Pop Pop Epistle #103 – Reflecting on Habakkuk

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

We are still deeply buried in the midst of this coronavirus thing. And we have no idea at this point how long it will go on. Here are some reflections from Habakkuk 3 who was dealing with his own pandemic and wondering when would life ever be normal again…

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength;” (Habakkuk 3:17-19a)

In this short book tucked away toward the back of the Older Testament, Habakkuk asks the kinds of questions that we all ask from time to time:

Why, God,  do I cry for help and it seems like you don’t listen? (1:2)

Why do you tolerate wrongdoing and injustice in the world? (1:3)

Why do you do nothing when wicked people triumph over the righteous? (1:13)

Where are you when I’m jobless and and have no hope for a financial upturn? (3:17)

The one thing that you notice when you read this book is that though Habakkuk is complaining, he is complaining to God. This is a healthy kind of complaining. It is the complaining of a man who passionately loves God and is trying to make sense of who He is and what He is doing in the world around him. It is the kind of complaining that takes the time to listen to God after he puts all his gripes out on the table. It is the kind of complaining that isn’t trying to twist God’s arm into getting what he wants. Habakkuk loves God but there is much that he does not understand and much that he does not like. So he tells God. He is not ditching his faith; he is not turning his back on God; he is not complaining to whoever is willing to listen. He is talking with God. I say “with” rather than “to” because he takes the time to listen to what God has to say.

Pastor/author John Ortberg says in his book God Is Closer Than You Think, “When we are passionately honest with God, when we are not indulging in self-pity or martyrdom but are genuinely opening ourselves up to God, when we complain in hope that God can still be trusted – then we are asking God to create the kind of condition in our hearts that will make resting in His presence possible again. And God will come. But He may come in unexpected ways.”

After he has said his piece to God, Habakkuk finds peace with God. He is reminded that God is indeed in control. He is reminded that dire circumstances do not mean you cannot experience joy. He is reminded that each day he needs God’s strength to deal with life. He is reminded that even though life often seems unfair, that God is a fair and just Sovereign.

You will have plenty of opportunities to complain over the next 70 years of your life. Take your complaints to God even as you trust that He is indeed in control.

And may you find your joy and your strength in Him each and every day – no matter what you may have to complain about!

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 102 – 100th Day of 2020

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

Today is the 100th day of the year 2020. It has been a different kind of year to say the least. But besides all the coronavirus stuff that is going on there are lots of other reasons to think about this day. Here are a few for your pondering minds:

It is Passover – Passover began last evening and will continue until April 16. For the Jews it commemorates their liberation from slavery and bondage in Egypt. Specifically, it remembers how the angel of death passed over all the families who had sprinkled blood over the doorposts of their homes and spared the killing of their firstborn.

It is also Maundy Thursday – “Maundy” is a shortened form of mandatum (Latin), which means “command.”  On the Thursday of Christ’s final week before being crucified and resurrected, after washing His disciple’s feet in an extraordinary display of humility, Jesus gave this commandment to His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

Interestingly, it was on this date, April 9, back in 1945, that pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged at Flossenburg, only days before the American liberation of the POW camp. The last words of the brilliant and courageous 39-year-old opponent of Nazism were “This is the end—for me, the beginning of life.” His book The Cost of Discipleship is considered a Christian classic.

On a more mundane level…

Today would have been the start of the 84th Masters Tournament. As you most likely know it is the one sporting event more than any other that I look forward to every year. It has been postponed because of Covid-19 so I am sad – but I rejoice with great joy that it will be resurrected in November.

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to do 100 pushups for 300 of the 366 days of the year. I am happy to report that so far I have done 100 pushups EVERY day this year for a total to date of 10,000.

And I continue to walk. So far in 2020 I am averaging 12,300 steps per day. My goal is only 10,000 so I am well above average.

I will leave you with a Psalm to ponder. Appropriately Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #101 – What A Blessing!

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

This epistle may come across as fatalistic but I’m willing to take that chance in these unprecedented days. As I write, the coronavirus is running rampant around the world. It has not yet reached it’s peak but it has found it’s way into our home. Scott was not feeling well on Friday, went and got tested, and the test came back positive. He is officially quarantined in our house. He doesn’t seem to feel all that bad at this point but this has made a surreal situation all of a sudden seem incredibly real.

There is no guarantee that the virus will stay contained in his room. There is no guarantee that I or anyone else in our home won’t get it. There is no guarantee that “this too shall pass” without grave consequences. Pun intended!

For that reason I did not want to leave things unsaid. I have always been better at communicating on paper than verbally because it gives me a chance to process what I want to say before I say it – and then review it and make sure I said it the way I meant to say it. So bear with me if this gets a bit lengthy. My hope is certainly that we can read this together 10 years from now and rejoice together that we all dodged a bullet.

No matter what happens always know this: God is my refuge and my strength, a VERY present help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

I am a blessed man and have had an incredibly blessed life.

What a blessing to be born into a Jewish family that was full of love. Even though my parents split up early in my life, both my dad’s family and my mom’s family were some of the most caring, generous, fun-loving people that I know. And to grow up in a home with my mom and my brother – during the tumultuous ’60’s – and not just survive, but thrive in so many ways was more than I could ask for.

What a blessing to grow up in Aiken, SC and have so many great friends – many of whom were instrumental in my faith journey. (I could name lots of names but I would no doubt leave someone out. Let me just say that I am grateful for the influence of so many good friends over the years.) The eyes of my heart were opened to faith in Christ late in my high school days and it changed the trajectory of my life forever. What a blessing to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have been “rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

What a blessing to meet your Nona in the summer of ’79, in Galveston, Texas of all places, and begin an awesome adventure of love that has now lasted 41 years (almost 39 of those being married). She is an astonishing wife, ministry partner, co-laborer in our parenting adventures, and now Nona. When I think back to the days when I was a student pastor and we had 3 young kids and when I ponder the sacrifices she made on my behalf so I could pursue God’s calling on my life, I am beyond amazed. There were many years when I would be gone 4-5 weeks for camps, mission trips, conferences, etc and she would parent solo without grumbling or complaining. Even now I am awed by her work ethic, her desire to pursue God, her generosity, and her constant and creative investment in all of you. I am hopeful for about 35 more years of sojourning this life together – but I also know that if this virus (or anything else in these next few years) were to take me away that she would continue to find her strength and joy in God’s steadfast love and would continue to exude a robust faith always knowing that she is blessed “in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)

What a blessing to be a dad. My legacy is already being lived out through your parents as I watch them carry on in the faith and diligently raise all of you to do the same. Make sure that they are reminded often of these dad-words.

  • Christy – It is truly a delight to be your dad. And a joy to watch you be such a creative mom, wife, and disciple-maker. You are a gift! May you abide deeply and find nourishment for your soul daily in the Lord.
  • Chad – I am grateful that the Lord brought you into our family and it is fun to watch you grow as a pastor and leader. N.F.T.P.A.A.W and N.F.T.P.W.A.T. May your boldness be used to transform the city of Charlotte and to infuse your kids with courage.
  • Scott – I am amazed everyday as I watch you with your kids. You are an incredible father. The Lord is going to use you in ways that neither of us can even imagine right now. May you be fueled each day by the joy of the Lord and find your strength in Him.
  • Mary – You are such a blessing to our family. You are amazingly resilient and demonstrate a tenaciousness as you wait upon the Lord. May your heart overflow with gladness as your hope is rooted in Christ.
  • Tucker – You display a fearlessness and a willingness to try anything. The Lord will greatly use your daunting spirit as you submit yourself to God. May the fear of the Lord drive your pursuits as you seek Him and His righteousness.
  • Danielle – It is challenging to me as I watch you treasure friendships and invest in relationships. You are incredibly authentic and real. May God’s grace and peace fill you each day and cause you to hunger to know Him better and better.

What a blessing to be your Pop Pop. Eight of you young-uns in the last eight years and who knows how many more. I have every intention of watching all of you, graduate, get married, and have kids of your own. But just in case that does not happen I hope these Pop Pop Epistles will help you to navigate your way through all the challenges that you will face in this life – and there will be many. Always remember that it is as true for you as it is for me… God is your refuge and your strength, a VERY present help in times of trouble.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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