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IMG_1402We have guests coming to our home soon.  All of us are getting into the Christmas spirit.  Our fault and staff along with their families are converging on our home to celebrate this very precious season commemorating our Savior’s birth.

My wife and I are incredibly busy so neither of us can wait until the last minute to decorate and set up to entertain our nearly 40 guests.  Days in advance I have mapped out the errands that need attention.  Each day I knock off a chunk of that list.

High on that to-do schedule is setting up the Christmas tree.  It is a long-process.  Yet, without the tree everyone would know that something is missing.

Over a week ago I was in the closet pulling out from storage our decorations.  The tree was in a box.  That tree has been set up and taken down in three different states of the Union.

Each time it has been surrounded by joy and cheer.  It is a part of this favorite time of year.  So many symbols and memories and reminders of the reason for the season is represented on this central decoration.

I fluffed up each of the branches.  Once the tree was presentable I decked it with a multi-colored string of lights.  The lights were tested and approved.

The garland added color and sparkle.  Ornaments made us reminisce over the years of happiness and great memories that have passed by.  Special people, amazing moments and deepening love are all a part of what those ornaments point to.

Of course the tree topper is a climax.  Over the years we have had different tops to finish off our tree.  But, we often favor the Precious Moments angel.  She smiles down on all of our guests as they fill our home with more laughter, cheer and memories.

Love is a big deal this time of year.  Sure, it takes a lot of planning and effort.  But, that is all lost when I stand back, turn off the lights in the house and turn on the lights of the Christmas tree.

A moment of pause fills my spirit.  Smiles linked with special people ooze into the night.  Our musical clock chimes out a Christmas carol.

Love dominates the moment.  Family and the devotion of treasured ones rises to the surface of life.  Warm embraces will soon come.  It is all about love from family and friends so close they are family.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

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Anticipation grabs the human soul like no other electrifying experience.  So, I played it cool when we boarded the plane in anticipation of spending time with our first granddaughter, our second grandchild.  Everyone took their turn while I gave my attention to my I-phone.

Eventually, just as I suspected, someone asked, “Do you want to hold her?”  I looked up surprised and acting detached and other-worldly occupied, “What? Oh, sure.”

This little life was carefully handed over to me.  She was so tiny.  The warmth of her little body felt good in my arms.

With attention I cradled her in the crook of my arm and caught her in the palm of my left hand.  There was no weight to this little package.  It wasn’t long before I melted into her world.

Her soft breathing made me sigh with joy.  Carefully I took her little hand in between my finger and thumb.  The tender skin, perfectly formed appendage broadened my smile.

It was natural to rock the newest member of our family.  Gently I hugged her.  Then I kissed her.

Babies smell so good.  They wiggle in grasp of their grandfather.  Surely, they love the comfort of protection, affection and admiration of their favorite relative.  It is instinctive.

In this small world between granddaughter and grandfather, the other people around us faded away.  Now, for all time a bond was forming that would be everlasting.  Nothing could break was being established at this moment.

I was falling in love with another human being with whom I have not yet had a single intelligible conversation.  Nevertheless, no one would dispute its reality or its beauty.

There is nothing comparative about a Grandfather’s love for his grandchildren.  Love is never about such small distractions of others.  Instead, Grandfathering is only about concentration on the blessings in the arms at the time.

Favorites are not allowed when love is completely pure, unselfish, giving and overwhelming.  We who wear the badge of Grandfather can’t be bothered with attention hived off to total strangers.  Love is fully devoted to a the little life at hand.

That’s what the touch of a granddaughter  will do.  It melts the strongest of men, the most accomplished of me into a bowl of gelatin ready to be molded into whatever this little life desires.  That’s why God created little ones with little fingers; just the right place to wrap Grandpa around.

photo credit: KJB photography

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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Financial investors know how important it is to start saving and placing those precious finances into income-earning locations.  Parents and grandparents know how important it is to invest as well.  They start young lives with the joy of reading.  Books introduce the world of imagination, learning and life about the world in which they will live.

My first grandchild is two this year.  As the day drew to a close and washing up had been completed, he gathered his blanket and an armful of books and ran into my arms, climbed into my lap, curled up so that he was comfortable and then he pointed to his books, gesturing for me to read to him.

He buried himself deeper into my hug.  I picked up the top book and opened it up to the first page.  These board books are fun to read.

Colorful characters and simple stories with clad truths make it fun.  Even though I have never read these books, it was easy to put in a lot of expression and emphasis.  The meaning of the lesson became more and more clear as I read to my grandson.

There were easy moments for me to ask him to point to colors, animals and objects on the page.  He was participating and no doubt learning while he snuggled in my embrace.  It was my first time in the role of grandfather reader.

I was relishing the moment.  This has been a dream to invest in these little lives this way.  I could introduce him to so many wonderful ideas and reenforce some of life’s most important values.

In brief well designed books, I taught my grandson about friendship, initiative, community, helpfulness and loyalty.  He learned about telling the truth, honesty and industry.  He will need these qualities when he lives his life among people who are not so helpful to others.

