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

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 167 – HB Haddon and About Two Awesome Truths

 

Happy Birthday Haddon,

You are 2 years old. It is 2 days after “Twosday”, a date that a lot of people thought was pretty cool – 2/22/22 – which happened also to fall on a Tuesday. And there is a lot of craziness going on in our world right now. It will be interesting to see how today’s headlines play out between now and birthday #3.

  • Many people think we could be on the brink of World War 3 as Russia is on the verge of invading Ukraine.
  • We are two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, still wearing face masks in public places, and wondering when it might end.
  • Inflation is soaring. Gas is $3.49/gallon and the stock market is struggling.
  • Major League Baseball is in a lockout – not sure if it will start on time or not.

I say all that to remind you of two things that I hope you never forget:

1) God is in control – Our God is a sovereign God and even when it seems like things are out of control, God is still very much in control. We can trust that when nothing much makes sense to us that everything makes sense to Him.

2) The joy of the Lord is your strength – Even when life is crazy, even when life is hard, even when we have every outward reason to despair, we can find strength to persevere and experience joy in the journey.

May the Lord often bring these two awesome truths to mind as you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 166 – About Eternal Life

 

Dear Grandkids,

One of my very first blog posts many years ago pondered eternal life. I wanted to share it with you here in a Pop Pop Epistle.

John 17:3 says, “ Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is one of the greatest classic series ever written  On the final page of the final book (The Last Battle) of the series, some of the children who have been to Narnia are very sad that they once again must return to their homeland—called the Shadowlands. Aslan (the lion who represents Jesus) asks them about this:

[Aslan spoke to the children,] “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”

Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”

The point here is that the children of Narnia dreaded the idea of going back to the Shadowlands and leaving Narnia – not because they didn’t like their home but because it meant leaving Aslan. Whereas we, for the most part, dread the idea of leaving this world for the next. Let’s face it, we like it here. We’re comfortable here. We have our stuff here. This world is known. We don’t generally get excited about the unknown. We don’t like the idea of either dying or being dead. Contrast this with how the Apostle Paul felt about facing death and leaving this world:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain….I desire to depart and be with Christ which is better by far… I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil 1:21, 22; 3:8)

Perhaps he knew something that we think we know but don’t really know: that knowing Christ is what we were made for and what we were saved for. That knowing Him is what makes heaven worth waiting for and life worth living. That knowing Him is the secret to experiencing eternal life in the fullest sense of the term.

So here’s the question that I have to ask myself: Do I know Him like this? Not just know about Him. Not just believe in Him or even trust Him for my salvation. But do I know Him? Know Him like Paul knew Him. Know Him like the children of Narnia knew Aslan.  The answer to this question will determine whether I merely have eternal life or whether I am enjoying and savoring the eternal life that I have been given.

Perhaps it is a question that you need to ponder as well.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 165 – HB Bowen and About Baseball Cards

 

Dear Bowen,

Happy 7th birthday my young grandson. It seems like only yesterday that you were just 6. Time is flying by!

I continue to be amazed by the way that you care for other people. I see this in the way that you treat your younger cousins but also know that your heart has a tenderness for people and that the Lord is going to use you to show others the love of Christ as you grow up and you grow older. It is my pleasure and privilege to be your Pop Pop.

It has been fun over this past year to share with you my love of baseball by showing you all my baseball cards. As you know many of them are New York Mets cards because I have been a Mets fan for over 50 years. Here are a few of my Mets cards that you have seen that are special to me. Both Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan are Hall of Famers. Dwight Gooden probably would have been if he had not been young and stupid and gotten himself addicted to drugs, All three of them played on a Met’s World Championship team. Tom and Nolan in 1969 and Dwight in 1986.

There was a time when some of these cards would have been worth a good deal of money but not so much anymore. But remind me to show you my card of Honus Wagner – I’ve heard that it might still have some value.

Here is a Scripture verse for you to ponder as you move into your 8th year. It is one that I preached on this past Sunday…

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. (Joshua 1:8-9)

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 164 – About Calvin and Hobbes Last Strip

 

Dear Grandkids,

Check this out.

On December 31, 1995 Bill Waterson dropped his last Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Now that we are at the end of almost 2 years of Covid drudgery the optimism of the message here seems quite appropriate. I’m looking forward to exploring 2022 with you.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 163 – Where I Was 10 Years Ago Today – About The Accident

 

Dear Grandkids,

India. I was in India.

Long before I started writing these Pop Pop Epistles, a thing happened that has in many ways framed the last 10 years of my life. Mostly because I am alive to write this. It happened 10 years ago today. Nona and I and Scott and Tucker (before they were married) went to visit Christy and Chad who were serving in India at the time. We had an awesome trip planned, that included time in India as well as Thailand, but things did not turn out in any way shape or form as we had planned things out. I will refer you to the following three blog posts to give you the details rather than re-writing what has already been chronicled. The first post was written by Christy. The other two were written by me.

You have no doubt heard us reference “the accident” over the years. This will help you better understand what happened and why it has shaped our lives so significantly. Suffice it to say that if the Lord had not been our Protector then many of you would not even be around to read this.

The Scooter Accident

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

More Lessons Learned

We are very grateful that we have had these years to be your Nona and Pop Pop and Lord willing are looking forward to many many more. Here is one major takeaway that I will leave you with:

Live your life in such a way that you will have stories to tell but never ever take the life you have been given for granted.

And never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

%d bloggers like this: