Pop Pop Epistle # 177 – Happy Birthday Grayson #10

Happy Birthday Grayson,


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.


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


Pop Pop Epistle # 169 – HB #3 Ezra and About Ice Cream



Dear Ezra,

I love ice cream. And I know that you do too. I mean what is not to love about ice cream.

Nona’s favorite flavor is Coffee and my favorite is Rocky Road – especially the Blue Bell version because it has extra nuggets and marshmallows and a delectable rich chocolate base. Yes it costs a bit more but can you really put a price tag on great ice cream. Apparently not based on what we paid when we went out for ice cream the other night.

Your sister loves strawberry ice cream and Judah has yet to discover it’s yumminess. And your cousins are most definitely big fans. Grayson loves Sea Salt Caramel. Bowen – Dark Chocolate. Miller – Cookie Dough. Keller – Oreo. Audrey – Chocolate. And Haddon – well, he is not really picky.

Did you know that there are only three main ingredients in ice cream: milk, cream, and sugar. It is the extra something that gives all the flavors their uniqueness – whether it is cocoa, or oreos, or caramel, or strawberries, etc.

In much the same way God has made each of us similar and yet very different. God has “flavored” you with that special something that makes you unique from everybody else. Every time that I am around you I see a little more of the unique way that God has created you. As you grow up I hope and pray that you will embrace your uniqueness. Why? Here are a few quotes that might help to explain this…

“What sets you apart can sometimes feel like a burden and it’s not. And a lot of the time, it’s what makes you great.”

“As we grow as unique persons, we learn to respect the uniqueness of others.”

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

And Scripture says in Psalm 139:13-14…

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

Fearfully and wonderfully made! That’s you!

So the next time that you are enjoying some yummy strawberry ice cream, take a minute and think about how special and unique you are in God’s sight. And mine!

And never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop


Pop Pop Epistle # 168 – About A Kidney Stone (Again) and Step-Taking



Dear Grandkids,

I hate kidney stones!

On September 7, 2017 I wrote my very first Pop Pop Epistle. That was 167 epistles ago. And it was “About A Kidney Stone.” That was four and a half years ago.

Up until a month ago I had been kidney stone free. I will go on record and say it again in case I was not clear the first time…

I hate kidney stones!

This was a weird kidney stone experience. I was awakened in the middle of the night in early February with what felt like kidney stone pain. Having felt that kind of pain 4 other times over the last 20 years I knew what it felt like. But this wasn’t that bad and then was gone by morning. I felt it again about 3 days later but still not too bad. And then one other time about a week later. At this point I decided it might be best if I found out if I was indeed dealing with a kidney stone and what was going on.

I went to the urologist two days later and she confirmed that I had not one but two stones in my left kidney and one was officially stuck in the little tube between my kidney and my bladder. And it was big enough that it was not going to go anywhere. So surgery was scheduled 3 days later. The good news is that I now have no kidney stones on the left side but the bad news is that I still have one on the right side. Like a little ticking time bomb that will go off at some time to be determined.

The worst part, for me at least, is the week or so AFTER the kidney stone has been expunged. Drugs can help me deal with the pain before the surgery. But after the surgery I am miserable because of the stent that is inserted in that little tube where the stone was to “keep things moving.” Miserable I say!

Enough said. I don’t want to be guilty of oversharing but if you want a hilarious take by a fellow kidney stone sufferer then listen to this comedy routine by Jeff Foxworthy. But be warned, he is guilty of oversharing.

Now about step-taking. It has been 5+ years since I have NOT gotten at least 70,000 steps in a week. I’m pretty proud of that. I am also proud to say that my streak is still intact even after the several weeks I dealt with the kidney stone and the stent. But I will tell you that the week I had the stent in was the hardest week I have ever had getting my steps in. It was an exhausting week. Being upright for more than 15 minutes at a time just wore me out. Usually I will get at least one 5000 step walk in each day. About 1000 was all I could handle at a time so I took lots of mini-walks that week even when I didn’t feel like it.

There are a few Scripture verses that helped me get through those tough days. And I fully realize that what I went through is minimal compared to what many people have to deal with for much longer times. But still, these were an encouragement…

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 1:3-5)

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-15)

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him. (Lamentations 3:22-24)

May you NEVER have to deal with a kidney stone and may you ALWAYS remember the steadfast love of the Lord.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop


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