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The drive from the South area of Bangkok to the North area where our hotel is situated is a long drive.  That lengthy commute is extended when it is rush hour traffic.  But, the views are sensational and leave an indelible impression on my soul.

Mid-rise dwellings abound in Bangkok.  These small uniform apartments collect human beings in family units throughout the landscape of this beautiful country.  I will meet very few of these people face to face.

When our commute took us off of the tollways system and plunged us into the streets of the city, faces attached themselves to the masses of this countries millions.  The Thai people are famous world-wide for their cheerful smiles and clasped hands and bowed head.  There were countless people sharing that interchange along our route.

Yet, I would know very few of their names.  I would know less about their lives.  Even less would ever cross my path as a friend.

Millions of people scurried about, shopping, eating, commuting, conversing and laughing. Some were making a living selling, cooking, driving, delivering, guarding, guiding and an endless list of other activities of a city.   How many human brains would it take to know each one and follow each of their lives?

Yes, that’s definitely an impossible human task.  Yet, it gave me a chance to realize how BIG God is.  He knows all of their names.

Not only does God know each of their names, He knows each of their lives.  There are no overlooked issues.  Even the smallest of details of all of our lives are known by God.

He doesn’t stress over an overload of information.  He is never threatened by a limit of His knowledge.  Nor does He become so busy that He doesn’t have time for us.

The God of the Bible is the God who is not just attentive to our needs, He is fully engaged in inviting us to be in His family.  He makes that possible through His Son’s sacrifice on the cross.  Jesus died for everyone without exception.

Do you feel left out?  Are you overwhelmed with matters of life?  Has life become so troubled that you feel forgotten and ready to give up?

God loves you.  He knows every detail about your life and circumstances.  Not only is He aware of your situation, He controls all of them as well.  Turn to Him in faith; it will be the best decision you have ever made.

 

 

IMG_2417Mt. Carmel is a “holy site” in Israel.  It is one of the first stops on a Holy Land tour for many agencies and tour groups.  On top of this Mountain, just on the south-western edge of the Valley of Jezreel.

On this special mountain top the events of 1 Kings 18 took place.  The great contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal and Asherah. Whose deity was real?

Elijah was in the minority.  He stood alone in a challenge against Ahab’s priests who numbered in excess of 800.  The size of the crowd that came to witness the challenge is never identified, but it could certainly have been sizable.

The ground rules were simple.  Each contesting party was to build an altar for a burnt sacrifice.  The designated priests were to then call on their deity to accept the offering by fire.

The priests of Baal went first.  They went through every plea and dance they could. For hours they begged their Baal to send fire and accept their offering.

After an embarrassingly lengthy time, Elijah began the trash talking.  He urged them to shout louder since their god was likely on a long journey and couldn’t hear them.  Or maybe he was busy with necessary activities.

Finally, after exhausting themselves, Elijah’s turn came.  He simply prayed.  God answered with fire that not only consumed the offering but the water that Elijah had dumped on the offering.  Even the stones which made up the altar were also consumed.  It was a powerful show of who was the real God and which was the fake.

A church sits on this site today.  Situated on the pinnacle of the church is a cross embedded on an original spherical stone.  However, it is now a hemisphere since lightning struck a few years back and split the sphere in half.

It is a powerful reminder not to forget the demonstration of history of who the one true God is.

 

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

 

 

IMG_1287Have you visited the mighty Pacific Ocean?  It is unforgettable.  There is something remarkable about this massive body of water and how it impacts the land that is home for all of us human beings.

Countless people flock to the shores of the saltwater expanse.  They play on the beaches, marvel at the power of the shifting currents, take advantage of the teaming life below the surface and find an incomparable respite every evening when the sun sets with a unique masterful display of color.

There is something else about the ocean that leaves a mark on our human memories.  Along the shores, up in the hills are the vestiges of another power common on the ocean.  It is the wind.

Temperatures shift and start the air moving in powerful layers from one direction to the next.  God set this in motion with the creation of the world, currents not just in the waters but also in the air that keep alternating directions.  It is the wind.

Tall fir trees with trunks gnarled, bent and twisted by the constant blowing of the winds stand in groves along the coast.  They give me pause. Each one has stood against the threats to level them. Storms and daily pressure have left their mark but the trees still stand.

The scars and wounds add to the beauty of the fauna that decorate the hills along the edge of the Pacific.  It is amazing that they have survived.  While many gaze at the vast oceanic vistas, I for one turn away and soak in the scenic sculpture created by the winds and the strength of life in the trees.

This forest of trees almost appears as an army of sentinels slowly making its way to the sea.  The onslaught of the sea winds have taken their toll on the tree features and come to a truce.  Each force standing at the edge of the battle lines respecting the right of the other to be present.

The ocean coughs up its winds and the trees bend their boughs.  Yet, the roots grip tightly to the soil and will not release further ground.  It is a scene of power and persistence.

God created this dynamic picture of life.  Nothing is static when it is truly living.  There is always growth, always movement and always change.

Keep on living and keep on with growing.  Change as necessary.  But, hold on to what is important.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

IMG_5337Spring Break should be a special time of adventure and relaxation for two hard-working teachers. But, this year my bride is burdened with the preparation of her state certification exam and I was in middle of preparing our federal tax returns.  At least I had an ace in the whole.

For the first time since moving to Houston we were going to the Rodeo.  It is billed as the Largest Rodeo in the world.  This claim is one that I have means or interest in validating.

I just reserved our tickets and looked forward to attending.  My time on the internet got us ready with transportation plans via the shuttle system, free parking and discounts on food.  What I could not plan was the weather.

Rain was the forecast for the day we had tickets to the Rodeo.  The precision of this forecast was amazingly accurate.  It poured on this gathering of folks.

Getting into the stadium was a relief just to get out of the rain and dry off.  We were soaked to the bone and thought that a repeated venture was not too favorably received.  But, the show began and our interest was piqued.

The announcer was in fine form.  He was clearly connecting with people who knew about rodeo.  At the same time, he also formed a bond with all of us newbies.

He introduced a rodeo tradition.  It was the Grand Entry.  All of the participants rode out into the stadium and received a rousing ovation from the crowd.  70,000 people were beginning to fill the seats.

Leading the way into the stadium was a trio of riders.  One queen carried the American flag.  Another the flag of Texas.  Yet a third the Houston Rodeo flag.

Once the great cast of riders reached their spots amid great music and fanfare, the announcer introduced the Invocation.  One of the participants prayed for God’s blessing, His protection and presence and with gratitude thanked God for His wonderful blessings.  He prayed this all in Jesus’ name.

There was no apology, no hesitation, no explanation, no equal time for false religions or any protests.  It was all done in stride.  Faith in the Almighty God was a part of the lives of people at a rodeo.

Then the National Anthem was sung.  Everyone stood.  All of the men removed their hats and caps.  People sang with their hands over their hearts.  There were no protests, complaints or apologies.

God, Country and Family.  These three values are embraced and proudly promoted by the Rodeo constituency.  I like Rodeo!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_4761The beginning of every new semester is packed with familiar routines.  Alarms go off early in the morning.  Lesson plans fill each of our rolling bags.

As two teachers our minds are racing through the highlights for the day.  Particular students are on our prayer lists. Specific skills dominate our intention as we think about the teaching process for the day.

A full day of teaching and engaging the lives of our students drains us both of our energy.  Each of us glances up at the clock several times, looking forward to the end of the day.  Our second wind for the semester has not yet kicked in.

I picked her up at her school.  Gratefully, we merged into the High Occupancy Vehicle lane.  The sluggish rush hour traffic for tens of thousands of Houstonians were standing still to our right while we whizzed along at a very comfortable pace.

The routine commute home was relaxing and welcomed.  But, the remarkable display that lifted our spirits was stunning.  We drive west, so the sunset is a part of our journey home.

The long tiring day was now forgotten due to an emblazoned sun splashing massive sunbeams through the clouds.  Like a torn curtain unleashing light across the shadow of the ending day, the sun’s beacons reminded everyone that the One who made the earth could dazzle us all with a free display.  Was it a divine wink?

