Pop Pop Epistle #136 – HB Bowen and About Nerf Stuff

Dear Bowen,

Happy birthday #6 my #2 grand young ‘un. I am very much looking forward to celebrating your birthday with you and am thrilled that when your mom asked you what you wanted to do for your birthday you said “go to Durham.” I am also excited about the NERF theme, the Chick-fil-A, and the big chocolate chip cookie that will all be a part of the extravaganza.

Speaking of the NERF theme, I bet you did not know that NERF stands for “Non-Expanding Recreational Foam”. It is actually a polyester resin that reacts with another compound in the presence of CO2, which then becomes a freakishly light polyurethane material. I did not make that sentence up – it came from the internet so we know that it is true.

The original NERF ball was first marketed back in 1970 (I was 12 years old) as a 4″ ball that you could “throw indoors, but can’t damage lamps or break windows, or hurt babies or old people.” Now that I am one of those old people I especially appreciate that. It was another 20 years before the introduction of the NERF gun. (I’m thinking that you will see my mad NERF gun skills in action this weekend). Did you know that there are about 450 MILLION NERF darts made each year. And I suspect that I will get hit with my fair share of them on Saturday.

Of course there is a lesson behind all this. Ephesians 6:16 says this: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”

Now I don’t expect to get hit with flaming darts this weekend but for sure I have been target practice for the evil one a time or twenty. And it is my faith in the Lord Jesus that has kept me from sure and certain defeat at his hands. So I want to encourage you to take up the shield of faith every day keeping in mind that every day is another day that the evil one is looking for an opportunity to wound your soul, steal your joy, and destroy your life.

So whenever you pick up a NERF gun to play a game with your friends keep in mind that there is a spiritual war being fought in the unseen world. Fight the good fight of faith my young grandson  – I will be praying for you as you go into battle.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #135 – 2020 By The Numbers

Dear Grandkids,

2020 has been one of those years that most people would just like to forget. And in many ways I would agree. But in other ways it has been an awesome year. Yes, a year that has created new challenges but also a year that has created new opportunities. But such is life. Every year will be like this in one way or another. Here is my annual end of the year round up… by the numbers.

0 – I am more than happy to report that I had zero kidney stones this year.

1 – I did however have 1 CAT-Scan – which showed that I DO NOT have any kind of unusual growth in my head. I had to get this checked out because I started having some hearing loss this year in my right ear. So if I ask you to repeat something sometime instead of being annoyed at your aging granddad instead rejoice that I don’t have a brain tumor.

1 – We added one more grandkid to the clan this year thanks to Scott and Mary. Haddon was born back in late February and has been a joyful delight to the family.

2 – I can officially check off a bucket list item. I can now solve both a 2×2 and a 3×3 Rubik’s Cube.

3 – As you are no doubt aware we again held the Reyner Family Disc Golf Invitational over Christmas. One day you will be included in this if you choose to do so. But this year I am proud to announce my 3rd place finish.

4 – To date, there have been 4 members of our family that have tested positive for Covid-19. In all cases, it was a very mild version of the virus. We are hopeful that 2021 will be the year of sayonara to the coronavirus.

9 – Apparently there is this thing called the enneagram that has been around for a long time. I am kind of late to the enneagram party but this year have enjoyed exploring how it works. It is a tool that is used to describe the different personality types that people have and I have found it very useful. I am a Type 9 – which probably explains why I like the Hebrew word “shalom” so much.

15 – Back in October, Nona and I went waterfall chasing and managed to see 15 waterfalls  in the western part of NC. We would love to introduce some of them to you sometime as we enjoyed the pristine beauty of nature in our great state.

18 – Back in March we started zooming with our College Age group from church but started meeting in person (socially distanced as much as possible) in July. We now meet in our church worship center so we have plenty of space to spread out and average about 18 people each Tuesday as we ponder Scripture together.

27 – I have now been serving at Ridgecrest Baptist for 27+ years. I serve with a great staff team led by a great pastor alongside great people seeking to know and follow Jesus.

44 – This is the 44th Pop Pop Epistle of 2020 that I have written. Hopefully I am around long enough to write 1000 of these to youse guys and gals.

36,600 – Back at the beginning of the year I set a goal to do 100 pushups each day. This morning I counted down my final 100 of the year and am pleased to report that I did not miss one.single.day. during the year. This tells me a few things: 1) I was healthy enough to do them every day which is a good thing and 2) a worthy goal is very motivational to me as I seek to pursue health in my advanced years.

