Pop Pop Epistle #71 – About Poop

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Dear Grandkids,

I have noticed, especially with the grand-boys, that there seems to be an inordinate obsession with poop. Admittedly, poop is worthy of our conversation and often is the subject of funny stories and jokes and is familiar to everybody. I mean, let’s just go ahead and say it… everybody poops. But are you aware that there is a very interesting creature that has taken poop-fascination to an exponential level?Shamwari Wildlife

The dung beetle it would seem has one purpose in life: to collect dung. When they come upon a pile of dung they begin creating dung balls which they roll away from the pile – to keep their magnificent find from being plundered by other beetles. They can roll dung balls up to 50 times their weight.

Beetles generally work as couples. But usually it is the male that rolls the ball, with the female hitch-hiking or simply following behind. In some cases the male and the female roll together. When a spot with soft soil is found, they stop and bury the dung ball. They will then mate underground. After the mating, both or one of them will prepare the ball as a birthing bed. When the ball is finished, the female lays eggs inside it. When the eggs hatch, they feed on the dung.

I’m not making this up.

So what life lessons are to be learned from these architect’s of the poop domain? Here are a few that come to mind:

1) Like the dung beetle, are we fulfilling the purpose that God has created us for – with as much diligence and tenacity?

2) And like the dung beetle, are we investing our lives in the collection of  “dung” – stuff that really isn’t worth a poop.

3) Are we willing to share our “dung piles” with others – the stuff that we have worked so hard for – or do we hide it away for our own enjoyment only?

4) What do we hunger for – dung and more dung? Or do we hunger for the kind of food that will feed our souls?

Paul said this in Philippians 3:8: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them like dung (literally this is what the Greek says) that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own… but that which comes through faith in Christ.”

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop
(which at least one of you has mis-spelled “Poop Poop” on occasion)

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Pop Pop Epistle #70 – About Sunset Beach

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Dear Grandkids,

1987.

That was the year that our family starting spending a week together at Sunset Beach, NC. There have only been a few years that we have missed this annual tradition. It started with Nona’s parents and their kids and grandkids. So your parents have lots of memories at Sunset with their cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. Just to name a few that you can ask them about sometime:

  • Uncle John games
  • Lindsay’s poop story
  • Scott’s trip to the ER
  • Walks to Jellyfish Bay
  • Sardines
  • Rock Candy
  • Calabash Seafood
  • Putt Putt
  • Fun on the sand and surf
  • Finding pencil shells
  • Pushing Tucker off his bike
  • Aunt Jeanne freaking out
  • Family meals
  • Screened in porch talks
  • Tucker’s poop story (Outer Banks not Sunset)

We are keeping the tradition alive and hope that in 15 years you will have lots of shared memories of your own that you look back on and laugh together about. The pictures below were taken 25 years apart – 1994 and 2019. A lot has changed in 25 years – but we cherish the memories and find great joy in our love for one another and the times we get to spend together.

 

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Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #69 – About 8/1/81

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Dear Grandkids,

It was 38 years ago today that Nona and I got married. I’m sure that seems like a long time to you but for us it is a blink of the eye. August 1, 1981 began an awesome journey that I am grateful for everyday. I am blessed beyond measure to be married to your grandmother and hope that one day you find a helpmate as perfect for you as she is for me. There were also lots of memories leading up to our wedding day that I will tell you about sometime. Here is a poem I wrote and then read at our rehearsal dinner – it alludes to a lot of these stories.

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Memories of Love
Now that we have waited for this very special day
We can’t help but to consider memories –
Those times that we remember that have taught us how to love,
Those times which often brought us to our knees.

I remember on that first day when I looked into your eyes
And I wondered if that sparkle might mean love.
I could feel myself get flustered when I thought about your smile
But I wasn’t sure exactly what it was.
And I remember two weeks later when I tried to hold your hand
But I wasn’t sure the time was right to act.
You can’t imagine how much faster my heart began to beat
When I squeezed your hand then felt your hand squeeze back.

And oh how I remember the first night that we kissed
When that minstrel played that melody for us.
We had wined and dined for hours on ice cream and beignets.
And yet it seemed that we would never eat enough.
(So we ate until our bellies nearly bust).