Maybe instead of a wink it was a flash of His smile.  Perhaps He wanted to remind us all that our tiring busy day was in fact a purposeful blessing where He wanted to touch the lives of others through us.  Can you imagine that our lives can be the answer to someone else’s prayers?

God smiles when we serve and obey Him.  Our defining moments of a productive day may in fact be touch points of eternity for someone else.  Now, that thought can make me gaze at a sunset and smile back in return.

If life is not about us but instead being a blessing to others, then our days have been lived well.  With the end of each day maybe instead of breathing a sigh of relief, we can smile as we review the lives of people that we had the chance to touch. Today when you end your day, lift up your eyes and take in a sunset of day lived well.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_4503Sometimes we question our eyes.  That really can’t be true.  Someone must have set that up to fool us.

If a natural phenomenon occurs in nature but we just are not used to seeing it, we stare in unbelief.  When a wonder of creation invites us to examine it, we gaze and observe.  Then, we process what we are witnessing.

My ATV was in park. I had to stop.  The vision of the rock formation was so unusual. IMG_4542

It was large.  Yet, it looked like a giant child had a building block set and put together a few stacks of boulders and left to set what else might capture his fancy.  Boulders that had no other reason to be resting on the edge of another stone, ready to fall off and tumble-down to the earth looked like someone perched them there just to smile at the travelers who would stop and stare.

The formation was both majestic and symmetrical. Against the bright blue Wyoming skies its orange, rust and white colors gave a picture of a delicious dessert following a feast of a meal.  Smooth surfaces belied the effect of the wind and waters that beat against it for centuries.

IMG_4564On the ground were the turning aspens of the Autumn.  Deciduous trees gave green highlights setting off its sandstone neutral colors.  Lifeless tree trunks and skeletal tree trunks splayed their empty branches and limbs towards the sky etching a history that the harsh weather would take life as well as entertain it.

Some time when no human eyes or ears could witness a change, the wind, water or shifting of the earth would send some of those boulders tumbling to the ground below.  The sound of a small avalanche would echo in the woods.  A few animals would tense, flee and rest easy soon after.

The stones will stop rolling.  Dust will settle back to the ground.  Then, the shape of the formation will be altogether different.IMG_4567

Change comes slowly to rock formations.  God has assigned different changes to take place at different times.  No one can stop change from happening.

Life is like that.  Each day there are small shifts.  Eventually, a significant movement scatters all of the possibilities.

As life moves on, so change makes each day develop according the plans of the Almighty.  The result is amazing.  Other see and wonder how it all happened.  For followers of Jesus there is a simple smile and response, “It is the will of the Creator God.”

photo credit: brucefong photography

FullSizeRender-1No one likes drab.  Color makes a splash that gives zest to life.  But, overuse opens the way to appreciate a moment when color is gone.

The landscape in Wyoming is stunning.  Vast open spaces capture the imagination of any human being who pays attention to life on the prairie.  There is so much expanse to take in.

Erase the color when those grand moments come and something eye-catching emerges.  Shapes, shades and proportions take front stage when the photoreceptors of our retina do not have the stimuli of our cones and rods picking up colors.  We are left with the wonder of a different kind of emphasis.

Memories of ancient books and stories come to mind.  People who had their voices draw a picture and fill in the breadth and depth of yarns told to the imagination of hearers.  Images without color beckon hearers to join in the drama and fill-in the palate with their own choices of color.

Or the story keeps its focus on the life lived without the aesthetic wash of wonder.  Movement, ease and linear lines keep a picture simple.  Depth is very much a part of this kind of rendering.

Patterns of a tree that is denuded could be a frozen path of lightning across the sky.  Gnarled bark lets texture shine.  You FullSizeRender-2can feel the rough exterior of the skin of a tree just by gazing at a picture that depends on shading and shape.

The tree has lived for years giving each bend, every twist and all branches a moment to tell a story.  Wind storms, drought and snow have each left scars and tears on this living mass.  History cannot be revised by modern observers.

Instead, for the initiated and observant a map leaves sign posts to trace the past development.  Like a freeway through the portal of time moments of terror and times of plenty are all a part of a life of a tree.  It blends into the grassy ground and reaches unashamed into the sky.

Then, God blazons the sky with the constant burning of the sun.  Powerful rays rain down light, warmth and splendor on the Wyoming grasslands.  Whatever for a moment seems ugly in a tree that no longer boasts life, its skeleton still calls for attention.

Color is not always necessary.  At least the option of this world in moments without it gives us pause to think different thoughts.  Still there is beauty just as the Almighty does everything beautifully.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_3094The airlines moves tens of thousands of people every day.  They must have allowances for hiccups in the schedule.  If I can I like to slip through the system before a hiccup swallows me up.

Rats! Hiccup!  My connecting flight got me to Denver EARLY!  We were so early we had to wait on the tarmac for our gate to open up.

During our wait my phone vibrated quietly.  There was no human being on the other end of the line.  Instead, a text message announced that my last flight had been delayed.

There is a hollow feeling that comes with this kind of notification.  Admittedly, I frowned like a kindergartener who hears that recess has been delayed due to the weather.  That is where most of us learn to deal with disappointment, eh?

Adding an hour and a half to my travels was not too bad.  A casual lunch in the airport would take care of that unplanned stretch of time.  My sauntering through the airport was aimless and clearly without any hurry.

God never hurries, right?  He is never surprised, correct?  If my theology serves me correctly He is always right where He needs to be when He wants to be there.

If I am to be godly, then I guess I can roll with some of the punches of life’s little annoyances too.  Too bad life is not as simple as that.  One piece of unexpected news is too often the beginning of several more pieces.

My phone vibrated again.  Another delay was posted for my plane.  Then, another adjustment came.

By the time four changes had been announced, the host at the airport came on live.  There was something nice about that.  A real human being announced that my flight had been cancelled.

At the customer service desk, no one was smiling.  All of the agents wore a stoic face.  They looked like veterans of many wars.

My agent booked me on the last flight of the day to my destination.  I asked, “What happened to my plane?”  “It had mechanical problems.”  “Well, I don’t want to get on that plane at any time.”  She stared at me and laughed!

She gave me a dinner voucher.  That was nice.  I will get to where I am going eventually.

Worrying does not help.  Anger does not work either.  Patience can serve others just at the right moment with the right kind of elixir.

 

IMG_4436It is my greatest pleasure to work every day with a team that is dedicated to their task of Seminary higher education.  Everyone knows their job and they do it with excellence.  They know that I know that we are still asking a lot of our people because any special events call for extra effort on all of us.

Once every two years we add our Fund-raising luncheon to our calendar.  It is an enormous effort to rally friends of DTS-Houston to gather for a meal and program.  Of course they all know that they are coming to respond to an ask for donations.

The planning for this gala event calls for site selection, menu choice, program keynote speaker, student testimonies, audio-visual technical staff, equipment and the list goes on and on.  At the heart of the event are our donors.  These very busy and often-asked-to-donate-to-worthy-causes are the stars of the event.

When the day of our latest gathering finally came we were feeling that deep inside wonder, “Will it go well?”  That is when prayer keeps on working while the planning is all done.  We trust in the LORD our God for His amazing favor on all that we do.

I stepped into the banquet room that was totally decked out.  It was gorgeous.  The design team and service staff at the venue were superb.

Our Advancement team executed their professional skills with great precision.  They are so organized that even the threat of a problem disappears like a mist on hot Houston summer’s day.  The guests arrive and the excitement begins.

Timing is critical.  Everyone on the program is briefed about the clock.  A designated staff person is given authority to keep the schedule as priority one.

We call everyone together and dedicate the event to God in prayer.  When the “Amen!” is spoken, silverware clinks on delicate porcelain China.  Conversations around the table pick up temp and volume.

After five bites of food, I step on to the stage and direct the program.  It is electrifying to report the good news of God’s favor on DTS-Houston.  Record enrollment, new faculty hires, new staff hires, impressive library growth and the potential for world-impact ministry bring rousing applause.  Our speakers knock it out of the park.  People are spell-bound, tearful and deeply moved to respond to the ask.

Everyone who planned and prepared were spent.  The joy of that event was at a special zenith.  There is no place on earth I would rather be than here at DTS-Houston.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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