Pop Pop Epistle # 194 – About Retirement (Part 4) – FAQs and a Retirement Video

Dear Grandkids,

Here are a few frequently asked questions that I get now that I have retired from full time vocational ministry. This is what we tell people…

Will you be moving away from Durham? No. We love Durham and we love our home and we have no plans to go anywhere. Our sons and their families live within 30 minutes of us and our daughter and her family is in Charlotte – just 2 hours away.

Will you still be attending Ridgecrest? Yes!

What are you going to be doing with your time? At least for the near future I will continue to work part time at Ridgecrest – leading the College Ministry and teaching the Wednesday Night Adult Bible Study as well as leading a few of our ministry teams. Linda and I will also continue in our role as Team Chaplains at Chick-fil-A on Roxboro Road. Those 2 things take up a good chunk of my days and 2-3 nights of my week. So far I have found that I have a bit more time for disc golf in the afternoons and more flexibility as other things that I want to do come up.

What is on your bucket list? We have a Utah National Parks/Grand Canyon trip planned for October and then 9 Grandkid trips between now and 2032. When our 1st grandkid was born 10 years ago we started setting aside money so that we could take each of them on a trip of their choosing in the continental US. Our first trip is in a few weeks with Grayson and we are going to San Fransisco – to do touristy things like Alcatraz and Redwoods but mostly to see his favorite football team, the New York Giants play the 49ers.

What are some of your favorite ministry memories? I have GREAT memories of  both the 10 years we spent at Providence Baptist and the 30 years we spent at Ridgecrest. Here is a video that my friend Al Huffman put together that captures some of the memories from the Ridgecrest years.

If I had to describe the past 40 years in one word I would use the word “blessed.” And if I were to add one adverb to that word it would be “incredibly.” But even more so, I consider myself incredibly and bodaciously blessed to be your Pop Pop. I’m very much looking forward to the memories that we will make in the years to come.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 193 – About Retirement (Part 3) – A Values-Driven Retirement.2

Dear Grandkids,

In addition to Legacy Building and Scuba Diving that I shared in my last post, here are the other two values that will drive my retirement years.

The Value of Disciple Making – As followers of Jesus, aka disciples, we are commissioned to also make disciples. This is not just something that pastors are called to do. In a sense, disciple making was a part of my job when I was a pastor. But it was no less a part of my calling as a believer. Most believers think that disciple making is for the “professionals.” Not true. And most believers think that disciple making is not something that they are equipped to do. Also not true.

Disciple making is not rocket science. But there is an intentionality behind it. You have to be willing to be with people. Disciple making is as much about “withness” as anything. Here are a few things that I think go into making disciples – which even believers that are young in their faith can do WITH others:

  • model what a walk with Jesus should look like
  • talk about Scripture together
  • help them grapple with the tough questions of the faith
  • coach them to think about everything from a biblical worldview
  • be available when life is hard
  • help them learn how to fight the enemy of their soul
  • demonstrate grace and authenticity
  • point them to great books

Bill Hull in his book The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ  says, “Discipleship isn’t a program or an event; it’s a way of life. It’s not for a limited time, but for our whole life. Discipleship isn’t for beginners alone; it’s for all believers for every day of their life. Discipleship isn’t just one of the things the church does; it is what the church does.”

I’m hoping that my best years of disciple making are still ahead of me.

The Value of Step Taking – You probably already know that Nona and I walk… a lot. Like, every day. Getting our steps in is important  to us because we know that it helps keep us healthy. We both have step-taking goals that are high priority to us. Often we are out the door and walking the neighborhood by 6 AM – especially in the summer as we try to beat the heat. I’m convinced that we are as physically healthy as we are because of our step taking.

But step taking also has crossover to my relational health. I created an acrostic using the word STEP to remind me of 4 questions I need to ask everyday:

  • S – Who do I need to SERVE today?
  • T – Who do I need to THANK today?
  • E – Who do I need to ENCOURAGE today?
  • P – Who do I need to PRAY for today?