All during the reading I was thoroughly enjoying the cuddle moment.  My grandson curled up and tucked himself in a comfortable position, inside Grandpa’s embrace.  It was a special moment.

He is young but I hope that the love that we shared will always be a part of his life.  It will for me.  Reading and books and grandfather’s bonding time are treasures.

Did someone read to you in your childhood days?  Do you remember going to a library in your youth?  Classic novels probably still leave memory moments in your mind, right?

photo credit: KJB photography

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There is an insatiable appetite among humans.  No, it is not about food or possessions or achievements.  Neither is it about money or position or power.  It is about grandchildren and the unending joy that they bring to the experience of a grandparent.

We have been overwhelmed with the love that is generated in our hearts for our first grandchild.  He lives 2,000 miles away and makes for rare hugs and kisses during the year.  Yet, the fountain of desire never ceases.

Now, we have been ready and eager to welcome our first granddaughter into our lives.  She was not like her brother who came five weeks early.  Instead, she pushed the limits of her due date and made her grand entry just two days before her designated day for her birth.

I have not yet met her in person.  That will happen soon.  So far it has been text message announcements, videos and of course pictures sent through cyberspace.

Yes, the objective observer no doubt sees a newborn picture is like every other newborn picture.  But, through the guys of grandparent, the view is much different.  This child is perfect.

Like an angel sent directly from God to bless our family, we celebrate the stewardship of this precious life and welcome her into our hearts.  The love is welling up in a reservoir waiting to be lavished on this little life whenever we can make the pilgrimage to her home.  In eager anticipation we look forward to filling up our grandson’s life and our granddaughter’s life with all that good grandparents are supposed to give.

How can we be so much in love with another human being with whom we have not yet met and one with whom we have never exchanged a single word of a conversation?  This is the mystery of grand-parenting.  It is a wonder yet it is clearly an indisputable reality of life.

When God designed grandparents, He used that season of life as a reward for parents who restrained themselves from murdering their teenagers.  The tough years are washed away as if they never occurred.  This blessed bathing of the human memory is not unlike the greater picture of the redemptive story by our Savior.

So much is washed away by a single act of selfless love.  Grandparents know this dynamic.  It is a reason that we stretch the theology of “angels” and apply it to newborn grandchildren.  Don’t you think this is a great way to stretch a Biblical metaphor?

photo credit: Bailey photography

IMG_4304The movie theater is a Houston refuge.  When the summer months descend on our city, the temperatures soar.  We have learned to take refuge in places where the air conditioning is always guaranteed.

Sometimes we go to the Mall for a walk.  Hordes of people have the same idea.  There is always plenty of parking.

Other times we do our grocery shopping.   For some reason we linger in the refrigeration area.  Even when we do not have to buy any frozen goods we open a door and pretend to be doing some shopping.

When the legs tire we hold out for the movie theater.  Our Senior status makes it an affordable option.  The air conditioning is always on.

Often the Texas way is to walk into a theater with short sleeves and shorts.  But, it is wise to carry a light jacket or sweater.  Yes, it is so cold that Texans go in to put something on.

This time the lights dimmed and the movie The Hundred Foot Journey was showing.  The plot is the adventure of an Indian family who trying to find a new home after they were burned out from bad people in their home country.  It is the father’s patriarchal extra sense that is leading them.

Their wanderings in search of a new home take them to England, Switzerland and finally to France.  It is the life in the flavor of abundant ingredients that keeps them in a small French village.  There they acquire a neglected restaurant and start their business.

Unfortunately, right across the street, a mere hundred feet away is an upper scale French restaurant.  The widowed owner is famous for her one star establishment.  Competition between the two establishments is the tension in the movie.

The talent of Hassan is finally acknowledged by Madame Mallory through painful admissions marred by arson, open impediments and social friction.  Yet, the melting of the cold feelings is the delight of the story.  Enemies become colleagues.  Colleagues become allies.  Allies become deep friends.

Success puts the spotlight on one.  Those who are left behind settle for the best that they can do.  But, love draws the family back together.

Love fills the kitchen.  Joy comes with the love.  You can taste the delight that climaxes the reunion.

The future is bright.  Laughter and achievement abound.  The third star is aptly deserved and appropriately settles in as part of the blended lives of these who treasure amazing taste.  It is an excellent film.

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

 

Disney World 2014 078Disney World is a special treat in and of itself.  We dreamed of visiting this theme park for years.  The savings started years ago to make our dream a reality.

Finally, we booked the tickets, set aside the vacation days and anticipated the vacation.  I emailed our travel agent countless times building this dream trip for our simple lives.  Planning the trip was a big part of the excitement.

In that planning stage I was introduced to the the Disney website.  One of the features on the site was ordering a welcome gift that would be delivered to your room.  It would be my secret for my bride.

Scrolling through the options was like most online options.  You could buy a gold plated Rolls Royce with a Mickey Mouse hood ornament or a candy bar with a Donald Duck sticker on it.  The range was limitless.

Winnie the Pooh caught my eye.   It was in the price range that I could afford but more importantly, my bride likes these cute little characters.  Furthermore, the gift came with a number of balloons and we could deflate them when it was time to board our airplane home.