4,717,062 – One of my other fitness goals was to keep walking and to minimally get 70,000 steps each week – an average of 10,000 steps per day. As of this writing at 4:43 PM on December 31 I have over 4.7 million steps for the year (a daily average of 12.8k). And for the 4th year in a row I have not missed a week of getting at least 70,000 steps. That works out to 208 straight weeks.

So anytime that you want to call and congratulate me on any of these numbers I would love to hear from you. But just so you know, the number that I love the most, which I did not even mention, is 8 – which represents all of you: Grayson, Bowen, Keller, Miller, Asher, Audrey, Ezra, and Haddon.

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #134 – 40 Years Ago Today

Dear Grandkids,

40 years sure does go by fast!

It was 40 years ago today that I asked Nona to be my wife. That decision made it possible for you to read this. If I had not asked and if she had not said yes then we would not have had 3 awesome kids and you would never have been born.

Here’s how it happened. It was Christmas Day 1980. We were both 22 years old. I had gone to Kernersville, NC to hang out with Nona and her family for the evening. Kernersville is where she grew up and the house was the same house that she had come home from the hospital to. Her mom and dad and one of her sisters were there. At some point in the evening we snuck back to her bedroom to privately exchange Christmas gifts with each other. I told her that I had written a poem for her and I gave it to her and asked her to read it out loud. It was entitled “This Poem Is A Prayer” and went like this:

This poem is a prayer
So as you read you ought to pray.
I thought it best the Lord should hear
These words I have to say.

This poem is a love song
So as you read you ought to sing.
You can praise the Lord our God
Who’s given life to you and me.

This poem is a dream
Which I have waited to come true.
I had been asleep for many years
But awoke when I found you.

This poem is an ending
To the two of us apart
And it culminates a miracle
Which brought love to my heart.

This poem is a beginning
To a never ending life
Where two can live as one
And both can live in Christ.

This poem is an answer
To a prayer prayed long ago
As it brings us both together
To a life we soon shall know.

This poem is a question
Which I cannot let you read
But if you’ll look into my eyes
I’ll ask you…

At this point I got down on one knee and finished the poem by saying “will you marry me.” I told her there was something in the toe of her stocking. She fished it out and found a box with a diamond ring. She looked up at me and answered my question by quoting from Psalm 34:3-4 which says, “O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together! I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”  She said YES and told me that the Lord had given her a calm assurance about us being together despite some crazy ideas that I had at this point in my life. (Remind me sometime to tell you the story about how I never became a dairy farmer).

So that’s my story as best I remember it. I will end this epistle by saying two things: 1) It has been an awesome 40 years with Nona full of incredible memories and shared ministry, and 2) 40 years sure does go by fast!

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #133 – What Would Jesus Do?

Dear Grandkids,

Back in 1961, on this day in history, a song called “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by a group known as The Tokens topped the Billboard Chart pop list and became a wildly popular song.

And that brings me to a story I’m sure I have never told you.

Back in the Fall of 1985, Nona was pregnant with our first child (Christy) and I was the student pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh. I was sitting in my office when I received a phone call from a friend who ran a local Christian bookstore. He called me because he knew that part of my story included a Jewish background. He had received a phone call from a man who had just rolled into Raleigh by bus and was wanting to talk to somebody about how to become a Christian. He said that he also was from a Jewish background.

So I dropped everything that I was doing and rode 15 minutes downtown to the bus stop where I met Alan.

Alan was not in good shape emotionally, psychologically, or financially. His story went something like this: He had grown up in a Jewish household but had drifted away from his religious roots. He had married and then struck it big in the music industry. He was the lead singer for a group called The Tokens who had popularized the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” back in the early ’60s. He sang the opening part of the song for me and he was quite good. Since then, he had lost everything, his wife had died, he was drifting around the country by bus, he was suicidal, and as a last resort called the Christian bookstore as he was passing through Raleigh – who called me.

I listened to his story and then shared the gospel with him which he readily embraced. And then, because he literally had no where else to go, I invited him to come stay at our house. Now a wiser man would at the very least have asked his pregnant wife if this was OK, but alas wisdom was not one of my better virtues. I was 27 years old, naively compassionate, and trying to do what I thought Jesus would do.

Alan stayed with us for six weeks. We introduced him to our church where he was baptized. We found him a job at McDonald’s. And we gave him a place to lay his head and a chance to try to heal.