Just asking these questions each day helps me to be as relationally intentional as I am with my health. Sometimes the answers are really obvious but sometimes I have to think a bit. But always when I take the time to think these questions through there are people that come to mind that I need to follow through with. So both physically and relationally, step taking has tremendous value for me.

Legacy building. Scuba Diving. Disciple making. Step taking.

As I move forward with the last third of my life these are the values that will drive my retirement days.

In my next post (and last retirement post), I will try to answer some of the questions that I am being asked when people find out that I have recently retired. Stay tuned.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 192 – About Retirement (Part 2) – A Values-Driven Retirement.1

Dear Grandkids,

I’ve been thinking about retirement for about 5 years. I knew that I wanted to make it to both 30 years at Ridgecrest and 40 years in vocational ministry. Those sounded like good round figures. I also knew that the numbers needed to work. By that I mean the financial numbers. We wanted to make sure that we could sufficiently provide for ourselves for the next 40 years – or however many years we have left on this earth. In other words, we didn’t want your parents (or you) to have to use their resources to care for us. Though we knew that they would gladly do so.

I also wanted to make sure that I had a purposeful retirement. Retirement is not a word that you come across in Scripture. My guess is that retirement is an industrialized nation notion. It is probably a foreign idea to much of the world. So while I don’t mind the idea of retirement I prefer to think of this next part of my journey as non-compensated intentional work for the glory of God. Work was intended by God from the very beginning to be a blessing. And believe you me I’ll take all the blessing that I can get.

A few years ago I established four values that I wanted to guide my life, not just the vocational years of my life. Hence the phrase “values-driven retirement” that I titled this post. Here are the first two for your pondering…

The Value of Legacy Building – Perhaps you know that I am a first generation believer. In other words, I am the first person in my family to become a believer in Jesus. For this reason it has been important to me to establish a spiritual legacy for our family. My hope is that your grandkids and their grandkids and their grandkids are all walking with Jesus and that our family, should Jesus tarry, is having a significant influence for the sake of the kingdom. You are now generation number 3. Nona and I are thrilled to see that our 3 kids have chosen to walk with Jesus and have chosen spouses that walk with Jesus and are raising you to walk with Jesus.

What does legacy building look like in real life? To coin a phrase borrowed by Eugene Peterson, I think it has a lot to do with “a long obedience in the same direction” – (the phrase was actually and surprisingly penned by the famed atheist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche). Legacy building is not flashy. It has to do with consistency and character and integrity, and I hope that you will remember me for these. Yes, there are some tangible things that I am also doing – like these Pop Pop Epistles, Brick by Brick ponderings, creating shared experiences, etc. but those would mean nothing if the other things were not true.

The Value of Scuba Diving – Which is kind of a weird value given that I have NEVER been scuba diving. So what do I mean? Picture a glass bottom boat. As you look through the glass you get a glimpse of some beautiful fish IF the boat driver takes you to the right spot. This is how most people encounter the Word of God. Their experience is dependent on the preacher revealing the beauty of Scripture. He is the driver of the boat.

But what if you got out of the boat and put on some snorkeling gear and actually got in the water yourself. What if your encounter with God’s Word was dependent on your initiative and you were able to seek out the beauty of Scripture yourself. I have been snorkeling and I have been amazed to see the beauty of all kinds of God’s underwater creatures. But snorkeling only allows you to see what is just below the surface. I have been told that if you REALLY want to experience the spectacular artistry of God’s aquatic creation then you need to go deep. You need to scuba dive. Scuba diving requires personal investment.  You have to be coached in how to do it. There is risk involved. It takes time and effort. But there is also great reward.

And the same is true with regard to Scripture. There are incredible discoveries waiting to be found if you are willing to do what it takes to find them. I don’t want to be content with a surface reading of Scripture. I want to explore the depths. I want to see the beauty of God’s Word that can only be seen if I get out of the boat and go “scuba diving.”