The agent on the telephone was so friendly.  She was careful to get all of the details and rehearsed the delivery date and location.  I was looking forward to the surprise when it welcomed my bride to our dream vacation.

When we walked into our room after a night out with great friends, the welcome gift was sitting on the side table.  All of the balloons were inflated and dancing in the air conditioning breeze.  Pooh topped the piece with his indomitable smile and cheery eyes.

On another helium floater, Pooh is hugging little Piglet.  The first balloon was terrific.  Both Tigger and Pooh are trying to squeeze some joy into Eeyore.  It is a lost cause but their efforts are part of the cheer.

My bride not only liked it, she loved it!  She sat for posed pictures with this special addition to our journey.  Through the night and several days after she smiled at the pictures of her bouquet and thanked me long after the first presentation.

Simple gifts filled with color and unexpected but attached to inner delights sure make great memories.   I had the job of deflating the balloons on our last day in Orlando.  Once flattened my bride took over to fold each balloon neatly into a package for transport home and into our world of nostalgia for years of reliving.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_3562There is a tree in Israel that everyone knows.  It has a name that stops conversations, bows heads, infuriates the righteous and saddens the majority.  Everyone knows the Judas tree.

Of all who walked with Jesus and all of us who are following Him today know the name Judas.  It stirs feelings of disdain in all humans.  Even those who are outside of the faith know the dastardly deed of the most infamous of traitors.

After two thousand years of history no one has surpassed Judas in recognition of the worst of betrayers.  When trust and love are given in bountiful doses, he turns on his benefactor and betrays Him for 30 pieces of silver.  No one believes that any amount of anything justifies betrayal, but mere monetary gain makes a despicable deed even more repulsive.

Life is difficult for most of us.  Each one of us has our own story of excruciating pain that came from a betrayal.  It is the kind of life experience that takes a chunk out of our hearts.

Israel 2014 IFL 386Warm tears soak our pillow at night.  Nightmares of imagining the hideous gossip, slander and conspiracy efforts of these wicked people tear into our minds.  It is impossible to escape the surprise moments when this pain resurfaces at the oddest moments.

Yet, there is relief.  The haunting of these who hurt us can be made impotent.  No, those people never change.

Instead, we can change towards them.  Jesus showed us the way.  He forgave Judas and all those who turned on Him.

The ignominious death of our Savior is a portrait of how ugly sin is.  Judas’ betrayal triggered this awful event.  How could someone turn against pure love?

Yet, for every betrayal in all of our collective lives we have felt a small dose of that personification of evil.  The hurt is unimaginable.  Discovery of this kind of vicious human wickedness is shocking.  Trying to describe the abandonment, the astonishment or the bizarre nature is for want of words.

We see it.  Our mouth turns up in frustration.  Our head shakes in disgust.

Betrayal when only trust and love have been given is the worst of sins.  Have you trusted someone who went behind your back and conspired to betray you?  Did you get blindsided when a trap was sprung by those that you thought were in your corner?

See this tree?  God understands.  He has felt that ugliness and is ready to bring you the salve of His grace and mercy.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 


DC 2 110That day thirty-seven years ago was a massive blessing that would grow into enormous proportions.  Over three decades later and closing in on four our wedding vows launched us on an amazing adventure together as husband and wife.  Together we committed ourselves not only to each other but to our Lord and His calling of ministry.

We packed up all of our earthly belongings and loaded it all into my 1973 Toyota pickup truck.  It was the basic model.  The transmission was four on the floor with no radio or A/C.

It would be 18 hours of driving from Hayward, CA to Dallas, TX.  Without air conditioning the trip would seem to be much longer, much much longer.  We melted together in that searing Texas heat and humidity.

Nevertheless, our last year at Dallas Theological Seminary was one of our best.  We grew spiritually as individuals and blended together as a couple.  Memories and friendships became foundational for us.

Over the next three decades we lived the adventure of being shepherds of God’s people, training those whom He called into ministry, traveling overseas for the rigors of theological postgraduate education and reveling in the joy of ministry on a personal scale with people from all over the world.  Three amazing children joined us on the adventure.  Together we laughed, cried and rejoiced through Oregon, Scotland, Michigan, California and back to Texas.

Two of our children found spouses who loved the Lord, our last child finished his graduate school, Yvonne completed her Masters degree, a grandchild was born and we loved and wept our way through several family pets.  Our legacy in five children are scattered throughout the West.  My bride and I are honored to be in Houston.

The seminary that trained me for ministry brought me back to be a part of its leadership team.  Team Houston is the second campus of Dallas Seminary.  I serve here as the Dean.

My bride and I live in Katy.  Together we soak in the Texas mystique.  We have downsized our lifestyle as couple to match living on the other side of the hill.

Whatever God wants we are pleased to do.  Wherever He has sent us we have gladly gone.  Whatever burden or trial we were called to bear, we trusted Him without balking.

37 years of blessing is a long time but it promises me that He will give us more years to come as we keep on walking in total obedience and immediate obedience to His leading.  Happy Anniversary, Yvonne!  I love you!

photo credit: brucefong photography

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