Pop Pop Epistle # 148 – Happy Birthday Asher and the Significance of June 9

 

Happy Birthday Asher!

It sure is fun watching you grow up. So much personality in such a little girl.

I don’t think I’ve ever told you about the significance of your birthday – June 9. Two things happened on that day and had they NOT happened… well, neither would you have.

The first thing happened on June 9, 1929. The New York Yankees were the reigning World Champions and iconic baseball legends like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were national heroes. Greta Garbo, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin were stars in Hollywood. Herbert Hoover had just become president of the United States. And  the US economy was flying high – the stock market had reached all time highs of close to 300  – but it was only a few months away from a colossal crash that would signal the beginning of the Great Depression.

And June 9, 1929 was also, significantly for you, the day that my dad was born. Because of course if he had not been born then I would never have been born and your dad would never have been born and consequently you would never have been born.

The second thing happened on June 9, 1957.  The New York Yankees were again the reigning World Champions and iconic legends like Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra were the heroes this time. John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn were Hollywood stars and Elvis Presley was beginning to make a name for himself. Dwight Eisenhower was the president of the United States. The economy was in a recession. And Hawaii and Alaska had not yet become states.

And June 9, 1957 was also, significantly for you, the day that my mom and dad got married. Because of course if they had not gotten married then… well, you get the point.

But of course THE most significant thing to happen on June 9 happened on June 9, 2017 because that is the day that you were born. It was a great day for Nona and I as we finally were able to say that we had a grand-daughter (to go with 4 grandsons.) It was a great day for your mom and dad as they became parents for the first time. And it was a great day for the world because you make the world a better place and I have no doubt that your influence in the years to come will be incredibly significant.

June 9. Or 6/9. Here is a 6:9 verse to keep in mind as you grow up and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

May the Lord draw you near to His throne of grace and prepare you this year for the very significant role that you have in your family as big sister to Ezra and soon to be big sister to Judah. And may He give you a great joy in “doing good”  for the sake of the gospel and the blessing of those around you.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 147 – About May the 8th

 

(If you enjoy reading my posts I would encourage you to subscribe to my blog using the button somewhere on this page. It is easy to miss them if you are relying on Facebook or Twitter feeds)

Dear Grandkids,

Today is what is known as V-E Day. Victory in Europe. It is the day in 1945 that the German army laid down their arms in surrender and officially gave the Allied forces victory over the Nazi war machine in World War 2. It is also a great day to remember the victory that has been secured for us at the cross  – and even though the enemy of our soul still fights a hopeless battle we take heart knowing that we have victory in Jesus.

May the 8th!

For the 4th year in a row I want to pronounce some benedictions over you – benedictions that reflect the great victory that Jesus won at the cross when He defeated death and the evil one.

May the 8th verse of Acts 1 remind you that as believers we are empowered by God via the presence of His Spirit to boldly proclaim the gospel wherever we go:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

May the 8th verse of Romans 5 help you to never forget the incredible depth of the love that God has for you:

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

May the 8th verse of Ephesians 2 cause you to live gratefully knowing that it is the magnanimous gift of God’s grace that has granted you salvation and a restored relationship with the Father:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

May the 8th verse of Philippians 3 inspire you to forsake anything that this world might seduce you with because of the incomparable value of knowing Jesus:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

May the 8th verse of Philippians 4 stir you to think great thoughts of God and fortify your mind against the assault of the enemy:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

May the 8th verse of 1 Timothy 4 and may the 8th verse of James 4 energize you to pursue  daily disciplines that strengthen you unto godliness and provides nourishment for your soul.

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

May the 8th verse of Psalm 34 reassure you of God’s goodness and blessing as you look to Him for refuge and refuse to find your identity in the eyes of this world.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

 

And may the 8 of you (soon 9) never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 146 – Happy Birthday Miller: God’s Not Dead

 

(If you enjoy reading my posts I would encourage you to subscribe to my blog using the button somewhere on this page. It is easy to miss them if you are relying on Facebook or Twitter feeds)

Happy Birthday Miller,

It was lots of fun spending this past weekend with you and your family. It was fun to hear your excitement for your Chick-fil-A themed birthday. It was also fun to hear your enthusiasm for your new favorite song – God’s Not Dead.