I will share the other two values in my next post so that this one does not get too long.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 191 – About Retirement (Part 1) – The Surrealness

Dear Grandkids,


That is one of the words that I have used to describe my retirement so far. It is very hard to believe that I could have possibly been at Ridgecrest Baptist Church for 30 years much less another 10 years at Providence Baptist in Raleigh. 40 years of ministry sounds like a long time and it makes me seem old. And yet, I still feel like the new kid on the block – until I look in the mirror or listen to the noises I make when I try to stand up.

40 years ago Ronald Reagan was president. The Berlin Wall still stood. 911 was a number you called in case of emergency and not a date of infamy. Interest rates were down to 13%. (They had been 18% in 1981). The NC State Wolfpack were NCAA basketball champs. Seve Ballesteros was the reigning Masters champion. And the New York Mets were just 3 years away from their historic World Series win. No one owned a mobile phone. No one had personal computers. And mass shootings were pretty much unheard of.

Nona and I had been married for 2 years and none of your parents had yet to be born. Our “baby” was a beautiful golden retriever named Cassidy. We had just moved to Raleigh from the Boston area where I had finished seminary. We started doing student ministry at Providence as volunteers which turned into an internship which turned into a full time staff position. We did student ministry for 25 years and then as I approached 50 years old transitioned to other staff roles.

I think retirement is a funny word. It generally means that you stop getting paid for a job that you have been doing for a long time. Perhaps you have heard it said, “find a job that you love doing and you will never have to work a day in your life.” My job has never seemed like work. It hasn’t always been easy but it has never seemed like work. I have been extremely blessed to be financially compensated for doing something that I love. What a great way to spend my vocational years.

Fred Rogers once said, “Often when you are at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” Well I am at the end of my vocational years but most definitely at the beginning of something else. Some of that is yet to be determined but I have no doubt that this great adventure of life will continue because of the values that drive my life – which will not change just because I am “retired.” My next epistle will explain what those values are and how they will shape my retirement years.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 190 – Happy Birthday Keller and About The Shamus Adventure

Dear Keller,

Happy birthday #7 my young grandson!

I thoroughly enjoyed our birthday clue hunt yesterday all around North Raleigh. You did a great job deciphering all the clues and getting us where we needed to be.

I have always loved a good clue hunt. About 35 years ago, when I was a student pastor in Raleigh, I started doing a clue hunt all over town for our students. We would load up as many cars as we needed with about 5-6 students and a driver each and send them out in search of their first clue. Which would lead them to the next clue. Which would lead them to the next clue. Usually there were about 10 clues per hunt and the first team back to the church would win an unbelievable prize. There may or may not have been some speeding limits exceeded and mail boxes run over in an effort to claim first place.

When I moved from Raleigh to Durham in 1993 I did the clue hunt for another 15 years until I transitioned out of student ministry. So I have no little experience in coming up with clues to challenge the mind and stump even the most brilliant of teenagers.

We called the clue hunt “The Shamus Adventure.” I picked this name for two reasons: 1) It was a play on my name – I even have some people who call me “Shamus” and 2) The word shamus is a slang word meaning detective. So it just seemed to fit.

Also, one of my favorite genres of fictional reading is murder mysteries – and I find myself trying to figure out the whodunit before all the clues are even revealed. I do love a good clue hunt.

Perhaps this is why I love the Bible so much.

  • In Judges 14 we see that Samson (one of the original Hall of Faith inductees in Hebrews 11) loved a good clue hunt.
  • There are clues throughout the Older Testament that reveal who the Messiah will be long before He even shows up on history’s doorstep.
  • There are clues throughout the Scriptures that reveal how to have a blessed and joy-fueled life.
  • There are clues throughout the Bible that reveal the secrets to good parenting and great marriages.
  • There are clues throughout the New Testament that help us to understand the mystery of why a holy and righteous God would want to adopt you and me into His family – given that we are far from holy and righteous ourselves.
  • There are clues throughout God’s Word that will even help you to navigate the next 15 years of your young life as you deal with lots of challenges and changes.