Now those were the beginnings when our love was being made
Though we really didn’t know what love could be.
Somehow we were prepared for those rocky roads ahead
And now that brings back other memories.
What about the first trip you made back to New Orleans
When it seemed that we had only grown confused;
Yet when you left we realized that if love was to last
It would have to be a love that was pursued.

Do you remember all those times that year  we had to say goodbye
And I wasn’t sure that I could handle all your tears;
They made me want to smile since they were prompted by your love
Yet I could sense your face was often wet with fears.
And then there at the beach when we almost let love go
That was the first time that you ever saw me cry.
But now when I think back to the prayers I prayed that night
I realize that’s the night that love survived.

When you went off to school that Fall I knew I had to follow
So our love might finally have a chance to grow.
I spent three months in Raleigh getting turned down for a job,
But I learned some things I thought I’d always known.
And now we come to Christmas when our love fell into place,
But I remember those two times I almost choked.
I was nervous when I asked you if you’d like to wear that ring
But I was really nervous when I asked your folks.
Then I went off to Boston and you stayed here at home
But we both knew that we had to take that chance;
And when it all was over and we both were home to stay
We knew our love was much more than romance.

So now we stand before the alter and I take your hand in mine
And we begin our life together in God’s will.
We have a lot of hopes and we have a lot of dreams
But we know there’s nothing love cannot fulfill.

So now that we have waited for this very special day
We can’t help but to consider memories.
Yesterday is not forgotten, but tomorrow is our hope
As we look forward now to all that love will be.

“As we look forward now to all that love will be.”  When I wrote that 38 years ago I had no idea how prophetic it would be. There are 38 years of memories wrapped up in that one line that I will tell you about in future epistles. Memories that tell a great love story. And you are very much a part of that story.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #68 – Happy Birthday Keller

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Dear Keller,

CC807F04-0852-4D82-91B0-14FD6CB75AFEThis may be the only Happy Birthday salute that you get from someone out of the country this year. Sorry I am not there to see you on your birthday but as you know I am on mission with a team from our church in Eastern Europe.

We are working at a camp with about 100 students from around the country – many of them who have never heard nor responded to the gospel. Our mission is to try to build relationships and initiate conversations. We hope these will lead to an opportunity to tell them about our Savior Jesus and how He went to the Cross, offers forgiveness of sin, brings about reconciliation with God the Father, and gives them hope not only for this life but for the life to come.

My hope and prayer is that you will always live your life ON MISSION. You do not need to go out of the country to do this. You can do it wherever you are because wherever you are there are going to be people who need the hope of the gospel.

I hope that you have an awesome 3rd birthday. I will be praying for you as you celebrate with all the people that love you. Nona has been instructed to give you an extra big hug from Pop Pop. I will see you in a few days.

 

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #67 – About Apollo 11

CTPP3

Dear Grandkids,

There are a handful of historical events that have happened in my lifetime that I remember exactly where I was when I heard about them…

  • I was in the living room of Nona’s home in Kernersville, NC (before we got married) when the US Olympic Hockey Team defeated Russia  in an epic cold war victory that shocked the world.
  • I was coming out of a theatre in Gloucester, Massachusettes when I heard that there had been an assassination attempt on President Reagan’s life in March of 1981.
  • I was in my office in Raleigh, NC when I heard that the Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded in January of 1986.
  • I was in my office in Durham, NC when I heard that OJ Simpson had been acquitted in the “Trial of the Century” in October of 1995.
  • I was sitting in the parking lot in front of the post office in Durham when I first heard about the 911 attacks in September of 2001.

But the first major historical event that I remember where I was happened 50 years ago today when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set step on the moon in July of 1969. I was at the beach with my family (and extended family) as we gathered around the television to watch “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I had just turned 11 years old and I remember staring up at at the moon and thinking “there are people walking around up there.” It was a crazy thought.

In July of 1962 President John F. Kennedy declared that the United States would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. It was a bold, audacious declaration that he followed up by saying:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

As you grow up I hope that you will NOT be content to take the easy path. Do hard things! Make bold, audacious choices! Choices that might seem crazy to most people but, because you follow the God who makes all things possible, you are willing to take risks and be daring and act courageously.