I love the way that you contrast your loud voice and your quiet voice to emphatically proclaim that God’s not dead. Let me tell you a little about the backstory to your song…

It was the year 1884 when Friedrich Nietzsche famously said in his Parable of the Madman that “God is dead.” 82 years later, that quote  inspired one of the most iconic magazine covers of all time when Time Magazine published it’s cover that asked the question, “Is God Dead”? (April, 1966). The story, and the magazine cover, became a symbol of the tumultuous decade of the sixties (which your Pop Pop lived through) and inspired the movie entitled “God’s Not Dead” 48 years later (2014). It was this movie that featured the song that you are singing.

The song was written by Daniel Bashta in 2010 but made famous by The Newsboys when they covered it in 2012 and then released as part of the soundtrack for the God’s Not Dead movie. HERE is the YouTube version of the song from the movie.

The movie is about a committed Christian college student who is confronted  by his atheist professor and challenged to prove the existence of God. The student ultimately confronts the professor with the question, “Why do you hate God”? In my experience, it is hard to deny the existence of God. But most people who do deny His existence have dismissed Him because they can’t make sense of tragic circumstances in their life and have turned their anger and hate towards God into a complete dismissal of Him. It is easier for them to NOT believe in God than to believe in a God that allows catastrophic suffering to happen – especially when that suffering becomes intensely personal. Scripture tells us that the existence of God is the ONLY way to make sense of the evil and suffering in the world – not the other way around. I believe this wholeheartedly.

I promise that you will indeed experience suffering in your life. I can also promise that God is not dead and that he will be with you every step of the way through that suffering. May this song that you sing so passionately be an anthem for your life as you experience many more birthdays in the years to come.

God’s not dead – He’s surely alive!

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 145 – About National Haiku Poetry Day

 

(If you enjoy reading my posts I would encourage you to subscribe to my blog using the button on the right. It is easy to miss them if you are relying on Facebook or Twitter feeds)

Dear Grandkids,

Apparently there is a “national day” for just about everything. It turns out that today is National Haiku Poetry Day. What is Haiku you might ask?

Haiku poetry is a form of Japanese poetry that is non-rhyming and usually consists of 3 lines with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5. English haiku however does not always follow the strict syllable count found in Japanese haiku. The typical length of haiku in the English language is 10-14 syllables.

The challenge with haiku is trying to say a lot with only a few words. And trying to be profound in only a few words. And trying to capture a breathtaking moment in only a few words.

I generally like poetry. You already know that I have tried my hand over the years at writing poetry. And I generally like challenges. So in honor of National Haiku Day here are a few haikus for your enjoyment and amusement.

A Pop Pop’s great joy.
Almost nine little munchkins.
The Lord’s handiwork!

A gift from the Lord.
Your Nona. My wife. My joy.
Forty years of adventures.

Pondering the Word.
Abiding in the Lord’s love.
Strength for each new day.

A rainbow of colors
Red, yellow, blue, green, and brown.
Peanut M&Ms.

Sleep. Glorious sleep.
Yet dreams that keep me awake.
Anticipation!

When you get some time try your hand at writing a haiku and then send it to me. It’s not as easy as you might think – especially if you stick to the 5-7-5 pattern of traditional haiku.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 144 – Memories of The Masters

 

(If you enjoy reading my posts I would encourage you to subscribe to my blog using the button on the right. It is easy to miss them if you are relying on Facebook or Twitter feeds)

Dear Grandkids,

It’s that time of year! I am sure that you are aware of how much I love the Masters Golf Tournament.

Sitting here watching the Master’s and reliving lots of memories. I grew up in Aiken, SC – about 20 miles away from the course. I have had the rare fortune to be a patron (that’s the word they use) at the tournament more times than I can count. I started going in the early 70’s when friends from NC would come down and stay at our house – but not want to use their tickets  everyday. Then from the late 70’s to the present my cousin Alan, who lives in Columbia, would make his tickets available to me for the Friday round every few years. (Alan, if you happen to read this – mega thanks for all the memories.) Here are some of those memories from over the years:

Jack Nicklaus – I was a huge Nicklaus fan growing up. I would follow him around the course – and because I was young, fast, and knew my way around I could always finagle a good spot to watch him – even though he had the largest crowds. As a kid I was an autograph hound and managed to get his autograph 3 times.

Ben Crenshaw’s autograph – In 1972, Ben was playing in his first Masters. No one knew who this young kid was. I saw him standing by himself next to #1 – it appeared that he was almost in awe of the fact that he was there. I walked up and asked for his autograph. He would go on to win the tourney 2 times during his career and often credits me and the encouragement I gave him that day for his success. Not!