So maybe you can understand a little better just why I do love a good clue hunt. And I hope that you will always love a good clue hunt too as you are on your own personal Shamus Adventure. Just as you figured out all the clues yesterday I have no doubt that the clues that you find along the way will lead you exactly to where you need to go. And here is your next clue…

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 189 – Happy Birthday Judah and About The Revelation

Dear Judah,

A very happy second birthday to you my youngest grandchild.

For much of your second year I have been studying and teaching the book of Revelation to both college students and adults. Two separate Bible studies. I have been teaching Bible Studies with groups for over 40 years but until now I had never studied this last book of the Bible. Read it, yes. Alluded to it, yes. Preached funeral messages from it, yes. But really studied it, no.

Here are a few of my takeaways and then I will tell you the main point that The Revelation is trying to communicate – which will be very relevant to you as you grow toward and grow in faith.

My Takeaways

  • I was surprised more by what was NOT in it than by what was in it. For instance, you do not find words like rapture or antichrist in the book.
  • The wrath of God’s judgement is going to be horrific – I do not want to be on earth to experience it.
  • The Lord gives chance after chance after chance for people to repent and turn from their sin and turn to Him. He does not want anyone to experience eternal torment.
  • And yet God is fair and just and righteous in His dealings with those who choose life apart from Him. He allows them to experience the known consequences of their choices.
  • The unholy trinity of the dragon, the beast of the sea and the beast of the earth (aka: Satan, the antichrist, and the false prophet) are evil posers who hate the people of God and use unbelievers for their cruel purposes and do everything they can to mock the True Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit.
  • Eternal life in heaven with God is going to be beyond belief in the BEST possible kind of way.

The Main Point

The Revelation was written not so much to give its readers an eschatological timeline but to encourage them to hold fast to Jesus until He returns no matter when that is or how long it takes or what they have to deal with along the way.

And that’s what I want to encourage you to do. Hold fast. I have no doubt that your journey through this life will be full of fun and blessing and happy surprises but there will also be grief. Hold fast! There will be difficulties. Hold fast! There will be troubling circumstances along the way. Hold fast! There will be dark nights of the soul. Hold fast.

Hold fast knowing that the best is yet to come because the point and promise of Revelation is that Jesus WILL come again and transform this world that is infected and infested with sin into a world that unimaginably beautiful and abounding with overwhelming joy.

So hold fast!

And never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 188 – Happy Birthday Asher … A Fellow Voyager

Dear Asher,

North Aiken Elementary
Mrs. Wessinger
Tommy Whitfield
Sandra Fox
The Red Birds

So… you are not the only grandkid of mine in school but you are the first one to GO to school. And it sounds like you had a great year of kindergarten. First grade is fast approaching on the horizon. Those things I mentioned above are things I remember from my 1st grade class: School, teacher, friend, “girl”friend, reading group.

One thing that I would say is that your school has a much cooler name than my school. I love the name of your school – Voyager Academy. Perhaps you already know what the word “voyager” means but in case not here is a definition:

Voyager – “a person who makes a long journey to a distant or unknown place especially by ship or boat.”

People who go on voyages usually have new experiences, interesting adventures, and unexpected challenges. They will meet interesting people along the way. They will experience a wide range of emotions including fear, wonder, joy, excitement, panic, frustration, and sadness.

So even though you are not traveling by ship or boat you are on an awesome voyage as you navigate your way through school, relationships, jobs, following Jesus… and life.

Here are a few Pop Pop tips from someone who has been on a voyage or two in my 65 years on earth so far – and who continues to be a fellow voyager.

