Pop Pop Epistle #20: About Squanto


Dear Grandkids,

Thanksgiving 2017 is over. It was awesome to have most of you in our home for several days to eat together and play together and just be together. We muchly missed Asher who was with her other grandparents and we daily await the arrival of grand-baby girl #2 who is now officially past her due date.

Perhaps this is a good time for a little lesson in history – the story of Squanto. This is how Charles Colson tells his story…

Historical accounts of Squanto’s life vary, but historians believe that around 1608, more than a decade before the Pilgrims landed in the New World, a group of English traders, led by a Captain Hunt, sailed to what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts. When the trusting Wampanoag Indians came out to trade, Hunt took them prisoner, transported them to Spain, and sold them into slavery.

But God had an amazing plan for one of the captured Indian – a boy named Squanto.

Squanto was bought by a well-meaning Spanish monk, who treated him well and taught him the Christian faith. Squanto eventually made his way to England and worked in the stable of a man named John Slaney. Slaney sympathized with Squanto’s desire to return home, and he promised to put the Indian on the first vessel bound for America.

It wasn’t until 1619, ten years after Squanto was first kidnapped, that a ship was found. Finally, after a decade of exile and heartbreak, Squanto was on his way home.

But when he arrived in Massachusetts, more heartbreak awaited him. An epidemic had wiped out Squanto’s entire village.

We can only imagine what must have gone through Squanto’s mind. Why had God allowed him to return home, against all odds, only to find his loved ones dead?

A year later, the answer came. A shipload of English families arrived and settled on the very land once occupied by Squanto’s people. Squanto went to meet them, greeting the startled Pilgrims in English.

According to the diary of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford, Squanto “became a special instrument sent of God for [our] good . . . He showed [us] how to plant [our] corn, where to take fish and to procure other commodities . . . and was also [our] pilot to bring [us] to unknown places for [our] profit, and never left [us] till he died.”

When Squanto lay dying of a fever, Bradford wrote that their Indian friend “desired the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in heaven.” Squanto bequeathed his possessions to his English friends “as remembrances of his love.”

Who but God could so miraculously weave together the lives of a lonely Indian and a struggling band of Englishmen? It’s hard not to make comparisons with the biblical story of Joseph, who was also sold into slavery and whom God likewise used as a special instrument for good.

The Bible tells us that everyone has been sold into slavery, having been captured by the evil one because of our sinful nature. But Christ the Redeemer sets us free because of what He accomplished on the cross on our behalf. When we put our faith and our trust in Him Christ redeems us – He sets us free. And just as He did with Squanto He can use us as special instruments for good.

So never forget that the Lord has special purposes for you – He desires to use you to bring about good in the lives of others, to bless this world that has been captured by the evil one, and to be a redeeming influence among a people that do not even know that they are enslaved.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #19 – Happy Birthday Grayson


Dear Grayson,

So… you are the first grand young’un to have a birthday since I started writing the Pop Pop Epistles. Hence you get the first one of these to be addressed specifically to you and you will also note that your picture has been updated below.

Now that you are learning to read perhaps you can read this little story for yourself. If not, ask your dad to – since it has to do with fishing…

A father and son went fishing one day. After a couple hours out in the boat, the boy suddenly became curious about the world around him. He asked his father, “How does this boat float?” The father thought for a moment, then replied, “Don’t rightly know, son.”

The boy returned to his thinking, then turned back to his dad, “How do fish breath underwater?” Once again the father replied, “Don’t rightly know, son.”

A little later the boy asked his father, “Why is the sky blue?” Again, the father replied. “Don’t rightly know, son.”

Worried he was going to annoy his father, he says, “Dad, do you mind my asking you all of these questions?” “Of course not son. If you don’t ask questions, you’ll never learn anything!”

Maybe you know that one of the things that I collect is questions. Not many people collect questions but I hope that you will enjoy collecting them too. Question asking is a great skill to learn for at least two reasons:

1) It helps you learn stuff that you don’t know – I have found this is especially true as I study the Bible. When I don’t understand something I ask questions until I get a good answer.
2) It helps you get to know people that you don’t know – By asking people questions it lets them know that you are interested in their lives. And this is really important as you try to help them know about Jesus and the gospel.

Here are two things I want you to do. 1) Ask your dad what is funny about the fishing story up above if you don’t already know. And 2) get your mom to help you come up with 3 questions to ask me when you see me next week – questions that will help you learn some things about me. And I might just have some surprises in store  for you when you do.

In the meantime, I hope you have a super terrific birthday today and an awesome birthday celebration with your friends tonight. I will miss being there with you. But here is my birthday blessing for you…

May you always find joy in your walk with the Lord. May He fuel you each day with a contagious gladness as you get to know Him more and more. May He fill you with curiosity about this world that we live in and the people around you and may He teach you to ask great questions as you grow up.

And may you never ever forget that you are very loved.

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #18 – About My Pillow


Dear Grandkids,

About 4:00 AM this morning as I was tossing and turning I made a decision…. the pillow that I was testing out for the 3rd night was definitely going back to the store. Over the past year I have probably bought, tried, and taken back about 20 pillows. Why? Because I am in search of the perfect pillow.

Here is the backstory. About 15 years ago when I was also searching for the perfect pillow I happened to stay at a hotel where I had a glorious night of sleep. I woke up thinking that my search was over. Only one problem – it was the hotel’s pillow. Well, not being bashful about these things, and because my circumstances were so tragic, I approached the hotel management, explained my situation, and asked if I could buy their pillow. (Now I know that at this point many of you reading this besides my grandkids are already grossed out because there is no way of telling what that pillow had already been through and who and how many had slept on it – but you must understand that desperate times call for desperate measures.) They would not sell it to me. But big props to Country Inn and Suites who understood my anguished predicament and GAVE me the pillow. Oh glorious day…and by that I mean Oh glorious night.

Fast forward 15 years to present day and my perfect pillow is starting to crumble and disintegrate. Pillows don’t crumble you say. Ah, but indeed they do when your perfect pillow is a foam pillow. I’m not talking about faux foam like shredded foam or gel foam or memory foam but genuine real deal foam. I have loved my pillow and now I am sad because I know it is dying a slow death. So once again I am search of the perfect pillow. And so far my search has been futile, frustrating, and fruitless. Just ask your Nona.

So as I lay wide awake at 4:00 AM thinking about my search for the perfect pillow this verse from Scripture came to mind…

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

There are so many people in this world who are involved in a futile, frustrating, and fruitless search to fill the empty places in their heart. Like my search for the perfect pillow, they try one thing and find it unsatisfying and then try something else and something else and something else. It was Augustine of Hippo, himself a frustrated seeker until he found Christ, who wrote in his Confessions

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

As you lie on your pillow at night, take a moment before you drift off to sleep and thank God that He has given us a perfect Savior. Thank Him for sending His Son to fill the empty places in our heart, to forgive our sin, to secure our salvation, and to fuel us with joy for the journey. Thank Him for offering us hope and for giving us His Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us and teach us. And thank Him for your pillow.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #17 – My First 8-Pointer


Dear Grandkids,

I got my first 8 pointer last night.

Now I’m sure you know that I am not a hunter nor the son of a hunter. Never even been hunting. Pretty sure that I will never go hunting. So it was rather unfortunate that I got my first 8 pointer last night.

I was coming down St Mary’s Road on the way back from a very good meal at Vinnie’s with Nona, Scott, Mary, Keller, and Mary’s mom. It was already dark and we were probably going about 40 mph. Out of the corner of my eye I see this big buck in the other lane trying to decide if he should cross or not. I remember thinking, “don’t do it bucko.” But he chose not to listen to me and then slammed into the driver’s side of our van. Not too much damage to us – a dent in the sliding door and knocked loose the left turn signal. Pretty sure the deer got the worse end of the deal.

Here is my takeaway as I have reflected on what happened:

One of the driving lessons I have learned over the years living in deer country is this: Don’t try to swerve to miss a deer. Swerving is more likely to cause you to crash. Better to hit the deer than to risk ending up upside down on the side of the road.

Scripture teaches us something similar…

Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (Proverbs 4:27)

“So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. (Deuteronomy 5:32)

You can get into a lot of trouble really quickly when you veer away from living according to the commands of God. In my almost 60 years of life I have seen this principle affirmed again and again… “Obedience to the Word brings blessing. Disobedience brings pain.”

There is plenty of pain to be experienced in this world without bringing it on ourselves. God will use pain to teach us some things that we would not learn any other way. But the pain and the hurt caused by our own sin and disobedience is an avoidable kind of pain. One that I hope you will steer away from as you grow up.  Choose blessing. Choose to turn your foot away from evil. Choose to do just as the Lord has commanded you. You will not regret making this choice.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop


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Pop Pop Epistle #16 – About My Heart


Dear Grandkids,

Earlier today I went to see my cardiologist. A cardiologist is a doctor who specializes in the heart. I try to see him once a year just to have him check me out – not because I have a heart problem but because I want to avoid a heart problem. I may have already told you that my dad died of a heart attack when I was 13. He was only 42. And I never knew my dad’s dad because he died of a heart attack before I was born. I’m hoping to be around a lot longer than they were so that you guys can say that you knew your Pop Pop really well. But you never know about these things.

So even though I don’t seem to have any heart problems physically at this point, I do have a major heart problem. The Bible informs us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). If I had not been given a new heart when I was 16 years old you would not want to call me your Pop Pop. I would be a selfish, self-centered, self-seeking, self-indulgent old man. As it is, I still have to fight hard against the disease of self. But thanks be to God who has rescued me, redeemed me, reconciled me, and created within me a change of heart through Christ Jesus my Lord.

Ezekiel 36:26 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh…” Were it not for this spiritual heart transplant I would be a very different person. Your Nona and I pray often for you that the Lord will give you new hearts as well and will remove the heart of stone that we are all born with.

One other thing about the heart. Do not EVER listen to the advice that is so prevalent these days, often shared by well meaning people, both believers and unbelievers, who tell you to “just follow your heart.” Your heart will lead you astray – because, as I mentioned above, it “is deceitful above all things.” Follow the Lord. Listen to His Word. Pursue Him above all things. And do the one thing that the heart is supposed to do. For as the Scripture says in Proverbs 3…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
    and He will make straight your paths.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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