Tiger – I’ve also been a huge fan of Tiger, the golfer. I’ve always enjoyed watching his excellence and finesse on the course. I was there for the Friday round when he won for the first time in 1997 and I was there for the Friday round when he won in 2019 – “a win for the ages” and “a return to glory.”

Ham sandwiches – Never been a big ham eater but Augusta National had the BEST ham sandwiches. And you would be surprised to know that the food at The Master’s is priced very fairly – unlike other sporting events where you pay $10 for a sandwich and drink.

The pristine environment – Absolutely gorgeous! If you’ve ever watched The Master’s on TV then you know it is a pretty place. But I promise you that even HDTV cannot do justice to how spectacular it really is. And you will never see a speck of trash anywhere. And rumor has it that they even make sure the pine straw all lays in the same direction. Incredible attention to detail.

Taking family and friends – Because of the generosity of my cousin I have been able to take quite a few folks to see the tournament. In case you are not aware it is a very difficult ticket to get. It borders on a high and holy privilege to be able to go to The Masters. Scott has been able to go 4 times so far and Tucker once. And 2 years ago, Chad and Mary got introduced to the course. And then a bunch of my buddies. I will single out one memory. A college chum of mine, Andre Hawkins, went with me when we were at Tulane. He idolized Jack Nicklaus and loved The Masters. I remember standing beside #1 with him when Jack was on the first tee and he literally broke into goose bumps because he was so excited. That’s kind of the effect this great tournament has it’s patrons.

The roars of the crowd – You really have to be there to experience the electricity of the place – especially when it goes from being soooo quiet (again, hard to explain how quiet a crowd of 10,000 can be) to so loud when the crowd reacts to a great shot. There is a buzz that reverberates around the whole course in seconds and everyone is scoreboard watching to see what just happened.

The Greatness of the Greats – I’ve been able to see all the greats of the previous generations play the game of golf – Sarazen, Sneed, Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Floyd, Casper, Nelson, Seve, Watson, Tiger, Phil, etc. It is unbelievable how good these guys are. I remember watching on the practice range as Tiger would land 300 yard shots within a few feet of each other at will. The commercial that says, “These guys are good,” is so understated. You realize this when you play the game of golf and then watch great players play the game of golf. It is a VERY hard game to be great at.

Amen Corner – This 3 hole stretch is tucked away on the far side of the course. #11 – a very difficult par 4 fronted by a pond, #12 – one of the most famous holes in golf with a tight little postage stamp green (fronted by Rae’s Creek) where many a tournament has been lost, and #13 – one of the greatest risk/reward holes in the game of golf. This little patch of property also serves as a metaphor for my life – which I have blogged about before.

A chance to play! – Okay, no not really, I haven’t had a chance to play Augusta National – but it is on my bucket list – so if any one else reading this has a connection and wants to make one of my dreams come true then you have my blessings to try.

It would be my great joy to take you to Augusta National one day. That may or may not ever happen. But perhaps we can sit in the comfort of my den and I can share some of the many memories I have of running around the course when I was a young lad.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

(Before the Pop Pop Epistles existed, and before you were born, I published a post similar to this in 2011. This is an updated version)

 

Pop Pop Epistle #143 – About Keith Green (and the Easter Song)

(If you enjoy reading my posts I would encourage you to subscribe to my blog using the button on the right. It is easy to miss them if you are relying on Facebook or Twitter feeds)

Dear Grandkids,

As a teenager growing up in the ’70s (way back in the last century), music was a big part of my life – as it was for most people my age. I was a fan of some of the greats of the Rock and Roll era. But my very favorites included The Doobie Brothers, Chicago, The Eagles, and The Marshall Tucker Band as well as solo artists like Elton John, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot and James Taylor.

But the artist that had the most influence on my life was not a part of the secular music scene. I had become a believer in Jesus in 1974. Christian music was still in it’s infancy when Keith Green began his ministry as a young man of 22. He and his wife Melody, as very new believers living in the Los Angeles area, began taking people in need into their home and discipling them. Many of them were drug addicts, prostitutes, and homeless. They bought several more properties in their neighborhood as their ministry grew and as more and more people found out about their ministry. Their home was dubbed “The Greenhouse” – a place where people grow. In 1977, the Greens outreach became a non-profit ministry they called Last Days Ministries and in 1979 they relocated from the The San Fernando Valley to northeast Texas near Lindale.

