQ grill is fired up.  Guests are making their way over to our home.  Food is brought out from the pantry and lining the counters.

Games are scattered throughout the backyard.  Little ones will fill the inflatables, pool or field the badminton court.  Space will be occupied by special lives.

Sounds will overwhelm the space.  Laughter and talking will test our sensory overload limits.  Smiles and hugs will dominate our day.

Others will have a traditional journey in their day.  They will drive to the family plot at the community cemetery.  There fresh flowers will decorate the headstone of a dear loved one.

Next to the flowers an American flag will be inserted into the ground.  This was not just a family member that is remembered.  Here lies one who died for his or her country.

Yes, Memorial Day is about family and friends.  Yes, it is about a day off to relax from the rigors of our labor.  Yes, it is about celebrating with food and fun.

Nevertheless, at the heart of this day is why all of these moments for fun and partying were made possible.  Those in our armed forces who fought and died for our freedoms is the meaning behind this day.  Liberty is a costly privilege.

Some time during this special day, we can deepen the meaning behind our gatherings when we take a moment to look at our American flag and be grateful.  Our thankfulness for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us would give meaning to our day.  It would inject great value into the remembrance of those who died on our behalf.

Then, our gratitude would be a treasured moment.  Suddenly, it is not just a day-off but a day of meaning. Life is much more than a time about doing what we want instead of what we have to do.
Listen to a patriotic song and feel your spirit leap.  Consider the lyrics of our national anthem and be grateful.  Treasure the sight of Old Glory waving in the skies above.

When the red, white and blue come into view, be a thankful citizen.  Smile at the thought of those who courageously squared off with the enemy and beat them in battle.  Remember the warm tears of loved ones who buried those brave soldiers in the soil that they won for our liberty.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Dec 2013 031Grand parenting is a special treat.  My wife is totally absorbed into being a grandmother.  She looked forward this role with great anticipation.  Nothing about this season of life has disappointed or surprised her.

The biggest surprise has been my role.  I was not expecting any of it.  Sure, when I saw little children and heard their laughter, I enjoyed it.  Yet, when your own flesh and blood introduces the next generation, it is remarkable.

When my daughter placed her firstborn son in my arms I was hooked.  The warmth of the touch, the sound of the breathing, the movement of a little life finding a comfortable place and the eyes searching for satisfaction for its curiosities is hypnotic.

It surprised me how such a little life could feel so good.  Maybe I forgot how special it felt from the years of our own children cuddling next to me.  Yet, even when I search for long ago memories, this is still very different. Maybe it is the years of dealing with adults contrasts remarkably with a little infant snuggling comfortably in my arms.

At six months he has started smiling with his eyes. There is exuberant life in his infancy that displays itself with bounty.  An old Chinese proverb explains it: “The eyes are the window to the soul.”

Life sparkles in his eyes.  Curiosities are forming an endless appetite for exploring, touching, tasting, feeling and living.  I am looking forward to being a part of that learning.

We have not had a conversation yet.  My grandson and I just sit or walk together.  There are very few understandable words that are exchanged between us.

Nevertheless, a bond is forming.  He is secure in my grasp.  I hug him closely and it feels very good.

Maybe in the way that God creates us as humans, we naturally can feel that connection of love, devotion and protection.  From the warmth of that touch comes the sensation of trust, security and hope.  Those are magnanimous words that I look forward to explaining to him some day.

While he is cradled in my arms, he is safe.  I look forward to teaching him about the joys and dangers of the world.  Hopefully, I can pass on to him insights about people, smart ways to navigate through rough circumstances and how to invest in good choices.

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I look forward to having a part in nurturing his spiritual journey.  His pilgrimage with Jesus will be the greatest delight.  Our future holds countless conversations about the Savior.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_3214Life has many mysteries.  Many we have heard about but nothing heightens our senses like our first hand experiences.  That is a good way to explain my first foray as a grandfather.

I used to think that grandfathers were old people.  That is a notion that I have jettisoned very quickly.  Yes, as soon as I was notified that my daughter was expecting, I decided that grandfathers are very young!

My life was not blessed with a lot of interaction with that generation ahead of me.  I saw a picture or two but I do not have many memories.  Certainly there were no conversations that I had with my grandfather.

I hope that if God’s good grace allows many conversations await my grandson and me.  In fact besides just talking I hope that there will be many shared experiences.  Planning those touch points is not a problem.  What has surprised me are the many moments of pause.

Both of my parents are gone.  On the paternal side of my immediate family, I am the aged one.  Yikes!  That is a scary thought.

