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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_2928Church was over.  It was a powerful moment in our week when spiritually we were refreshed and charged up for the next six days.  We travel 21.6 miles each way from our home.  Yet, it is well worth the effort.

Worship is stunning.  The sets that the team puts together along with the excellent vocal and instrumental support is outstanding.  Visual accents just make it better.

Updates on all that is happening in our church is encouraging.  So many are plugged in and believe that church is a place to serve to get the most out of our Christian experience.  People around us are friendly, unusually friendly for a church that is so big.

Of course our pastor is fabulous.  His preaching is inspiring, educational and riveting.  His sincere care for those of us in the church family encourages us all.

My bride and I walked out of the evening service feeling refreshed and revived.  After we climbed into our truck, we pointed the nose of our ride toward home.  That is when we were both shocked.

The sky had turned bright orange.  A massive cloud was passing over our part of town while the sun was setting in the West.  From our perspective it looked as if there was just a ribbon of empty sky banded by the thick impenetrable cloud layer above us.

The underbelly of the cloud looked as if it were on fire.  Plumes of smoke capturing the shadows of the setting sun rays created a spectacular image.  This was not just a photo opportunity, this was living color as only the Creator could do it.

The signal light turned red.  I had to stop.  Quickly I pulled out my cellphone, switched on the camera just as the light turned green.  There was on a second to hold up my phone.  I did not have time to frame the shot.  By faith I touched the shutter and hoped to capture a sensational photo.

For the next several minutes we drove into the sunset.  But, the living scene was starting to fade.  As fast as the sunk sank in the West, the colors overhead drained away with it.

The Almighty is so big.  He is huge.  It makes you feel like all of your troubles and challenges are very small by comparison.  That is comforting.  I know Him who made it all and He holds me in the palm of His hands.  It is a very good place to be.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2820We had just finished a wonderful meal at a local eatery.  It had been a very busy week and neither of us had any reserves left to cook the evening meal.  There was not much resistance when the idea of going out to dinner popped up.

It had been a while since we took in the restaurant where we ate.  Each time we liked the food a lot.  We had learned what not to order so our budget would not be blown sky-high.  Sensible choices and our strategy kept the price very reasonable.

Friendly farewells with the staff was followed by a stroll out to our car.  That is when we were surprised.  Outside our steps automatically slowed.  The Western sky was dripping in sunset colors.

Most of the sun was on the other side of the Grand Parkway.  Yet, it was the cause for the night sky exploding with shades of red, orange and yellows.  There was no real focus of the expanse, just amazing colors.

Mixed in the portrait were purples, hues of blue and splashes of pink.  God was putting on a show.  When we paused to take it in we noticed that others were watching too.  Together we were spectators of magnificence.

Streaks of fading sunlight blistered through the sky.  Depending on the layers of clouds fire ignited in different parts of the expanse.  The longer we stood there taking it all in, the Creator kept the showing changing as the sun sank further into the Western horizon.

IMG_2815Then, it was as if someone gave the signal for the climax to begin.  The light show was already stunning but we had not yet seen the Creator in His best form.  Rapidly, speedily, suddenly the sky brightened seemingly by divine command.

If God has a rheostat switch for sunsets then this is what He used.  It was not a bright white light that flash to dilute the colors.  Rather, the colors splashed across the sky engulfing anything that did not have shades of the brighter side of the color spectrum.

Watching this take-over was better than dessert.  It rivaled classic shows on the stage.  This was a live performance at its very best.  The paintbrush of the Master was operating in fast forward.  We lost track of time while we captured the display on digital cellphone cameras.  He is amazing.  This is the One who loves us.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_1636Texas is a very big state.  It is so big that within its borders it has nine distinct ecological regions.  These range from the Coastal Prairies to the Chihuahua Desert Mexican Mountains.

My first foray into the South Texas Brushlands was amazing.  It reminded me of the bush country of South Africa.  I almost expected a herd of zebra to come tearing across the desert sands as we drove down the two lane highway.

The first morning of my stay was greeted with a beautiful sunrise.  Some might look disparagingly at the desert landscape and reject any notion of aesthetic quality, but I saw something very attractive.  The morning was refreshing and invigorating.

IMG_1641Friends in the Midwest are huddled in their homes and bundling up when they leave for the day.  The temperatures are consistent with February and the snow on the ground.  I have the joy of being in South Texas with short sleeves and wiping the perspiration from my brow during the same month.  The morning sky welcomes me to bask in the warmth of the rising sun’s rays.  I am blessed.

The midday skies are laced with a light cloud cover.  It gave us a little shade from the very warm sun.  At the same time it highlighted the mesquite and scrub brush that dominated the grounds.

IMG_1640

There is a drought here in Texas.  It was severe last year. This year there is a respite but still not enough water to revive the land.

Grasses are parched.  Bushes are dormant, trying to survive until the land is replenished with life-giving water.  It looks and feels like a desert.

Nevertheless, there is a beauty in the arid land, especially when you take in the vast skies.  Light plays across the heavens in an ever-changing panorama.  It is fun.

Then, it was dusk.  Brightness dims all around. Shadows grow long.  Cooler temperatures shroud the air and give me relief.
IMG_1642The desert floor begins to fade and the sky commands attention with the contrasts of shape, shades and highlights.  I found myself gazing overhead for long moments.  No one charged for admission to the show.

Cloud formations shifted like an army on maneuvers.  Variations in shades are expanded and enhanced.  Everything on earth grows dark and all eyes naturally shift upwards.

The day is coming to a close.  Up in the skies, the main event was still forthcoming.  Sunset was spectacular.  South Texas skies are amazing!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Good friends invited us out to dinner.  They picked a restaurant that is in a popular area of San Francisco where a number of busy eateries have found a loyal following.  This is one of the attractions of this amazing city, great restaurants.

The meal was great.  Our conversation was also encouraging.  Ambiance is complicated, often defies explanation but is easily recognized when it is present.  It was there that night.

Hours flew by and soon it was time to say “Farewell!”  Our parting was sweet after such a good memory.  Smiles were exchanged as we went our separate ways.

Since this popular location was buzzing when we arrived, it was a challenge to find parking.  That is a San Francisco phenomenon as well.  I started circling the block in ever-increasing concentric circles.

There were precious few spots.  Someone else was better positioned than me to snap those spaces up.  Others wrangled, honked and waved off competitors. 

Like vultures fighting over road kill, someone would win.  Only one would gain the opening spot.  Usually, the first one to stake a claim was given quarter.  Even when doing a three-point turn on a narrow and busy street would be enough of a strategy to gain the upper hand.

I wasn’t in a fighting mood.  Easily I slipped on by and people would duel over a precious parking spot.  Instead, I drove into Golden Gate Park.  There I found several parking spaces. 

It was a three block walk to the restaurant, but it was a beautiful walk.  The park-like setting of this focus of city pride made the walk very pleasant.  I liked the stroll.

What waited for Yvonne and me was an extra special surprise.  As dusk settled over the city, the sunset was a treat.  Amazing cloud formations added to the spectacular scene in the sky.

Light was the show.  Shades of radiant oranges and yellows mixed into an aerial pallet that was breath-taking.  No one could just keep on walking. 

When God shows off His artistic skills in the heavens it is worth a pause.  We stopped just where I had parked.  Looking up we took in the splendor of the Creator’s amazing touch. 

This picture changed as the minutes slipped by.  Shades and hues of color shifted as the sunlight began to disappear.  Beautiful!

We have been blessed to have lived in this wonderful city.  The joys of being here and serving some amazing people will always be with us.  We smiled from deep inside.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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