I am looking forward to watching how the Lord uses you in the years to come as you pursue a life of faith and take the path less traveled by.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #66 – About The Tour de France and The Running of the Bulls

CTPP3

Dear Grandkids,

This week our church has been doing Vacation Bible School and our theme has been “The Incredible Race.” We have been talking about how there is only one race of people – the human race – and one color of people. All of us are really just varied shades of brown depending on how much melanin we have in our skin. God created us to be an incredible race of people whom He has demonstrated His love to in an incredible way – by allowing His Son Jesus to go to the cross and restore a relationship between us and God that had been devastated by sin. The idea is this – because God has shown His love to us in such an incredible way then we also ought to show love to other people – even if they are a different shade of brown – in incredible ways.

But while there is only one human race there are two spiritual races of people: those who make up the people of God and those who don’t. We get to choose which race we want to be a part of.

Interestingly, there are two races going on in Europe this week that help to illustrate this choice.

1) The Tour de France – This bike race takes place primarily in France over a period of 23 days. There are 21 legs of the race which cover about 2200 miles overall. It is a race that takes commitment, determination, and perseverance. It is a beautiful, exhausting, grueling race that bikers want to quit many times along the way but take incredible joy in crossing the finish line once it is over.

2) The Running of the Bulls – This is a race that takes place in Pamplona Spain several times during this week that is basically for idiotic people. Here is what happens: Long-horned bulls are released into the narrow streets of Pamplona and people run in front of them while while trying not to get gored by the bulls.

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The Tour de France is a good illustration of what the Christian life is like: Exhilarating, exhausting, beautiful, terrifying, challenging, daring, breathtaking. It is not for the weak nor the uncommitted nor those who like the status quo. It takes perseverance and resilience and a stout heart but results in unsurpassed joy for those who endure to the end.

On the other hand…

In The Running of the Bulls people are doing the very best that they can just to stay ahead of pain, mutilation, and death. Yes there is an exhilaration to the experience, or so I am told, but the cost of running a poor race could be fatal. One of the interesting aspects of the race is all the spectators who seem to take great delight  in watching the bulls claim victims along the way. Why people even want to run in this race is something I don’t understand. Like I said, it seems idiotic. But this is often the way of life that people choose. They hope to have a thrill or two along the way and survive without too many scars to show for it.

Two choices my grand-kiddos. Two races. Choose well and…

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #65 – About Mosquitos and the Glory of God

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Dear Grandkids,

I have often asked myself the question, “Why in the world did God create mosquitos?” They are pesky little bloodsuckers that cause me lots of irritation and itching. But they are also responsible for about one million deaths worldwide each year as the vexatious culprit of malaria, dengue, zika and West Nile virus, and yellow fever. So it is a valid question. I am not sure I have  a great answer to the question but there are a few things that I have recently learned that might help you the next time you try to kill one of these meddlesome varmints.

Mosquitos were a part of creation and way back in Genesis 1:31 the Bible says that “God saw everything that He had made and behold, it was very good.”  In God’s perfect creation, the animals were given “every green plant for food” (verse 30). So mosquitos as well as all creatures were wholly vegetarian. There was no need for them to bite humans or animals for blood.

The need for mosquitoes to prey on humans resulted from the Fall and the curse that followed. The world changed drastically with the entrance of sin. Romans 6:23 tells us that the “wages of sin is death” and mosquitos have certainly been used by God to bring about this fatal consequence.

  • Did you know the male mosquito never consumes blood. It is only some females that need blood to aid them in egg production?
  • Did you know that female mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs at a time?
  • Did you know that there are 3500 different species of mosquitos?
  • Did you know that mosquitoes play an important part in various ecosystems? They are a valuable food source for fish and migratory birds. They also serve as pollinators for various plants.
  • Did you know that a mosquito can drink up to three times its weight in blood?
  • Did you know that mosquitos hibernate?

So here are my three takeaways as I rethink the question, “Why did God make mosquitos?”

  1. There were originally good but now are being used as instruments in the hands of God to deliver the consequences of sin to a world that has forsaken Him.
  2. The are important in helping to maintain many ecosystems and play a positive role in sustaining many species of plant and animals.
  3. They are yet another reason why we as believers should yearn for That Day when God will restore all things and make creation good again.

