Pop Pop Epistle # 179 – About December 5, 1945 and the Devil’s Triangle

Dear Grandkids,

Have you ever heard of the Devil’s Triangle?

Wikipedia says, “The Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil’s Triangle, is an urban legend focused on a loosely defined region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean where a number of aircraft and ships are said to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances.”

Urban legend or not some weird things have happened in this geographic area over the years. For instance, 77 years ago today, on December 5, 1945, five U.S. Navy Avenger torpedo-bombers comprising Flight 19 took off from the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station in Florida on a routine three-hour training mission. After having completed their objective, Flight 19 was scheduled to take them due east for an additional 67 miles, then turn north for 73 miles, and back to the air station after that, totaling a distance of 120 miles. They never returned. A search and rescue aircraft was sent out to try to find them. It was also never heard from again. A total of 27 men lost their lives as a part of this urban legend. (Source: This Day in History)

Whether there is in fact a geographical Devil’s Triangle remains to be seen. But I have no doubt that there is a spiritual Devil’s Triangle that many men and women have been sucked into and have lost their lives as a result. maybe you can remember these as the 3 “D”s of the Devil’s Triangle:

Discouragement of the Saints – The devil has a plethora of schemes up his sleeve to try to discourage believers. It might be “unanswered” prayer. Or losing a job. Or strained relationships. Or health concerns. Or any number of other things that the enemy of our souls might use to keep us from courageously resting in the Lord and finding our satisfaction solely in Him and NOT in the things of this world.

Doubting the Word of God – This has been a favorite ploy of Satan’s from the very beginning. In Genesis 3:1 he says to Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'”  Just by asking the question the way that he did he made Eve second guess what she knew the Lord had indeed said. God’s Word is under serious attack these days and the devil is taking advantage of the secularization of our society to create widespread doubt in the minds of believers.

Destroying the Church – According to Scripture, the Church is the Bride of Christ. What better way to destroy the people of God than to destroy His Bride. And the devil has been doing everything he can to make this happen. Moral failures among pastors, denominational strife, hypocrisy among the faithful, elevation of good works over the preaching of the gospel, fascination with the health and wealth gospel, a prevalence of very subtle false teaching, the adoption of a-biblical sexual ethics, and on and on. Through all of this, however,( as well as the recent pandemic), the Church is being purified and prepared for the Bridegroom to be presented “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:27)

One of the best ways to avoid the Devil’s Triangle is simply to be aware that there is a Devil’s Triangle. And spiritually speaking, it is NOT urban legend. It is in fact quite deadly.

My encouragement to you is what Paul said to his friends in 2 Corinthians 2:1. That you “would not be outwitted by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs.”

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 178 – Happy Birthday Audrey and About Camelot

Happy Birthday Audrey,

On December 3, 1960 – 62 years ago today –  the Broadway play Camelot debuted  on Broadway. It is the legendary story of King Arthur, Guenevere, and Sir Lancelot in the magical land of Camelot.

The legend of King Arthur is centered around a mythical sword known as Excalibur. The legend says that the sword was stuck in a stone and that only the rightful king of the land would be able to withdraw it. Many tried. Many failed. But when Arthur tried it came out easily. He was the rightful king of Camelot. It was King Arthur who ruled Camelot and it was King Arthur who established the Knights of the Round Table.

But it was your Pop Pop who established the Knights of the Cross – of which your dad is a member. When he was 10 years old I wanted to create a rite of passage for him. So I gathered 10 men around him who were tasked with praying for him about one specific character quality each. And I presented him with a replica of the sword Excalibur to remind him to stay true to the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God.

Which he has done!

You are only 5 years old but it will not be that long before you are thinking about meeting a man and getting married. Your Pop Pop’s encouragement to you is to make sure that the man that you marry is a man of the Word. A man who faithfully wields the Sword of the Spirit. A man like your dad.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 177 – Happy Birthday Grayson #10

Happy Birthday Grayson,

Choices!

Life is all about choices.You have already made a lot of choices in your young life. One of the choices that I am amazed by is your choice to read through the Bible this past year. I was awed by your diligence and discipline to see this through. One of the things I often talk about with the college students that I work with is “becoming a man or woman of the Word.” Most of them, who are twice your age, have never read through the Bible. But at least one of them, when I told them what you were doing, has taken up the challenge.

That is one of the by-products of the choices we make. People are always watching. You make good choices and people will follow your example. You make bad choices and people will follow your example. As a 10 year old young man I am very proud of the choices I see you making.

