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FullSizeRender-3My cellphone was right on time.  Yup, I set the alarm clock to start ringing at 530AM.  A short two night respite in the country had come to an end.

Now, meetings, appointments, errands and projects waited for me back in the city.  On our campus people would be buzzing with activity.  This was an “all hands on deck” kind of event as we celebrated our new campus.

Sometimes I stack my calendar with day after day filled with activities.  This was one of those weeks.  Nevertheless, in the middle of the week I creatively squeezed two nights in the country.

Yes, it just means that I order myself to relax.  “Now, relax!  Start to unwind quickly before time runs out!  Hurry up!”  It’s comical, unrealistic yet the reality of the life l live.

My routine to get to reenter the faced paced life of my role at the seminary was about to kick in again.  I expressed my gratitude to my hosts, loaded my gear and drove out the gate of their fabulous ranch.  My sleepiness was tugging at my eyelids.

Down the country road for a short distance blended me on to a State Highway.  Traffic was non-existent.  Fog shrouded the landscape and turned everything into a monotone.

My radio kept me company.  Memories of the last few days played out in my mind.  Then, a morning hope became my entertainment.

The distant Texas sky exploded out of the low-lying fog.  A monotone world was shattered with splendid vibrant colors.  Our sun with its signature blazing ball was creeping over the horizon.

Now, it was show time for the Creator.  He put this drama into motion when He made this world.  The physics, the astronomy, the aesthetics, the life, the sensation are knitted together for a daily spectacular show for anyone to enjoy.

A sunrise wipes away the fear of what the day will bring.  There is a power and size in His presence all too magnificent to ignore.  We at least naturally grin and the pleasure and reminder of His display that He is still in charge.

We humans worry too much and trust too little.  He still invites us to warm up under His generous grace and relax with a touch of His mercy.  Step more lively into the day as He welcomes us into His care.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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I stopped and looked at the gorgeous morning of a new work week.  It was Monday and my responsibilities were piled high in my computer inbox.  But, I stacked the deck in my favor before the diligent work began.

First, I hopped on my bicycle and wheeled through my neighborhood.  The temperatures at 630AM are welcoming and pleasant.  Meteorologists predicted that the warmer weather would grip our city with 100 degrees in a matter of hours.

Right now just as the sun is climbing its perch to scorch our city, I was taking in the 71 degrees and allowing my legs to burn off some energy and get my blood circulating freely.  My lungs were inviting me to stretch their capacity.  Keeping ahead of all of the physical limits was my smoothly beating heart.

Houston never allows a July morning to be anything but predictable.  Humidity was stripping away the ease to breathe and feel cool.  Sticky weather was starting to fill up every cubic foot of air space.

Sweat was pouring down my face.  It dripped off of my chin soaking my helmet strap.  A good spot lay ahead and I paused to rehydrate.

Now, the sun was making its grand appearance.  It was a welcome sight this early in the morning.  The quiet pool reflected the light and enhanced the beauty of trees, shadows and puddles in the pond made by hungry fish looking for breakfast.

Tranquility and peace marked this stop.  Cool water reinvigorated my tired body.  But, this was home, my neighborhood.

A smile crept across my face.  For a brief moment, although surrounded by thousands of neighbors and even more commuters getting ready to flood the streets, I was alone.  Serenity was mine to claim and I was relishing in the thrill.

I climbed aboard my road bike, wiped the sweat from my brow, checked my time and knew that I could easily make it home for a shower and then the commute to the office.  God had reminded me that when I take a moment to reflect a His good Word that I had read before my ride, let Him hear my personal worship on the road and relished in what He would privilege me in doing in the hours ahead, then the day, even a Monday, was going to be a grand day.  Do you like Mondays?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Houston commute sunriseThere is never a repeat or warm up or left-over sunrise.  Like snowflakes there are never any two that are identical.  Instead, each one is a unique combination, a mysterious blend that spreads the picture around and makes each one tailor-made for that particular day.

This time it was not only the colors that were sensational, it was also the perimeter features that made the sunrise pop out of the horizon. It was not only about the colors but it was also about the clouds in the sky.

Do you see the contrast?  God gives the sky texture.  The clouds are close by but the sunrise is a long way off. The light of the morning is overtaking the clouds that ruled the night.