Meanwhile he was writing music and performing concerts. His music called people to follow Jesus in a way that was at the same time encouraging and prophetic. People were drawn to his message because he radically lived out everything that he was singing about. (Don’t miss the lesson there). Not only was his music really good but it pierced people’s hearts like few artists were able to do. This was definitely true for me. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that you are alive because of the influence Keith Green’s music had on my life. (Read THIS and you will understand what I mean).

Tragically, at the age of 28, he was killed in a plane crash along with two of his children. But he left a legacy that many people, like myself, still tell as a part of their story.

He crafted a lot of memorable songs such as O Lord You’re Beautiful, Your love Broke Through, and You Put This Love in My Heart. But one of my favorites was actually a cover that he did of another artist. I think about and find myself singing it at this time of year. It’s called The Easter Song. It was written by Annie Herring of a group called 2nd Chapter of Acts.

The lyrics go like this:

Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing
That You can be born again
Here the bells ringing, they’re singing
Christ is risen from the dead
The angel up on the tombstone
Said, He has risen, just as He said
Quickly now, go tell His disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead
Joy to the world
He has risen, Hallelujah
He’s risen, Hallelujah
He’s risen, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing
That You can be healed right now
Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing
Christ, He will reveal it now
The angels, they all surround us
And they are ministering Jesus’s power
Quickly now, reach out and receive it
For this could be your glorious hour

 

I had a chance to see Keith in concert in Dorton Arena in Raleigh not too long before he died. Check out his music when you get a chance. I think you will find that it nourishes and challenges your soul.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle #142 – Happy Birthday Ezra

Dear Ezra,

Happy Birthday #2 baby girl. You’ve done so much growing up in the past year. I’m looking forward to watching all the growing up you will do this next year.

Here’s something that you may already know. Your name means “helper.” Now I’m not sure if your parents named you after the Ezra in the Bible or if they just liked the name, but the Ezra in Scripture was most definitely a helper. Here are two ways that this played out in his life.

He helped the people of God return home – God’s people had been a part of the Babylonian Captivity. The Jews had been deported from Jerusalem and exiled for about 70 years almost 1000 miles from their homeland.. Ezra, along with Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, were instrumental in the return of the exiles.

He helped the people of God return to Word of God – Ezra loved Scripture. And he loved passing on his love for Scripture to others. His passion for God’s Word led to a national declaration of repentance and a renewed hunger among God’s people to live lives that were pleasing to the Lord.

Ezra 7:9-10 sums up these two things about Ezra…

 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him.  For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

But note the key phrase in the middle of those verses: “for the good hand of his God was on him.”  The reason that Ezra was so effective in his ministry of helping was because God’s hand was upon him.

I will be praying as you grow up that God’s hand will indeed be upon you and that He will use you as a mighty helper among God’s people. In the meantime, it is my joy and pleasure to be your Pop Pop.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle #141 – Where’s Waldo? Or Better Yet, Who’s Waldo?

Dear Grandkids,

The last time the boys were here at our house they pulled out the Where’s Waldo book from when your parents were little and we had fun looking for Waldo and scrolls and other stuff. The first Waldo book was published back in 1987 so Waldo has been in our home for a lot of years. Waldo had a great love for traveling, he seemed to always have a smile on his face, and in later books he was often accompanied by his beloved dog Woof.

But I want to tell you about another Waldo that you have probably never heard of but who is very much worth knowing about.

Peter Waldo was born around 1140 AD. He was a very wealthy, well-known merchant in the city of Lyon, France. He had a wife, two daughters, and lots of property. But something happened — some say he witnessed the sudden death of a friend, others say he heard a spiritual song of a traveling minstrel — and Waldo became deeply troubled over the spiritual state of his soul and desperate to know how he could be saved.

He started reading the Bible. But it was only available to him in Latin, so he hired someone to translate it for him. He sought counsel from a priest who pointed him to Luke 18:22, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” This Scripture pierced his heart – he realized that he had been a servant to money his entire life and he vowed from that point on to live in complete dependence on God for his provision.

He began to preach, especially among the poor. He began to develop a following that turned into a movement and spread throughout France and other parts of Europe. They became known as “The Waldensians.”