In all three cases we can declare that mosquitos are formidable agents that advance the glory of God.

But that doesn’t mean that I have to like them.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle # 64 – About Alaska

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Dear Grandkids,

Nona and I just got back from our cruise to Alaska a few days ago. We had 3 days up in Denali and then 7 days on the Coral Princess cruise ship along with 14 other friends. It was a great trip for many reasons but not the least of which was seeing and being awed by the Lord’s creation. Here are just a few pictures that won’t even do justice to how spectacular  it was in real life.

Remember this: The whole earth declares the glory of God. You can see it in the awesome beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. You can see it in the faces of the people you see everyday. You can see it when you look up at the stars each night. You can even see it in some of the most unlikely places or things if you look hard enough – like in mosquitos. I’ll tell you about that in my next epistle.

In the meantime, look around and be awed by all the creative ways that the Lord displays His glory.

And never forget that you are very loved!,

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #63 – Happy 2nd Birthday Asher (and the 1960’s)

CTPP3

Dear Asher,

A very happy 2nd birthday to you.

The world was very different when I was two years old.

The year was 1960 and the craziness of what many people consider the most tumultuous and divisive decade in history had not yet kicked in. The world, and our country in particular, would look very different by the time 1970 rolled around.

The history books will tell you as much as you want to know about some of the significant events of the ’60s: The Cuban Missile Crisis. The assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The assassination of Martin Luther King. The Civil Rights Movement. Vietnam. The Apollo 11 landing on the moon. The Beatles. Woodstock. Helter Skelter. The Black Panthers. Etc.

But what the history books will make little mention of was probably the two single most influential decisions that have been made in the life of our country that are still having far reaching and disastrous effects. In June of 1962  the Supreme Court voted  to remove prayer from our public schools and they followed that up in 1963 with a mandate to ban Bible reading.

These two decisions effectively set the tone for the morality of our country for the last 50+ years. We have been in a downward moral spiral ever since and it is only going to get worse.

So here is what I want to say to you about that.

The Supreme Court can keep public schools from having institutional prayer and Bible reading but it can’t keep you from praying and reading your Bible. Prayer and Scripture are two of the things that God has given us as believers to help us stay close to Him. When you stop doing these two things you will inevitably move away from Him – just as our country continues to do. If you want to maintain your moral compass in a world where that compass no longer exists then read, ponder, and abide in God’s Word and spend time talking with (not to) your Father in Heaven.

May the Lord fuel you with an ever increasing desire to know Him better.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #62 – About Helen Keller

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Dear Grandkids,

In June of 1968 I turned 10 years old. I moved across town from one house to another in Aiken, SC. I started 5th grade at a new (to me) school (Aiken Elementary). I left behind one set of neighborhood friends and met a new set. I had surgery to remove a swollen lymph gland from the side of my head. My folks were divorced and my dad lived 60 miles away. There was a lot of upheaval in my life that year – but nothing compared to the upheaval that our country was experiencing.

1968 was a very bad year for the United States. Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated. Robert Kennedy, who more than likely would have won the presidency, was assassinated. We were in the middle of the Vietnam War, the My Lai massacre took place, and the anti war movement was at its height. Richard Nixon was elected president in November and that initiated 6 years of political disaster.

And Helen Keller died – 51 years ago today at the age of 87.

In case you are not familiar with her, Helen Keller was blind and deaf from infancy. And yet she became an accomplished writer, lecturer, and international advocate for the disabled. She graduated cum laude from Radcliffe and in 1964 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Lyndon Johnson.

Keller was famously taught how to speak and read by Anne Sullivan. The first word that she learned was “water.” She later described the experience this way: “I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free.”

There was a time many years ago when I was in many ways like Helen Keller. I was spiritually blind. I was deaf to the words of Scripture. And my sin had disabled me from enjoying a relationship with God – a relationship that I had been created for. And then when I was 17 my soul was awakened when I placed my faith in Jesus. I saw the light. I experienced hope. I found joy. I was set free. Jesus said in John 7:37-38…

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

May you also thirstily drink from the fountain of living water and find soul awakening refreshment by believing in the One who died so that you can live! (see Pop Pop Epistle #52 for a few other thoughts about this living water)

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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