The world was once shrouded in an uninviting frightening stillness of aloneness, abandonment and anxiety.  But, it is quickly dissipated.  It is diluted to the point where we wonder how we ever were fearful or hopeless.  Life is just like this.

Someone may have hurt you deeply.  Your sorrow was unrelenting and excruciating.  Inside you were about ready to give up.

Yet, something gnawing in your soul urges you to press on.  A light glimmered in your spirit reminding you that God was still there.  When people failed you, God was powerfully present and He chased away the darkness.

Once the light comes you feel rejuvenated.  Courage was restored.  Those who had done their worst were no longer capable of doing any more.

It is time.  Get up.  Dust yourself off.  Wipe away your tears.  Leave those who have done evil behind.

God is not finished with you yet.  The truth has kept you buoyed up and now that the night has expired you are still standing. Yes, there will be other tough moments in life.  God has told us that trials will come.  They are designed for correction or edification.  Maybe there will be a little of each.

Whichever the case God does not hurt for pain’s sake.  He is ready to lift you up and carry you along. God is about blessing not hurt.

When my day starts and a gorgeous sunrise greets my commute into the office, I receive it a testimony of God’s greatness personalized just for me.  You can do the same.  Every sunrise is new, different and big enough for all who will accept it.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderWhen my alarm clock starts its gentle marimba tune, our bedroom is very dark.  Our human activity kicks in and we share our bathroom to get ready for the day.  Like preprogrammed robots we move about the house with a well-planned and well-rehearsed routine.

While it is still dark outside we load our vehicle and start our 40 minute commute.  We travel down I-10 and join 100,000 other vehicles who are also starting their day.  Our journey is so much easier than so many since the two of us qualify for the High Occupancy Vehicle lane.

All of the vehicles have their headlights on.  At this early hour it is like driving at night.  There are plenty of street lights but having lights on is a safety measure so that others can see us.

But, the night never lasts forever.  Instead, as certain as we are about life’s most important standards and guarantees, a sunrise is going to happen.  When it shows up, it will chase away the darkness as if it was melting butter on a hot pan.

The sky first becomes lighter.  Shades of grey appear as if the sky is being diluted from its pitch black domination. Then, on the horizon there is a beacon of orange light.

Our commute is progressing well while the show on the horizon stage is unfolding.  There is no stopping it now.  Day is on its way.

Grey skies burst into an orange pallet of brilliant color.  Fiery red blazons the horizon.  Rays of yellow blast out from where the sun is moving with deliberate unhurried speed.

When darkness shrouds a spirit to hang with gloom and doom, the light is overpowering.  Hope is restored.  Smiles have a reason to emerge with determination.

Headlights from so many vehicles no longer dominate the scene.  Instead, every driver, even the grumpy ones, have to gaze to the horizon and at least appreciate it if not mentally breaking out into a happy dance.  The Creator who repeats this performance with grand elegance never charges a fee.

Can you imagine?  The most splendid show is absolutely complementary.  Seating is never a problem.

When life gets tough and circumstances get rough, remember how you began your day.  Love the promises and the truths that are wrapped up in the grandeur of that stunning light show.  God did that to remind you that He is real, He is here and His love for us is unending.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderEach time God moved me from one ministry to the next I made the same petition through prayer.  I asked God to give me a love for the city and direct my steps to encourage others and impact the lives of people. Now, He has had me here in Houston for three years.

Our prayer was the same.  When my bride and I drove in from the West, we asked God to give us a love for the city.  As time has progressed we are falling in love with Houston more and more.

Each day as I began my hectic schedule I pray again that He would direct my steps to encourage others and impact the lives of people in this fastest growing city in the USA.  Over 2,000 people move here every week.  The prosperity of the state and the flourishing business climate of Houston attract thousands.

Some of the largest churches in the nation are here in Houston.  They span denominational lines as well.  When attendance exceeds 2,000 we all stand amazed!

Now, each morning my bride and I make our commute into work.  On one of the off ramps we are often greeted with a great view of the Houston skyline.  It reminds us to pray for and love this city where so many people reside.