About week five Nona and I had a weekend out of town that we were obligated to and Alan went to stay with our friends Paul and Macon. Paul and Macon worked  alongside us with students at Providence and had gotten to know Alan. Paul was a lawyer and is currently serving as a judge on the North Carolina Supreme Court. A very smart guy. As they spent time with Alan that weekend some things came up in their conversation that didn’t add up. So he started doing some research. Now keep in mind that this was before the advent of the internet. By the time we got back into town he was convinced that not everything about Alan’s story was true.

So we sat down with him and confronted him with the inconsistencies. And then he told us the real story. The Jewish background – true. The singing career – not true. The wife – not true. The down and out part – true. He had fabricated the singing and wife part of the story as a way to gain our sympathy thinking that if he was just a drifter that no one would give him the time of day. He said that his conversion was genuine. He even went before our church and confessed publicly to the lies.

We believed him. We forgave him. We invited him to stay and make his home in Raleigh and grow in his faith at our church. But his feelings of guilt about the lies made him want to leave. He said that he had people out in Colorado so we bought him a bus ticket and sent him on his way. And so I said goodbye to him at the same place that I met him.

This would not be the only time that I invited a stranger into our home. But that is a story for another day. I will leave you with this thought: Asking the question “what would Jesus do” is always a good question to ask. Sometimes people will take advantage of your desire to please God but don’t let that keep you from asking the question again and again.

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #132 – About Jesus’ Birth

Dear Grandkids,

‘Tis the season when the Christmas story is read from Luke 2. No doubt you have heard it and are familiar with it. But I wonder if you have ever really thought about what it was like for Joseph and Mary. Here are a few things to consider the next time you hear the story…

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

  • It was 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary most likely would have traveled south along the flatlands of the Jordan River and then turned west somewhere near Jericho to head up towards Jerusalem. And by up I mean up. It was about 18 miles of uphill rocky terrain to Bethlehem.
  • As you picture this, keep in mind that Mary was 8½ months pregnant. If they were able to cover 10 miles a days it would have taken a week and a half.  This would have been a grueling trek for anybody – much less a very pregnant woman.
  • And whether she walked or rode on a donkey, which we do not know, Mary would have been sore and exhausted from the trip. She would not have been well rested as she went into labor and gave birth. Most stories of the birth account romanticize it, but I promise that Mary did not have a beatific look on her face when Jesus made His way into the world.
  • In America almost all births happen in the sterile, comfortable confines of a hospital with multiple medical personnel on the ready. Joseph and Mary were probably hoping to stay in the spare bedroom of a relative or another Jewish family or worst case in an inn but because so many people were in town because of the census the best lodging they could find was likely a dark, dank cave.
  • The cave no doubt was a respite for animals so use your imagination to take a good whiff of what Jesus’ delivery room most likely smelled like.
  • And Jesus’ birth was like any other birth. There was a lot of wailing on Mary’s part, and a lot of anxious moments on Joseph’s part. And there was no doubt a lot of amniotic fluid and blood and possibly that gross looking cheesy stuff followed by the expulsion of the placenta. It was a royal mess – pun intended – as the King of Kings made His way into the world.
  • And then Jesus began to cry – which was an awesome sound given everything that Joseph and Mary had just gone through.

And thus began the the most influential life that has ever existed.

The next time you read or hear the Christmas story – think about the story within the story. And be very grateful that God sent His Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #131 – HB Audrey and About Change

Dear Audrey,

Change!

Without a doubt we can say that your third year of life was a year full of change. Let’s do a quick review of some of the major changes you’ve experienced the last 12 months.

  • In February you went from being the baby sister to being a big sister when your family welcomed Haddon into the world.
  • In March the whole world changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit and it forced everybody to make significant changes in their lives.
  • In November you found out that your family would be moving to Raleigh – new city, new home, new church, new job for your daddy.

Those three changes alone are enough to rock anybody’s world. Add to that the crazy-ness of being a two year old and all the changes you were experiencing just by being a healthy, growing little girl.

Some people handle change better than other people. Even as I wrote that I heard your great Aunt Jeanne say out loud, “Amen!” But one thing that you can count on is that you will go through hundreds of changes in your life. Some of them you will readily embrace and some you will fight to avoid. Some will come from out of nowhere and some you will have a lot of time to prepare for. Some will make you laugh and some will make you cry. Some you will initiate and some will be thrust upon you.