  • Figure out where you are going but be prepared for the changes, challenges, and choices you will need to make along the way.
  • Make the journey with people that you love. Shared experiences are so much more enjoyable than going it alone.
  • There will be difficult times along the way. Lots of them. I promise! Embrace them. Learn from them. Let the difficult times cultivate within you a heart of gratitude as they make you so much more aware of the blessings in your life.
  • Make sure that you enjoy at all times the nearness of God. You can only hear God’s voice when you are near to Him. You can only be comforted by His presence when you are near to Him. I’ve heard it said that if you find yourself far away from God, guess who moved?
  • And my last tip is this: Call your Nona or Pop Pop at anytime from anywhere knowing that we will do whatever we can to help you on your voyage. Because we are, after all, fellow voyagers.

And never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 187 – About May the 7th

Dear Grandkids,

Perhaps you will remember that each May I write a “blessing” post for one day of the month corresponding to the appropriate verses in Scripture. Well, it turns out that I preached my blessing post this morning at church. Here are the verses that served as my outline that I preached with you in mind. As an additional bonus this year I have included some action points.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,  which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7)

May the 7th verse of Ephesians 1 bring vitality to your soul as you are reminded of the cross and that redemption, forgiveness, and grace are found only IN CHRIST.

Action Point: Ponder Ephesians 1:3-9 and pay attention to the pronouns He, His, and Him.


“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) 

May the 7th verse of John 15 encourage you to abide diligently as you are daily nourished by the life-giving, thirst-quenching Word of God which in turn will invigorate your prayer life.

Action Point: 30 day Challenge: Pick any book of the NT. John or Ephesians, etc. Read 1 paragraph a day. Ponder > Observation, Interpretation, Application.


“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

“…casting all your anxieties on him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

May the 7th verse of Philippians 4 and 1 Peter 5 fuel you with peace and contentment as you daily rest in and experience the nearness of God.

Action Point: Keep a Gratitude Journal for 30 days – write one thing every day that you are grateful for.


“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

May the 7th verse of  2 Timothy 4 and James 4 energize you to fight valiantly and courageously against the enemy of your soul who desires to steal, kill, and destroy your joy and your testimony and your faith.

Action Point: Memorize 4 “fighter verses” – one per week for the next 4 weeks. 2 Timothy 4:7, James 4:7, 1 John 4:4 (He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world), John 10:10 (The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; but I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.)


“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7)

May the 7th verse of  Revelation 22 motivate you to pursue a life of holy obedience as you anticipate the “coming soon” of King Jesus.

Action Point: Think on this question: If Jesus were to come back tomorrow, what would you need to do to be joyfully ready?

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 186 – Happy Birthday Miller and About The Sword

Dear Miller,

This has been a fun birthday week for me – even though it is your birthday. Nona and I have had Miller time for the last 3 days since your mom and dad are hanging out down in Jamaica with friends.

One of the fun things that we have done along with your brothers is to play disc golf together. I’ve loved our team competition between Team Graybow (Grayson and Bowen) and Team MillPop (Miller and Pop Pop). The alternating shot format has actually made it fairly competitive – with you and me winning the first round and them winning the second round.

And evidently you fell in love with one of my discs – called The Sword. One of my favorite discs I might add. And you kept asking if you could have it. What’s a Pop Pop to do when his grandson asks for one of his Pop Pop’s favorite disc on his birthday? So now you have a great throwing disc called The Sword.

So every time that you throw The Sword I want you to think about this Scripture verse: “The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:17) And what can the Word of God do for you? Glad you asked. Here are a few things that come to my mind:

  • The Word of God will nourish your soul
  • The Word of God will inform your prayers
  • The Word of God keep you from sin
  • The Word of God will bring joy to your heart
  • The Word of God will direct your steps
  • The Word of God will comfort you in troubling times
  • The Word of God will fuel you with hope
  • The Word of God will grow you toward holiness
  • The Word of God will enable you to discern truth
  • The Word of God will strengthen your faith

For all these reasons and more, make the Word of God a part of your everyday life. Read the Word. Ponder the Word. Study the Word. Memorize the Word. Discuss the Word. Pray the Word. Share the Word.