But, fear does not dominate my thinking much.  Instead, I am often amazed when I look into my grandson’s eyes.  He is pure, innocent, simple and with only potential in his body.

There have been no disappointments, no hurts no pain with people or tragedies that have scared his soul.  Hopefully, I can help him negotiate any of those inevitable tough times in life.  In the mean time it is time to bond with this third generation.

I hold him on my knees and I am amazed that I love this little life so much and we have not even had one intelligible conversation to date.  But, when we hug it is full of life.  Our checks squish together and the warmth and freshness of his cleanness easily breaks out a smile on my face.  His wiggling around and purring sounds melt my spirit.

When he laughs, I drink in the sound of his cheer.  His giggling is not couched in words just overflowing with happiness.  Each time his eyes focus on something, his little brain is making notes, growing his curiosities and trying to form the endless parade of questions that grandpa will get to answer.

Whatever privilege I have to pour into his soul the wisdom of the ages, I will do so.  Maybe we will sit on a dock with fishing poles in hand as he fills my heart with inquiry and I fill his life with life experiences that will make his life very beneficial to the lives that he will touch.

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_3130My busy life at the office has very few gaps in a tightly wound calendar.  It is a place where I engage people, planning, personnel issues and programming that challenges patience, problem-solving skills and perpetual glitches along the road of progress.  However, I love doing what God has called me to do.

There was a moment to breath.  It is right after Thanksgiving and just before a busy Thanksgiving weekend of service.  That is when I climbed the stairs of our home on a search for a special box.

A few years ago I found that box in a store.  It was on sale.  For my purposes it was perfect and cheap too.

I brought it home and unpacked its contents.  This was a three foot tall Christmas tree.  Not only was it tiny but it was also easy to assemble.  I had it put together and standing on its own without even looking at the instructions.

Now, this little tree has followed me around the country.  I put lights on it, ornaments and even have a tree topper.  Over the years it has brought cheer to me and my office staff.

This year it has made its appearance again.  When I found it in our storage closet, I picked it up with care.  The years had worn out the box.  If I picked it up without holding it together, the cardboard box would pop open and dump that contents on the floor.  It is probably time to find a more permanent storage container for this little guy.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving I brought it into my office.  It only took moments to set it up.  Since it is so small a single strand of lights is all it takes to trim this little pine tree.  Then, I hand a bag full of ornaments.  The tree topper is a moose, my favorite wild animal.

There are special moments in life for everyone.  Plugging in the lights and throwing the power switch is one of mine.  I am no longer a kid but this special moment never ceases to make me smile.

Standing back and gazing at my little tree captured my imagination and plunged it into my memories of Christmases long long ago.  My office lights were off and the only source of light was from this single strand of Christmas lights.  The ornaments were reflecting the lights and magnifying their effect.  Such a little tree, making a big splash in my office and in the soul world of memories.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_3147Thanksgiving was really fun.  We had laughter, great food, fun football, new friends, old friends and time to relax.  But, it was also the best time to look forward to Christmas.

We went shopping for some of basic life needs.  Christmas decorations are basic life needs.  Putting up just a few little features makes Christmas to be enhanced.

We have two outside lights, one on either side of the garage.  I replaced the bulbs with holiday red lights.  They are low-wattage lights, a mere 25 watts each.  However, when I turn them on at night they give off a celebratory glow.

Just below each light I hung a plastic bow.  It too, like the lights, are a bright red with glitter.  At night the lights enhance the bows and the bows reflect the light and magnify the glow.

On our front door we hung a beautiful wreath.  It is a circle of greenery decorated with Christmas features.  Anyone who comes to our home will sense the living spirit of Christmas is present in our home.

Once the wreath was hung, I stood back and smiled.  It is all part of the anticipation.  Looking forward to the celebration to come is a symptom that the meaning of Christmas is a very real part of our lives.

Next, I walked into my garage and flipped on the decorated outside lights.  With a smile of anticipation I walked out to take a look at my handiwork.  I was not disappointed.

My grin broke into a wide smile.  Christmas is coming.  This special season of the year to count our blessings, celebrate Jesus’ birthday and consider the most amazing gift ever given.

Our decorations are simple this year.  One wreath here, a few lights there, a bow here and a small, a very small tree in my office is all we have put up so far.  Every one of our family is else where in this vast country.  Once we had a house full of children and we decorated together to make our home festive.  Now, they each have their own homes and are off doing their own Christmas celebrations.

Yet, it is not just about the children.  When I turned on our modest Christmas lights, I smiled.  After I stood back and gazed at our glistening bows, wreath and my humble little office tree, I loved that moment and the pleasure of anticipating the celebration of my Savior’s birthday.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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