But now you have another choice to make. It is a choice that Nona and I have been looking forward to ever since you were born. It is a choice that we hope you will be as excited about as we are. It is a choice that we think will be very fun and memorable. It is a choice that your parents already know about and are willing to help you think through.

Choices!

So make a choice right now. What one question can you choose right now to figure out what I am talking about.

Hope you have an awesome awesome birthday.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 176 – Happy Birthday Keller and About Soccer

Happy Birthday Keller,

I have been told that you are going to play soccer for the first time this Fall in an organized league. I hope you enjoy it. It is an awesome game and is known around the world as “the beautiful game.” It is also known around the world as football – not to be confused with the football that we Americans play. And it is the most popular sport in the world.

Interesting fact: Cristiano Reynaldo, a footballer for Manchester United, has 470 million+ followers on Instagram – 100 million more than the 2nd place person. That fact alone tells you how popular the sport is worldwide.

The United States was kind of late to the party. Back in the 1970’s when I was in high school it was just beginning to really be a thing. I don’t even remember there being organized leagues in the town that I grew up in. Lots of opportunities to play baseball and the other football – but not soccer. I never even thought about playing the game until my senior year in high school when a couple of buddies invited me to try out for the school team. Because it was still relatively new and because I was a decent athlete, I ended up making the team and being a starter. I played left wing and scored two goals during the season – one with my right foot and one with my left. We played 10 games and managed to win four of them. Can you even tell from the picture below that that is your Pop Pop?

Here are a couple of life lessons that the game of soccer can teach us and that I hope you learn while playing. These are not original with me but they are great lessons to learn…

  • Your character is more important than how good you are
  • It takes no talent to hustle
  • Celebrate the wins but learn from the losses
  • Play smart off the ball
  • Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards
  • Winning requires team work
  • Play with the goal in mind

Each one of these lessons is the beginning of an entire conversation. Maybe after you have played the beautiful game for awhile and experienced them for yourself we can sit down and talk about them. I would love that.

 

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 175 – Happy Birthday Judah (and more Sunset Beach Thoughts)

Happy Birthday Judah,

Every year our family goes to the beach. And every year we take a family beach picture. The picture above is the first time I have used this years picture in my PPE. Even though you are just turning one today, it is the second year you have been in the family picture – because last year we went in September and this year in June. In this pic we get a great look at the back of your head because you were pretty much DONE with picture taking at this point.

Sunset Beach has 35 years worth of memories for our family. (I have blogged about it before: PPE#s 70, 120, and 158)  I hope 35  years from now you are still making memories there with your own kiddos. And 35 years from now Nona and I will be almost be 100 years old. Be prepared to help us walk down onto the beach.

The picture at the bottom of this post is of the grandkids in 1994. Your dad was one of the grandkids back then. You will notice that not much has changed: 1) Holes are still being dug (on the left) and 2) your dad hasn’t changed a bit (on the right).

Here are a few random Pop Pop thoughts as I reflect on our beach vacations and as you move into your second year of life:

Be present – I have to fight for this. It’s easy to not be present in the moment because of looking forward to something in the future. The future will get here soon enough. Those 35 years I mentioned will be here in the blink of an eye. You will create an awesome future by intentionally living in the present and finding joy in the moment.

Make memories – Traditions like Sunset Beach are a great way to make memories. When the 1994 cousins get together they can talk and laugh for a long time about memories made at SB over the years. Sometimes memories happen when you least expect it ( like last year’s Naked Man) and sometimes memories happen when you plan them. And sometimes memories happen when you capture them – like this year’s SB video that your Aunt Christy put together.

 

Invest in family – Sometimes all that investment takes is time. Sometimes it takes money. A week at the beach for our family at SB is not cheap. But the investment is well worth it. It gives all of us a chance to spend extended time together and create shared memories and have lots of unhurried conversations. But there are other ways to invest in family besides a week at the beach. Phone calls. FaceTime. Meals together. Celebrations. Just like being present and making memories, investing in family takes intentionality.

I’m looking forward to 1) being present, 2) making memories, and 3) investing in family later today when we celebrate your one year old birthday party. I will have lots more to share over the years – but I’m already excited about that walk down to Sunset Beach 35 years from now when you help an old man stay on his feet.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 174 – Happy Birthday Asher and About Time Travel

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Asher,

A very happy birthday to you as you begin your 6th year.