The best advice that I can give you as you grow up to prepare for the changes that will come your way is this: Draw near to God! Psalm 91 says it this way:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you…

He will deliver you no matter what changes might come your way…. Draw near to God!

As a bonus, here are 4 quotes that I came across about change that I like.

  • “Worrying about something you can’t change will forever be the biggest waste of your time.”
  • “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ―Mother Teresa
  • “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” —C.S. Lewis
  • “You’re always one decision away from a totally different life.” —Mark Batterson

I hope you have an awesome day celebrating your birthday and that it is full of lots of fun surprises. Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #130 – About Feasting and Leftovers

Dear Grandkids,

Yesterday we feasted.

I always look forward to our meal together on Thanksgiving because there is SOOO much yummy food. And so many yummy leftovers. I am a big fan of leftovers. I know that some people don’t like to eat leftover food but my philosophy is that if it is good enough to eat once then it is good enough to eat twice… or three times. Besides the turkey, I’m excited about my continued enjoyment of sweet potato casserole, corn casserole, deviled eggs, and mocha cheesecake. Yummers!

There is a feast that is mentioned in Scripture that I would love to have been a part of.

It is mentioned in Exodus 24 and I have never heard anybody teach or preach about this passage – but it intrigues me. Moses had just finished delivering the Ten Commandments and all the other rules from God for the people of Israel. Then the Lord invited Moses and the 70 elders of Israel to go up on the mountain for a time of worship and a thanksgiving feast. Verses 9-11 say this:

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

It is passages like this capture my imagination. Here are some questions that I would love to know the answer to:

  • What was their first reaction when they saw God?
  • How would they describe Him to family and friends when they came down off the mountain?
  • What kind of food did God serve?
  • How did this moment change them? Was it a life-changing experience?
  • In light of this experience, what were they thinking  during the infamous “golden calf” incident (Exodus 32) that took place not too long after the mountain top experience?

Even though Aaron was on the mountain and a part of the feast with God we know from Exodus 32:2 that he was definitely complicit in the forging of the golden calf. I find it hard to imagine after what he experienced on the mountain how he could do this or let the Israelites talk him into doing this.

And then I am reminded that my memory is also short lived. I can feast on God’s Word and be in His presence in the morning and then turn around later in the day and pay homage to my own idols.

So here is my encouragement to you…. Enjoy the feasting each morning as you spend time in the Word but then nibble on the leftovers throughout the day so that you are never long removed from Scripture. This might take the form of going over a memory verse or pondering something you read in the morning or putting Scripture into practice or praying over the passage or having a conversation with someone about the text.

Feast. Nibble. Nibble. Nibble. Repeat tomorrow. This will go a long way in keeping you from having your own golden calf incident. If you are not yet familiar with this story then read Exodus 32 and let it serve as a warning to you.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #129 – About being Thankful… for Fleas

Dear Grandkids,

So this is the week that our nation sets aside for giving thanks. The origin of Thanksgiving goes back to the Pilgrims in the 17th century but it was not until 1941 that the holiday was officially declared by the president to be celebrated the 4th Thursday of November.

For those of us who are believers in Jesus and hold Scripture up as the holy Word of God, thanksgiving is supposed to be a daily practice as we recognize that the Lord is at work in ALL the details of our lives. So we give thanks when things are going well and we give thanks when things are going not so well. During these crazy COVID-19 days it would be very easy to grumble and whine but our calling is to do otherwise. Gratitude is an expression of faith and faith is the primary identifying mark of Christians.

This was a lesson that Corrie Ten Boon learned when she and her sister were enduring the insane suffering that took place in World War Two concentration camps. She relates an incident in her book The Hiding Place that is worth remembering when life is less than ideal.

She and her sister, Betsy, had just been transferred to the worst German prison camp they had seen yet, Ravensbruck. On entering the barracks, they found them extremely overcrowded and flea-infested. That morning, their Scripture reading in 1 Thessalonians had reminded them to “rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances.” Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsy persisted, and Corrie finally succumbed to her pleadings. During the months spent at the camp, they were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings without the guards interference. It was not until several months later that they learned the reason the guards would not enter the barracks was because of the fleas.