Waldo spoke out against the Catholic Church and many of it’s practices and beliefs and he began to come under fire from the church – eventually being excommunicated by Pope Lucius III. Even after Waldo’s death around 1218 the movement continued to grow – fueled by it’s love for God’s Word and it’s belief in the priesthood of believers. They were forerunners of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century and helped set the stage for everything that Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and the other reformers accomplished.

Jon Bloom says this about Waldo: “He was a merchant turned prophet who simply believed in the word of God with all his heart, which he demonstrated with all his life. And in taking God at his word, Waldo turned his world upside down.”

May it be so said of me. May it be so said of each of you.

And perhaps the next time you pick up a Where’s Waldo book you will also be prompted to ask not just where’s Waldo but who’s Waldo.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle #140 – Happy Birthday #1 Haddon

Dear Haddon,

A year ago, I posted an epistle that included a prayer for you that concluded this way: “And lastly I ask that You would use Haddon to courageously teach and proclaim the Scriptures even as the prince of  preachers did many years ago – Charles Haddon Spurgeon -that You will use him to influence many generations for the sake of the gospel.”

You have a great namesake – a man who treasured the Word of God. Here is just a little about him…

Charles Spurgeon was born in 1834 and died in 1892. On 6 January 1850, when he was 15, a snow storm made him seek shelter in a  chapel. While he was there, a worker there said to him, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Spurgeon knew this to indeed be true. The worker, seeing his need, replied, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ! Look! Look! Look! You have nothin’ to do but to look and live.” Shortly thereafter, God opened his heart to believe the gospel and he was baptized. It was not long after that that he preached his first sermon and at 19 he became the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London where he served for 38 years.

Here are a few choice quotes from your namesake:

  • There may be some sins of which a man cannot speak, but there is no sin which the blood of Christ cannot wash away.
  • Bible study is the metal that makes a Christian. This is the strong meat on which holy men are nourished.
  • You say, “If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.” You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.
  • I believe the holier a man becomes, the more he mourns over the unholiness which remains in him.
  • Learn to say no. It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin.

It has been a crazy first year of life for you. Right about the time you were born last year we entered Covid-19 and pandemic mode. And then later in the year you moved from our house to your new house in Raleigh. I miss seeing you every day and watching you grow and even though you won’t remember much about this first year of your life I hope that you will…

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle #139 – About Valentine’s Day and The Pale Blue Dot

Dear Grandkids,

Yes, today is indeed Valentine’s Day. It is a day to declare or re-declare our love for one another – and specifically for couples to express their love for each other. Hence, there are a dozen roses sitting on our table and I am fixing a romantic steak supper for Nona and I tonight. Yes, even at 62 years old we can still be romantic.

But I am sure that you are curious what the “pale blue dot” is in the title of this epistle and what it has to do with Valentine’s Day. Well I came across this tidbit of history that I found very interesting. Perhaps you will too.

Way back in September of 1977 NASA launched a space probe that was named Voyager 1. Its intended purpose was to study our solar system. It took about 1.5 years (March, 1979) for it to get to Jupiter and to begin transmitting data and photos. It took another 1.5 years (November 1980) for it to get to Saturn. Now here is what I was astounded by: The gaps between the outer planets are so vast that it was another 10 years before it passed by Neptune and arrived at the spot where it was to take a series of images of the planets, known as the “Family Portrait” of our solar system. And on February 14, 1990 (22+ years after it was launched, Voyager 1 transmitted a picture back of earth – a picture that became known as the “Pale Blue Dot.”

Earth appears as a tiny dot against the vastness of space. The photo was taken from 3.7 billion miles away.

Now there are a couple of things that I find quite amazing. 1) The technology to do this was developed back in the 1970’s. 2) The camera that took the picture was 23 years old and still working like it was brand new. 3) The photo was somehow sent to earth from 3.7 BILLION miles away.

And here are a couple of other things that I find even more amazing:

1) “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

2) “When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)

3) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17)

This Pale Blue Dot that we call home is unique among all the other dots out there in space. And you are unique among all the other inhabitants of this Pale Blue Dot. As you celebrate Valentine’s Day, never forget that you have been created for the purposes of a God that delights greatly in you and…

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

P.S. – Voyager 1 is still traveling out in interstellar space and will continue to transmit data until around 2025 when it will not have enough electrical power to continue to do so.

%d bloggers like this: