Pop Pop Epistle #31 – Happy Birthday Miller


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


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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