I heard a guy speak yesterday who said that his job was to spend time in the future so that he could help people today to be prepared for tomorrow. I thought that was a pretty cool idea. So I just got back from the year 2042 and thought I would share a few things that might help you. You will be 25 years old that year – so what can you expect….

Flying cars? A colony of people living on Mars? Average life expectancy of 125? The elimination of health issues such as cancer or Alzheimers? A Chick-fil-A that is open on Sunday? Don’t know about the first four but I do know that the last one will never happen.

Here’s what I do know. People will still be people. And no matter how much they try to redefine themselves they will still have the image of God stamped upon their souls. And no matter how they try to redefine morality they will still have a sin problem. They will still yearn to be loved. They will still have hopes and dreams. They will still find things to worry about. They will still love laughter and will still be inspired by greatness. They will still find joy in beauty and they will still grieve over loss. People will still be people.

And God will still be God. He will still reign majestically in the heavens. He will still be in control of temporal things – not pulling strings like a puppet master but orchestrating all things towards an end that will ultimately be for our good and for His glory. And because this is true I know that people will still need Jesus whether they know it or not. I don’t have to be a time traveler to know that this is true. It was true 25 years ago. It was true 250 years ago. And it will be true 250 years from now no matter how much the world has changed. Because some things never change.

I also know that in the year 2042 I will be an incredibly proud Pop Pop of a beautiful 25 year old young woman who feels deeply, loves generously and abides diligently in the the Word of God. It’s going to be an awesome adventure.

See you in the future and…

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 173 – May the 20th

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Grandkids,

This is the 5th installment in my series of May blessings. Today also doubles as your Mom/Aunt Mary’s birthday. MAY she have a very blessed and wonder-filled day as well.

May the 20th verse of Galatians 2 remind you all over again what Jesus did for you as well as WHY a life of faith is worth diligently pursuing.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

May the 20th verse of Ephesians 3 empower you to rely on the Lord to do hard things because you know that HE IS ABLE!

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…

May the 20th verse of Philippians 1 fuel you with courage to face life when it is difficult and to do so in a way that promotes the gospel and the glory of God.

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

May the 20th verse of 2 Corinthians 5 energize you to be a peacemaker – holding out a word of hope to those who are far away from God.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

May the 20th verse of Romans 4 prompt you to cling to the promises of God found throughout the Scriptures knowing that they will sustain you to live out an unshakeable faith.

No unbelief made (Abraham) waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,  fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.

And I will let the 20th verse of Hebrews 13 speak for itself…

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 172 – About Winston Churchill and Grit

 

 

Dear Grandkids,

82 years ago today, on May 13, 1940 Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain. And it’s a good thing he did or World War 2 might have turned out very differently. He was the right man at the right time at a time in history that could have pivoted in a very bad direction had it not been for his leadership on the world stage.

He was a fascinating man and I would encourage you to read one of the many biographies that have been published about him (for example, this one).

One of the characteristics that defined his life and led to the incredible influence he had in history was his GRIT.

When you hear about Winston Churchill you generally hear about his inspiring speeches which emboldened Great Britain to “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never… give in.” But you usually don’t hear about the setbacks he had to deal with in his life.

  • Financially – In August of 1929, having finally reached a level of financial independence, he invested heavily in the U.S. stock market. In October of 1929 when Wall Street crashed, he lost virtually everything.
  • Politically – In 1931, after serving his entire adult life as a central figure in the British government, he was not invited to serve in the cabinet. This was a staggering blow to Churchill. He had been banished to the political wilderness. While Hitler was working full-time to build his war machine, Churchill, virtually the only British politician who saw the reality of Hitler’s threat, was put out to pasture.
  • Physically – While touring New York City later that same year, he looked the wrong way while crossing a street and was hit by a taxi traveling at thirty-five miles per hour. The accident sent him to the hospital, clinging to life by a thread.

But the man had grit. In 1931 he was 57 years old. It would be another 9 years before his country would turn to him out of desperation. But he was ready.

Angela Duckworth defines grit this way:

Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals. One way to think about grit is to consider what grit isn’t. Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something. Instead, grit is about having what some researchers call an”ultimate concern”–a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.

James Clear says this about grit…

Grit isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage. It’s about building the daily habits that allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over and over again.

Mentally tough people don’t have to be more courageous, more talented, or more intelligent — just more consistent.

Grit comes down to your habits. It’s about doing the things you know you’re supposed to do on a more consistent basis. It’s about your dedication to daily practice and your ability to stick to a schedule.

And Scripture says this about grit…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Churchill was tagged with the nickname the “British Bulldog”. It was a reference to his ferociousness, tenacity and focus. It was a testament to his grit.