You have often heard me say that “Reyners are not whiners” – so the next time you are tempted to whine about something just picture yourself being covered with fleas… and then give thanks that you are not.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #128 – HB Grayson… and About the Rubik’s Cube

Dear Grayson,

Happy Birthday my eight year old grandson. It continues to be an incredible pleasure to watch you grow up. I see you as a kind, compassionate, curious, smart young man who is an awesome role model for your brothers to look up to. And it is because of you that I tried a new thang this year. Because of your interest in the Rubik’s Cube I decided to buy a 3×3 cube and learn how to solve it. Which I did. I am not fast but I can solve it to my satisfactory pace.

But it has occurred to me that there are several lessons that can be gleamed from the Rubik’s Cube that you might not have thought about.

#1 – The cube is seemingly complex, but actually straightforward. There are millions of different permutations and yet it can be solved by knowing a few basic moves (algorithms) as well as when and how to apply them. Life can be this way too. Sometimes it appears as if it is a complete and unsolvable mess but once you understand what to do it is generally just a matter of time and patience to unravel the mess. The best place to learn how to solve an unsolvable mess is God’s Word. The Lord has a track record of creating beauty out of ashes.

#2 – Watching others solve the cube can be very very helpful. There are no doubt many people who have solved the cube without help from anybody. I am not one of them. I watched several YouTube tutorials to learn a method that made sense to me. As you grow up you will be tempted to try to figure out life on your own. My encouragement to you is to find people that you respect and learn as much as you can from them. Paul said in Philippians 4:9, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Find worthy role models – but also be a worthy role model for others.

#3 – Did you know that the center cube on each face is immutable? It never moves. It never changes position. Having confidence that those center pieces will never move lets you use them as a framework to arrange all the other cubes around. This is also true about God. He is immutable. And you can have complete confidence that if the framework of your life is built around Him then you can make sense of life even when it seems to make no sense. James 1:17 says it this way, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

#4 – There’s a huge difference between learning how to solve the cube and figuring it out. I have learned how to solve the cube but I have not figured it out. As far as the Rubik’s Cube goes, I am content with this. I am not content with this as far as my relationship with God goes. Many people are. Many people are content with knowing their way around the Bible; with being able to quote a few key Scripture verses; with knowing a lot of things about God. They have solved the “God problem” part of their life. But God is not a problem to be solved. I don’t want to know about God. I want to know God. And I know that I will NEVER “figure Him out”. Nor would I want to. If I could then He would not be a God worth knowing. Knowing God is a worthy lifelong pursuit of getting to know Him better. And as J.I. Packer says,  it a pursuit “calculated to thrill a man’s soul.” I hope it is a pursuit that you will zealously aspire to.

I am very grateful for you and love being your Pop Pop! May your birthday be full of bodacious surprises.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #127 – About the Presidential Election Again – And Abraham Lincoln

Dear Grandkids,

The election I talked about in my last epistle is still not over. Half a dozen states are still being contested, law suits are being filed, accusations of election fraud are being tossed around and our country – once the envy of every nation in the world – is being mocked worldwide. This makes me sad.

I was recently asked the following question by a very compassionate and wise woman – you know her as Bett: Given everything that is going on in our country, what is the most important thing you want the next administration to work on? Here was my answer…

“Right now the political culture is Republicans versus Democrats. And there is a wide divide. I would love for the next administration to begin building bipartisan bridges where it is not us against them. So instead of Republicans versus Democrats, rather it is Republicans and Democrats working together for the good of our nation. The divide that exists in our country is just a reflection of the divide that exists in Washington. If we are indeed going to be the UNITED States of America then we need to model from the top down what that looks like.”

Interestingly, 160 years ago today, America elected a new president at a time when our country was probably even more divided than it is today. He received only 40% of the popular vote but still easily outdistanced the three other candidates that were on the ballot. That gives you an idea of the division that existed. That president was Abraham Lincoln.

By the time of Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861, seven states had seceded, and the Confederate States of America had been formally established. One month after that the Civil War began. Those were indeed dark days for our country. But as we look back through the lens of history, Lincoln is regarded as one of our greatest presidents for what he did to preserve these United States and to bring an end to slavery – and also for his powerful oratorical gifts. Here are a few quotes from him that are worth pondering during these turbulent days.

  • “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
  • “Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it.”
  • “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
  • “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
  • “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
  • “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”
  • “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
  • “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”
  • “Life is hard but so very beautiful”

My hope and prayer is that our country will heal and will once again become the moral and democratic leader among the nations of the earth. Perhaps in the years to come the Lord will raise up a leader that can effectively lead us to that end so that you can experience the greatness of America that I have known. But no matter what happens…

… Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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