Pop Pop Epistle #38 – How I Met Your Grandmother (aka Nona)

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Dear Grandkids,

The year was 1979.

– A group called The Bee Gees had the #1 hit at the time
– M*A*S*H*, Dallas, and Three’s Company were 3 of the top TV shows that year
– Jimmy Carter was president
– The Pittsburg Steelers and the Pittsburg Pirates were both World Champions
– A gallon of gas cost 88 cents
– A house that would cost $200k today would have cost $70k then
– Adam Levine, Pink, and Kourtney Kardashian were born that year
– McDonalds introduced the Happy Meal
– There was no such thing as Google or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat or Yahoo or email or the internet.
– No one had a computer in their house or owned a mobile phone.

I had just finished my junior year at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She had just finished her junior year at UNC-Greensboro. Our parents were living 25 minutes away from each other in NC. (My folks had moved to NC after my high school graduation but I was still living in my home town of Aiken, SC.) But we didn’t meet in either NC or SC. We met half way across the country in Galveston, Texas. Here’s how the Lord orchestrated our meeting way out there…

During my time at Tulane I had been involved with an organization called Campus Crusade for Christ (these days it is just called CRU). They offered projects during the summer all over the country where college students would come together for 2 months  to do evangelism and discipleship. Nona had been introduced to CRU by her sister Anne who had been on a CRU project in Panama City, FL during the summer of 1978. Both of us applied to go on the same project – to Myrtle Beach, SC, which was only a few hours from where we both lived. Both of us were turned down. Both of us were offered the opportunity instead to go on a beach project in Galveston, TX. She immediately accepted. I immediately declined.

And we would have never met unless the Lord had intervened in a way that I will never forget. There have been several times in my life where God got my attention in a very unexpected way. This was the second time.

In the Spring of ’79 I was lying on a couch in my dorm room one afternoon after classes and listening to a song by Keith Green when God spoke to me in perhaps the loudest “still small voice” that I have ever heard.  He very clearly said to me, “Go to Galveston! I’m not going to tell you why, just GO!” I was stunned because I had already made up my mind NOT to go. I had already told CRU that I wasn’t going. But I wasn’t going for my own selfish reasons. I had not really consulted the Lord on my decision. Now I was being forced to choose obedience to God or follow the waywardness of my fickle heart.

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One of the 1st pictures of us taken together

So I went. And it was in Galveston that I met this cute little blond gal who loved God and who wanted to serve Him and was willing to put up with my eccentricities. We were both working day jobs – she was a waitress at a pancake house and I was behind the counter at a McDonalds. After work one day we started chatting while sitting outside of the school house where we were lodging. And so it began.

The Lord took us 1150 miles away from where our parents were living so that we could meet, fall in love, and begin our life together. And here we are almost 37 years later still going strong with lots of memories to look back on and lots more still to be made.

So here are a few takeaways that I hope you will ponder as you grow up and grow older:

  • Learn to discern God’s still small voice – He generally speaks quietly. Which means you need to practice a discipline of quietness and solitude to hear Him.
  • Don’t make any decision apart from the Lord –  I almost didn’t meet your Nona because I thought I knew what was best for me instead of Him.
  • Expect the unexpected – God will often drop unexpected blessings in your lap when you are serving Him and following His ways. I did not go to Texas looking for a wife. But that is where God provided for me because I chose obedience.

Never forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #37 – About Your Nona

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Dear Grandkids,

2 weeks ago I celebrated my 60th birthday. Today, your Nona joins me in the 60 year old club. We have been married for almost 37 of those years. Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Your Nona was definitely made especially for me. She is the perfect “fit” for me. She is an awesome wife, mother, and grandmother. I wanted to write down some things about her that you may or may not know – you can ask her more about these some time when you are older.

  • She was born at Baptist Hospital in Winston Salem and then grew up in Kernersville, NC.
  • She had childhood TB (tuberculosis) when she was 2 years old. For some reason she  began asking for a pink Christmas tree at this time but got a pink angel that still adorns our Christmas tree each year.
  • She grew up with a mom and a dad who loved each other, with 2 older sisters that she is very close to, and a beloved dog (a dachshund) named Snoopy.
  • She was a cheerleader for the Kernersville Raiders in the Pop Warner League.
  • She attended East Forsyth High School in Winston-Salem and was the valedictorian of her graduating class in 1976.
  • She was Chief of the Eaglettes – a dance team that performed with the marching band at her high school football games.
  • She graduated from UNC-Greensboro in 1980 and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.
  • She attended NC State University where she received her Master’s Degree in Counseling.
  • She grew up attending Sedge Garden United Methodist Church. She became a follower of Jesus through the influence of her sister Anne while in college. And then began attending a baptist church after we got married.
  • She loves the Lord, treasures His Word, and is continually learning what it means to abide in Christ.
  • She met the man who would be her future husband (that would be me) in Galveston, Texas on a Campus Crusade for Christ Beach Project in June of 1979.
  • She began running that summer when she saw me running and didn’t stop for 35 years – until I encouraged her to transition to walking in her late 50s.
  • She broke her back when she was in college.
  • She worked as a medical receptionist for a surgeon before she became a mom.
  • She loves being a mom. She has 3 awesome kids who have grown up to be 3 awesome adults who became awesome parents themselves with awesome kids of their own.
  • She spent many years meeting with other moms each week to pray for your parents (and the other mom’s kids) – which accounts in no small way as to why your parents are so awesome.
  • She was a stay at home mom until your parents were fairly independent then worked as a school counselor at Carrington Middle School for about 13 years.
  • She just retired from that job so that she has more time to hang out with you and to help your parents anyway that she can.
  • She has generally had good health but was involved in a scooter accident in India in 2011 that has caused some ongoing issues.
  • She has lived in 5 cities: Kernersville NC (1958-1976), Greensboro NC (1976-1980), Raleigh NC (1980-1981), Ipswich MA (1981-1983), Raleigh NC (1983-1993), and Durham, NC (1993- present)
  • She watches very little television but she does love 2 shows: Jeopardy and The Amazing Race.
  • She loves to cook and bake and make Nona bread for you. She loves to work outside in the yard and to grow flowers – especially Iris’ because they were favorites of her Mom.
  • She is meticulous when it comes to details and especially values organization.
  • She is a beach lover (Sunset Beach is her favorite) and especially loves the weeks at the beach that she can spend with you.
  • She considers herself incredibly blessed and lives gratefully for all that the Lord has done for her and in her.
  • Her grandma name for you all came about this way: None of the options that she came up were approved by your parents so as grandchild #1 approached we had NO NAme. So she became Nona.
  • You will notice from these pictures that she is still a stunning woman even in her “senior” years. She has most definitely aged better than me.

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Hopefully you will have a chance to talk to her today and wish her a very happy birthday. I promise that it will be the highlight of her day.

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #36 – My Hezekiah Prayer

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Dear Grandkids,

Today is my birthday. My 60th birthday to be exact. And as I celebrate today I am reminded of how blessed I am to be your Pop Pop and to get to spend these years in my older age with you. I am also reminded of a prayer that I began praying when your parents were about your age now. It is what I have come to call my Hezekiah Prayer.

2 Kings 20:1-6 says this about King Hezekiah, who was about 39 years old at the time.

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life. 

When I was about 32 years old (1990), soon after Tucker was born, I began praying that the Lord would allow me 50 years of life. You see, my dad had died when he was only 42 so I was hoping to live for more than 10 years. I wasn’t trying to be greedy so I only asked for 18 more years. My thinking was this – in 18 years I would turn 50 and Tucker, our youngest, would be 18. By that time I would have had the majority of influence on my kid’s lives as they would be out of the house and making their own decisions by that time.

Fast forward to June 14, 2008. 18 years later. My 50th birthday was an awesome day. Not only did I celebrate half a century of life but I also walked Christy down the aisle to marry Chad and then officiated the rest of the wedding. And then 5 years later on November 17, 2012 Grayson was born. It was at this point that I began to get greedy. And my level of greediness elevated every time that one of you was born in subsequent years.

So here I am at 60 years of age. The Lord has already given me 10 more years than I originally asked for. And for that I am grateful. And my hope is that I still have another 20 years of good health so I can watch all of you grow into young men and women and so that I can write a lot more Pop Pop Epistles along the way.

But none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. And if I should anytime soon be “absent from the body but at home with the Lord” just know that I have been incredibly blessed and am incredibly grateful for all the years the Lord has given me. But if the Lord should choose to give me another 20 years then I hope that we can create lots of fun memories and that I can demonstrate for you a life that honors God and finds deep satisfaction in Him.

And by the way,  never ever forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #35: Happy Birthday Asher

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Dear Asher,

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 1.41.01 PMA very very happy birthday #1 to you. It is joy to be your Pop Pop and it has been fun to watch you grow so much over the last year.

Since everybody is completely enthralled with your beautiful red hair and since your Instagram handle is LilRedReyner I thought I would tell you the story of Big Red.

It was on June 9 that Big Red forever etched his name in history. The year was 1973 (45 years ago today) and I was not quite 16 years old. But I still remember watching along with millions of others as he galloped his way to fame and glory.

Big Red was a horse. A magnificently beautiful animal with a gorgeous coat that was tinted red who was better known to the world as Secretariat.

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 12.58.40 PMHe became the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown. And he did it in record setting fashion. Having already won The Kentucky Derby and The Preakness, it was on June 9 that he put an exclamation point on his greatness at The Belmont Stakes. Secretariat gave the finest performance of his career completing the 1.5-mile race in a record 2 minutes and 24 seconds, knocking nearly three seconds off the track record set by Gallant Man in 1957. He won by an astounding record-setting 31 lengths.

In 1999, ESPN ranked Secretariat No. 35 in its list of the Top 50 North American athletes of the 20th century, the only non-human on the list. That’s amazing.

What was the secret to his greatness? Big Red had a big heart. Literally. An autopsy upon his death showed that his heart was two and a half times larger than that of the average horse, which no doubt contributed to his extraordinary racing abilities.

This is my prayer for you. That God would give you a big heart.  And that God would fill that heart with a huge dose of compassion. And a tremendous amount of joy. And a prodigious helping of faith. And that your big heart would overflow such that others are mightily influenced and blessed by the spillover. Your nickname may be LilRed but I anticipate that the Lord will use you in big ways as you seek after Him.

Never ever forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #34 – About My High School Graduation

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Dear Grandkids,

It was 42 years ago that I graduated high school. Forty. Two. Years. That sounds like a long time ago but really it seems like yesterday.

The year was 1976 – it was the bicentennial year of our nation’s birth. Our graduation was moved indoors because of the threat of rain. It was a sad day and a happy day.

I had a great high school experience. I made good grades. I played several sports. I had good friends. And it was in a town that I loved growing up in. But the world was a very different place back then. There were no cell phones. The internet did not exist. There was no such thing as social media. The Vietnam War had recently ended. We were in the middle of the Cold War with The Soviet Union. And I still had a head full of hair. Gas cost 59c per gallon (about $3.00 nowadays). A nice new little house would cost you $45,000 (about $200,000 nowadays). And the average cost of a movie was about $2.14 (about $9.00 nowadays).

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Apple Computer was founded in 1976. That would have been a good stock investment. It was the first year that the Naval Academy accepted female students – and one of them came from our graduating class. A man named Bruce Jenner won a gold medal in the Decathlon at the summer Olympics that year. Get your folks to tell you about what became of him. And a movie called “Rocky” was released that year and introduced the world to Sylvester Stallone.

So what’s my point in telling you all this? There is no way to predict what the world will look like in another 42 years. But I promise that it will be different. Enjoy the journey. Embrace the changes. Build significant relationships. And cling fiercely to God who never changes. He will be the Rock that you can always count on and the Refuge that you can always run to no matter what happens in this crazy mixed up world.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

Never ever forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #33 – About Mother’s Day

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Dear Grandkids,

Mother’s Day is coming up in a few days. We have been celebrating Mother’s Day in the United States for a little over 100 years. It gives us a good excuse to do what we really should be doing everyday – celebrating and honoring the moms in our lives.

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 4.22.54 PMI’m pretty sure you all know just how incredibly blessed you are. You have awesome moms. Not everybody can say that. But your mom loves and cares and protects and provides for you with an unrivaled fierceness. Never take for granted  just how blessed you are to have the mom that you have. Both the Older Testament (Exodus 20:12) and the New Testament (Ephesians 6:2) implore us to honor our mothers. The Scriptures tell us that it is to our benefit that we do so. So here are a few Pop Pop tips on how you can honor your mom… not just on Mother’s Day but everyday.

Honor her with the words that you say – There will be a tendency for you to take for granted all the things that your mom does for you like washing your clothes and cooking your meals and caring for you when you are sick and… and… and. You will be surprised at how surprised your mom will be if you were to take the time to say thank you for any of this stuff. And use your words to tell her that you love her and how glad you are to have her as your mom.  And use your words to pray for her and to thank God for the blessing that she is to you. Honor her with your words.

Honor her by the way that you act – When your mom tells you to do something, do it. Do it without being asked more than once. Do it as quickly as possible. Do it without complaining and grumbling. Do it because your cheerful obedience will honor her.

Honor her by living a life that honors God – Your mom loves the Lord. And she is doing all that she can to teach you to love Him as well. And there is nothing that would honor her more than for you to live a God-honoring life. She will be modeling this for you. She will be praying for you to this end. She will teaching you what this looks like in real life. If you want to honor your mom, honor God.

Why don’t you take a few minutes right now and offer the Lord a prayer of thanks for your mom and ask Him to show you how you can best honor her today.

And never ever forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #32 – May the 5th

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Dear Grandkids,

In case you did not already know, today is May the 5th, also known as Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s difficult victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has taken on a significance beyond that in Mexico. The date has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture.

I want to put a different twist on it, however, and use the occasion to offer up some Pop Pop encouragement from Scripture.

May the 5th verse of Proverbs 3 remind you to always look to the Lord as you navigate your way through this life. It will be very tempting to try to figure out things on your own but trust me, it will always turn out better if you look to God and seek to discern His ways instead of your own.

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.

May the 5th verse of John 15 remind you to daily find nourishment from God’s Word -knowing that as you receive from Him what you need for each day that you will bear the fruit of love and joy and peace and patience and self-control.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

May the 5th verse of Romans 8 remind you that what your mind thinks about will determine how you live. If you want to live for the sake of God and His purposes then you will need to think deeply about God and His purposes. Memorizing the verses in this post would not be a bad way to start.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

May the 5th verse of Revelation 2 remind you that the Lord is to be your first love. And when He is not, it is a matter of repentance and beginning all over again to do the things that make Him your number one priority.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.

And may the 5th verse that I leave you with echo in your hearts as you grow up and be great cause for celebration and worship as you delight in what the Lord has done for you. You will find this verse in Titus 3.

5 He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

And never ever forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #31 – Happy Birthday Miller

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Dear Miller,

Happy birthday #1. Already you have gone from baby to boy. And it will not be long before you are a man.

My guess is that you are not even aware at this point that you share a birthday with the 18th president of the United States – Ulysses S. Grant. Of course he was born way back in 1822 so you are not really expected to know this. Even though he was born almost 200 years ago there are a few lessons to be learned from his life. He had 2 major virtues and 2 major vices that greatly impacted his life.

The Vices

#1 – The man loved his cigars. It is said that he smoked about 20 cigars a day. He was 62 years old when he died… of throat cancer – because of all the smoking he did. And it started because a friend of his just casually offered him a cigar one day. My Pop Pop advice is this – never never never smoke anything at any time. Not only will it kill you but it is also an incredible waste of money.

#2 – He had a strong desire for alcohol – There is some debate as to whether he was an alcoholic but there is no debate as to the struggle he dealt with. It seems that he was able to refrain when he wanted to and did not let it interfere with his decision making but struggled nonetheless throughout his life. My Pop Pop advice is this – stay away from alcohol because it could become a demon in your life that you will always regret and will always haunt you.

The Virtues

#1 – He was a courageous leader. Before Ulysses S. Grant assumed command of the Union army, it would venture south into Confederate territory, suffer a defeat, then withdraw northward to conduct endless marching drills. That all changed in 1864 when Lincoln put Grant in charge. Grant resolved to lead his troops forward and to  continue moving south, even when it was costly. His firm leadership paid off. In April of 1865, just a little more than a year from when he took command, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant at the McLean House in Appomattox Court House, Virginia. It took a leader with courage to win the war.

#2 – He was committed to his family . Here is one example that proved fateful. Grant was invited to join Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on the evening of April 14, 1865, but declined after he and his wife made plans to visit their children in New Jersey. He was informed of the President’s assassination when his train stopped later that night. He regretted not being at the president’s side, thinking he possibly could have thwarted the assassination. But his family was more important to him than even an invitation from POTUS.

To sum up these two virtues: Be a leader who leads courageously and love your family sacrificially. And here  are a few great verses to ponder from Joshua 1:8-9:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #30 – About Apollo 13

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Dear Grandkids,

There are not many movies that I like to watch more than one time. And there are not many movies that make me cry. But the movie Apollo 13 fits both of these categories. Apollo 13 the movie ironically is based on Apollo 13 the lunar spacecraft, that suffered a severe malfunction on its journey to the moon but miraculously returned safely to earth.

The reason why this comes to mind is because 48 years ago today, in 1970, Apollo 13 landed safely back in the Pacific Ocean. Now back in 1970 space exploration was a really big deal. In fact, in April of 1970 the U.S. was only 9 months away from its historic Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Our country was in the middle of what was known as the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union and the space race was, for us at least, a matter of national pride. So on the one hand what happened to Apollo 13 was a devastating failure. But on the other hand, even though the mission was aborted, NASA  classified it as a “successful failure” because of the experience gained in rescuing the crew.

A “successful failure.” It’s an interesting phrase and one that you need to know because there will be many times in the years to come when you will fail. But failure only defines you if you let it. But if you let failure be your teacher then you will do some extraordinary things. Here are a few examples that you might want to read up on sometime:

  • The Wright brothers crashed numerous flight tests before they got one to fly only about 30 feet.
  • Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade and was defeated in every public office role he ran for.
  • Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.”
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

But here are also a few verses from Scripture that are worth pondering:

Isaiah 40:30-31

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Psalm 145:13-14

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.

One day we’ll sit down and watch Apollo 13 together. In the mean time…

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

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Pop Pop Epistle #29 – Best Week of the Year

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Dear Grandkids,

We are getting ready to start the BEST week of the year – at least from my perspective. I can think of at least 4 reasons why this week is so good.

Baseball is back – Opening Day this year is March 29 which is a few days earlier than usual. It has been about 5 months since the Astros beat the Dodgers for the World Championship. In the meantime we’ve had to put up with a lot of football and basketball but now we can finally get back to the greatest of all the sports. You may or may not know that baseball was and is my first love of sports. I played a lot of baseball growing up and was a huge fan of the New York Mets. They were in the World Series as recent as 2015. Last year was not so good but this week we start fresh and hopefully watch something amazing happen.

The Final Four – Unfortunately none  of the teams that I root for made it to the Final Four this year. Duke came the closest – they were just a roll away from making it – but there is always an intriguing story line that makes the Final Four interesting. This year it is with Loyola Chicago and their number # 1 fan Sister Jean.  Only one team will be left standing after Monday night and they will have earned the right to call themselves National Champions. Then we will say goodbye to college hoops for about 8 months.

The Masters – As much as I love baseball, The Masters is my favorite sporting event of the year to watch. This is probably because I grew up near the course and had a chance to go to The Masters in person more times than I can count. The Masters is never without drama which makes it so exciting and this year has promise to be as dramatic as any of them. I hope that as you get older we can spend a Sunday afternoon of Master’s week sitting and watching the tournament together and letting me tell you about some of my favorite memories. (I have blogged about these elsewhere if you want to check them out)

Easter – As much as I enjoy the first 3, this last one is what truly makes this week the best week of the year. Sunday is Easter – the day that we celebrate as Christians the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Without the resurrection there would be no Christianity. 1 Corinthians 15:17 says, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” The resurrection changes everything. It gives us hope. It proves that Jesus is who He says He is. It strengthens us with the same power that raised Jesus. It enables us to live as overcomers. It fuels us with joy even while living in a world full of darkness and despair.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy this next week as much as I will. But then I enjoy every week… and I hope that you do too.

Never ever forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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