No matter what you might face in the days to come, my prayer is that you will face it with grit – to the glory and praise of God.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 171 – Happy Birthday Miller and About Baseball Stuff

 

 

Dear Miller,

A very happy birthday to you. I love that the theme of your birthday this year is baseball. Some very interesting things have happened on April 27 in Major League Baseball throughout the years and one of them involves me.

1947 – April 27 was Babe Ruth Day at MLB stadiums across America. Babe Ruth. The Sultan of Swat. The Colossus of Clout. The Great Bambino. The Babe was dying of cancer. He had just a little over a year left to live. He had retired in 1935. On April 27, 1947 over 58,000 people crowded into Yankee Stadium to honor the man who many people consider the greatest baseball player in history.

1971 – Hank Aaron became just the third person ever to hit 600 home runs. Babe Ruth and Willie Mays were the other two. Six others since 1972 have also joined the club. But it is still a very elite club to be a part of.

1973 – Rookie Steve Busby, pitching for the Kansas City Royals in Detroit against the Detroit Tigers, walked six batters but gave up NO hits. It was the first no hitter in Royals history. And I was there to see it. We were in Michigan visiting my aunt, uncle, and cousins – and my Uncle Bob, who was a huge Tigers fan, took me to the game.

1983 – Nolan Ryan, pitching for the Houston Astros at the time, struck out Brad Mills of the Montreal Expos, to become the ALL TIME strike out leader, passing Walter “Big Train” Johnson with 3,509 strikeouts. He would go on to strikeout 5714 batters in his career – a record which will likely never be broken.

But even though I love baseball and even though lots of interesting baseball stuff happened on April 27, the VERY BEST thing about April 27 is that you were born. You are only 5 years old but I can already see the Lord’s incredible craftsmanship at work in the masterpiece He is fashioning called Miller William Ferrell. I am so glad that I get to be your Pop Pop and to have a front row seat to watch as the Lord reveals His creative awesomeness in you.

May the Lord fuel you with exuberant joy as you grow up and may His signature be evidenced upon your life as you allow Him to do remarkable things in you and through you.

And never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 170 – About Sweet Gum Trees

 

 

Dear Grandkids,

Perhaps you are aware that Nona hates all those sweet gum balls  – thousands and thousands of sweet gum balls – that populate our back yard. And I know that you are aware that every time you want to jump on the trampoline that these sweet gum balls – hundreds and hundreds of them – must be cleared off before you can jump. I have not been a fan of them either. But for me I think it is because sub-consciously they remind me too much of kidney stones. All those prickly edges wreaking havoc to the inside of my body.

Well, not to worry anymore. As of yesterday our sweet gum trees are gone. We had a great crew of tree swingers, chainsawers, log picker uppers, and yard cleaners, who made them go away. The next time you are over you will notice how much more light is coming into our yard now – and the absence of those pesky sweet gum balls.

As much as we did not like the fruit of the sweet gum tree, evidently the trees have many redeeming traits. (Hang on to that word “redeeming”). Here are a few things that I have discovered…

  • The sweet gum is an important timber tree. It is used to make veneer, plywood, cabinets and furniture.
  • The gum from these trees has been used as chewing gum, to create medicines and salves to cure a variety of ailments, and is as an important ingredient in adhesives.
  • The leaves provide an awesome display of vibrant foliage – you will remember lying on the trampoline, looking up, and noticing the beauty up above us.
  • The sweet gum nectar is used to feed hummingbirds and various other species.
  • And it turns out that even those gum balls provide seeds that birds and squirrels and chipmunks, etc. love to feast on.

But alas, they are no more. I was glad however to learn that they have many redeeming qualities. It is a lesson that we all need to learn about people as well. People can be difficult. And as you grow up you will encounter many people that quite frankly you will not like or enjoy being around. But if you are willing to look hard enough you will discover that EVERYBODY has some redeeming qualities that can be used for good purposes and can advance the purposes of God. Jesus was very good at discovering this in people. Check out Luke 8:26-39 for example and his encounter with a demon possessed man.

And don’t forget either that there will be people, for whatever reasons, who will not like you. But because you have been created in the image of God, you have lots of qualities that the Lord can use for His specific purposes. I know this to be true for you because I have seen it to be true in me.

So the next time you come across a sweet gum ball  – though probably not in our yard – take a minute and reflect on all that the Lord has done for you and ponder how He might want to use you to advance His kingdom purposes.

And never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

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