And the next time that we play disc golf maybe , just for old time’s sake, you will let me throw your disc and we can talk together about our love of The Sword of disc golf and our love of the Sword of the Spirit.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 185 – About Jimmy and Vicki

Dear Grandkids,

I have no doubt that as you grow up, the Lord will put people in your life at key times to help you along the way. He certainly did that for me. Let me tell you about one of the most influential couples in my life. Let me tell you about Jimmy and Vicki.

As you know I did not grow up in a Christian home and did not ever enter the door of a church until I was about 14 years old. I started going to the First Presbyterian Church youth group in Aiken, SC at the invitation of my neighbor and best friend Chuck England. It was there that I first met Jimmy and Vicki. They were about four years older than me and by the time I was a junior in high school they were married and serving as leaders in the youth group.

They were the kind of leaders who loved to hang around with students. Over the next several years and on into my college summers me and my friends would spend many a night just loafing at their house, playing games… and watching. They didn’t know that they were teaching us about what a godly marriage looked like.

Jimmy was a runner. Still is 45 years later. He got me into running and even though it was not something I was ever passionate about – fact is, I didn’t really enjoy running – still, I ran. And because I was running when I met Nona in 1979 she started running. And it WAS something she became passionate about and ran for 35 years until I convinced her to start walking with me as we were moving into our older years.

In 1976, I went off to college in New Orleans after high school to study Biomedical Engineering at Tulane University. Soon thereafter Jimmy and Vicki headed to Massachusetts to attend Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. During my junior year in college I sensed the Lord  calling me to vocational ministry and right away they started recruiting me to come up to Gordon-Conwell when I graduated. Which I did. But they didn’t just invite me to come up to the school, they also invited me to come and live with them In Gloucester, MA. I spent one semester with them and their golden retriever Sundance ( and Mary – remind me to tell you about 90 year old Mary and her bathroom song).

Now why do I even mention Sundance? In 1969 a movie came out entitled “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Hanging out with Jimmy and Vicki I grew to love Sundance in particular and goldens in general. Nona will tell you that we had a prenup when we got married that stated that we WOULD get a golden retriever and that it WOULD be named Cassidy. Which of course we did. And of course she loved Cassidy as much as I did.

Jimmy and Vicki introduced me to a lot of the first Christian music that I listened to. Artists like Dogwood, Don Francisco and Keith Green. And it was because I loved Keith Green’s music that  I even met Nona.

When it came time for our wedding on 8/1/81, we asked Jimmy to officiate and because I had no sisters, we asked Vicki to be a bridesmaid. Jimmy was not yet ordained so he could not pronounce us man and wife but we had him to conduct a lot of the ceremony. We then spent our first year of married life in Raleigh before going back up to Massachusetts to finish my degree.

The Lord was putting a lot of the pieces of our puzzle together as only He could. Because I went to Gordon-Conwell (due to Jimmy and Vicki’s influence), Nona and I started attending Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh when we got married (the pastor was a GCTS grad.) And that is where I spent 10 years as a student pastor and began my 40 years of pastoral ministry.

So as I mentioned, Jimmy and Vicki influenced and impacted my life in many ways – spiritual growth, marriage, music, dogs, exercise, and career. They are now living in Black Mountain, NC in their retirement years. Just last week we had a chance to again spend some time with them as they introduced us to one of their favorite hikes – Lookout Mountain in Montreat, NC. You can tell from this picture that none of us look like we have even aged over the last 42 years.

So be on the lookout for people who will have the right kind of influence on your life. I am very grateful for the way that God used these friends to shape and influence me. But maybe even just as importantly, be on the lookout for people that need YOU to be the right kind of influence in their lives.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

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