In the greater metropolitan area 6 million people call this city their home.  Truly this massive population  represents a great field that is white and ready for harvest.  The Gospel is not just a fad for people who concentrate on talking, this is a place where the Good News is shared and lived out.

As the sunrise lights up the city, I rehearse my duties.  People fill up my calendar.  Students, colleagues, visitors and guests are spaced apart from each other’s appointments so that I can give them the attention that their interests deserve.

His brush strokes are colorized, better than the real buildings of colorless concrete and dull building materials.  It is as if the Creator is blessing the city with a touch of His creative hand that man cannot come close to matching on his own.  That contrast is fine by me.

A new beauty is ready to bloom in our city.  When the Father decides to bless our city with a special touch of His gracious hand, Houston will forever be changed.  Lives will take a new eternal course and the new life in their hearts will spread to family, friends and colleagues all because of love.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRender-1This special and favorite topic has found its way in my writings many times.  It is my favorite time of day.  Sunsets are great but if I am forced to choose, I would cast my ballot for a sensational sunrise.

When the morning breaks, long before the sun rises I smile and often mouth my greeting, “Good morning, Lord!”  It is a reminder of grace.  No matter what we failed to do the day before or how we might have messed up or the wrong choices we made, we get a “do-over” with every new day.

When it is time, an agreed departure moment on the clock, my bride and I load into our transportation machine.  It fires up on command and moves at adjusted speeds just like it was designed to do.  Soon we join tens of thousands of other commuters on the asphalt arteries leading into the city.

Darkness fades.  Other vehicles and buildings along the way come into view.  Dawn is upon the city of Houston.FullSizeRender-3

Yet, like so many mornings, the rising sun announces its coming with a warm up act.  The horizon glows as if a massive fire is spreading across the sky.  Brilliant colors mix in perfect harmony not according to fashionistas but according to eternity planned schemes of the spectrum of light.

Yellows, oranges, reds and purple blend into each other.  All during our route into our destinations, the sky is brightening up.  Like the climactic lever controlling the lights on a stage, a masterful performance takes over.

This is not about what is to come.  No one rushes the presentation.  There is no hurry to finish this show.

FullSizeRenderNor is there ever a boredom because of familiarity.  A repeat is never identical.  Shades, shadows and sparkle are always in different proportions.

It is impossible to be bored with something that is new every morning.  The variety defies human understanding and results in human marvel.  Beauty from the hand of the Creator never ceases to stir the wonder of the created.

The sunrise is the beginning of every new day.  Every sunrise is a marvel of God’s creative hand.  Each one is new in shades, combination and sensation.

Capture the soulful joy of every new day with a one-of-a-kind sunrise.  Each one is tailor-made for what the Almighty has customized for the day for everyone who draws breath to live one more day. Bask in His reminder that He starts the day, rules the day and ends the day.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderGetting up and getting going to depart for our workday commute takes a lot of gumption.  There is the inevitable magnetism of a comfortable bed that is tough to escape.  The ease of staying put all curled up and tucked in is very inviting.

Nevertheless, will power and responsibility win the day and soon we are washed up, fed and loaded up for our 24 mile commute.  Rolling into traffic reminds us that we are glad that we did not procrastinate.  Already, traffic beginning to build up.

The vast majority of Texas drivers are polite and safe.  Usually, there are a few who got up late and are in a big hurry.  They take advantage of everyone else as they zip in and out lanes.

So, the rest of the courteous drivers, shrug their shoulders and drive on to their destination.  Maybe that is why the Lord blessed so many of us with a sensational sunrise.  It began slowly but steadily.

In the East there was a glow on the horizon.  Someone could have mistakenly thought that a massive fire was lighting up the sky.  In some ways the sun is a fire-ball but off of our planet and orbiting in space far away to keep us from burning but close enough to provide light and warmth.

The Creator was amazing in the proportions of distance and angles to best show earth how His design was stunning.

With more and more miles falling behind us, the glow ahead grew and splashed against the dark sky of the receding night.  Like the dismissal of an undisputed champion, the night is not even missed.  Instead, the crowds of commuting humans have to smile at the free light show that is capturing the skies.

Bright yellows lick away the night.  Then, glowing oranges take the broad brushstrokes of the low hanging clouds.  Reds trim the front assault of the orange strokes.

There is nothing human about this display.  Everything about it is heavenly.  Both in expanse as well as in dynamic shifts the hand of God shows off His creative display.

For all that we commuters tolerate for the sake of life and duty, we do get this occasional treat.  The Texas skies seem to be prepared canvas for the intricate creative strokes of the Almighty.  It both takes your breath away and gives you a reason to keep on breathing at the same time.

photo credit: brucefong photography

FullSizeRender-3For a little time the big city is hundreds of miles away.  Instead of horrific traffic, jam-packed calendar and unexpected problems that needed solving I could relax and rest.  The venue for this renewal of my spirit is Wyoming.  People are fewer and further between than the bustling metropolis that I call home and make an honest living.

Here the airport closes at 8:10PM. Wild animals graze right on the city limits. People smile and nod a greeting to you in the local variety store even though you have never met.

The sounds of a small town are different than the city. Here you can hear yourself think. The conversations that you have with other people are carried on with mouth and ears.

In the morning I got up early. I wanted to see the sun rise. It was splendid. Colors and hues modified by the minute.

Rays from the rising sun chased away shadows and promised warmth for every living creature. Like a spotlight that was caressing the landscape of the vast Wyoming plains, the sun pulled back the curtains of the night showed off what the Creator had done here in this gorgeous state.

Off in the distance are the Rocky Mountains. They are majestic even at this great distance. Snow caps all of the ridges and peaks that stand like a great wall daring anyone who really wants to go West but at their own peril.

High plains desert unfold in front of me. This vast land invites all sorts of wild creatures call this cave a home or that valley a place to forage for food.   The racing sunlight pours over the plains making shadows dance, leap and finally disappear.

The sky turns bright blue. A multitude of cloud variations scamper across the heavens. The wind kicks up and shows us why Katharine Lee Bates penned the words, “For amber waves of grain.” It literally looks like the grasses are like a seas of moving waves.

Breath deeply for a moment, hold that breathe of fresh air and then release it. A smile invariably follows after you exhale. God did something special when He made the expanse of the earth.

The Creator must have spent extra time here in Wyoming during Creation. It is a splendid place to remember how big He is and how small we are. If life is weighing you down, take time to look up and see what He has so incredibly made.

Photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_3343My body shivered.  It reminded me that the morning in the desert in February was chilly.  Since I was sitting down there was no movement to warm me up.

I zipped up my jacket a bit tighter.  It helped.  Then, I pulled my hood over my head and snapped it up.  That helped a lot.  Whoever designed these jackets knew how to retain body heat for just this kind of moment.

A coyote howled.  It was not that far away.  Then, another one joined in the chorus.   It was a pack of carnivores within a mile of where I sat.

I do not speak coyote but their song sounded like a victory yelp of a successful hunt.  A pack of desert dogs had their morning meal and they were celebrating.  After they were done filling their bellies, flocks of buzzards would make short work of any leftovers.

Birds began chirping.  Doves began cooing.  The swift whoosh of the wings of a powerful owl moved quietly through the night.  No doubt he was returning to his daytime refuge.

All the signs of the sunrise were moving like a mighty vanguard to usher in a new day.  But, this moment was more than just about the morning.  I was looking for something far more tangible.  I wanted to get rid of the shivers.

Then, the horizon lit up like an orange splash of color.  Shapes in the desert were given definition.  Textures of cactus, mesquite and grasses surrounded my chair.

A whitetail buck appeared out of the scrub and stared at another competitive buck.  They did not know I was there.  I did not move a muscle.

Each handsome animal pawed at the ground and grunted at each other.  Then, a bigger, more powerful buck stepped into the arena.  It stared at each of the younger pretenders.  Just as quickly, the dominant buck moved off silently, quickly into the brush.

The orange and red sky had bleached away, swallowed up by the bright blazing ball of the rising sun.  It was now a stunning orb in the Eastern sky.  However, the beauty of and grandeur paled in comparison to the warmth that it was showering down on my morning watch.

I unzipped my jacket.  Then, I pulled off my hood.  My legs crossed and I welcomed the comfort that the sun had offered.  It was going to be a grand day.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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