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

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 162 – HB Audrey and About Advent

 

Dear Audrey,

Happy birthday number 4. It’s been about a year since you moved from our house and I must say that I miss Audrey snuggles. Over the past year it has been fun to watch your independent spirit develop as well as your impish sense of humor. We are, however, going to have to work on getting over your “fear” of Mr. Hippopotamus.

Did you know that you are the only one of the 9 cousins that has your birthday at this most awesome time of year – what is often called Advent? Here are a few “Advent” facts for you…

The word advent itself means “arrival” or “an appearing.” Christians often speak of Christ’s “first advent” and “second advent”; that is, His first and second comings to earth. His first advent would be the incarnation.

The Advent season lasts for four Sundays. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. It can last from anywhere between 22 and 29 days depending on the calendar.

Advent is seen as a time to prepare one’s heart for Christmas and for the eventual return of Christ. This is what we sing each Christmas when we sing the first verse of Joy To The World:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

We often sing this Christmas carol without really giving thought to what we are singing. We should be asking ourselves this question: What am I doing to prepare my heart to worship the incarnate King? Here are a few Pop Pop thoughts about this…

  • Read and ponder some of the great Advent Scripture passages such as Luke 1:26-2:38, John 1:1-18, Matthew 2.
  • Take inventory of what occupies your heart. Spend some time before the Lord confessing that the desire for worldly things have been given priority over your desire for Christ.
  • Sing with joyful abandon some of the great Christmas hymns – and think about what you are singing.

Here is Joy To The World being performed by one of my current favorite groups – Pentatonix. Feel free to sing along and to sing out loud.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 161 – HB Grayson and About Running the Race

 

Dear Grayson,

I’m only two days late with this but…. Never mind. No buts. I just forgot. This happens more often than I would like in my senior saint years.

Happy birthday number nine. A pretty significant year since it is your last year of single digits. Nona and I enjoyed celebrating with you last week ahead of your birthday. You are an outstanding young man and we love watching you grow up.

It was really fun competing with you in your first ever 5K road race. I use that term loosely because you were very gracious to let me stay up with you.

There are a lot of parallels to running a race and our journey through the Christian life. The Apostle Paul points this out in several places:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-26)

…the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Here are just a few parallels that you might ponder as you pursue following Jesus…

  • The Christian race is a marathon not a sprint – it is a lifelong pursuit that requires “a long obedience in the same direction.”
  • A diligent pursuit  of Christ requires discipline and rigorous training – Just as a championship runner trains daily so following Christ demands the daily disciplines of time in the Word and prayer to build spiritual muscle.
  • Following Jesus wholeheartedly means we often have to say “No” – Titus 2:11-13 puts it this way, For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…”
  • The Christian race is difficult – It is definitely not for wimps. Those who choose to follow Jesus are promised that they will encounter hardship and persecution and suffering.
  • The Christian race is worth pursuing – Yes the race is difficult, but the reward is great for those who faithfully finish.

Thanks for pushing me this past weekend to run when I did not feel like running. There will be many times in your pursuit of Christ when you will not feel like running. Perhaps I will be be able to encourage you to keep going when you don’t feel like it.

 

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 160 – About The Baseball Hall of Fame

 

Dear Grandkids,

In my last epistle I told you about our Niagara Falls adventure which checked a box on Nona’s bucket list. We traveled from there to the Finger Lakes  – had an awesome hike at Watkins Glen State Park – and then on to Cooperstown to take care of one of my bucket list items. Truth be told, I had been to Cooperstown when I was about 11 years old but I had almost no memory of that visit. And a lot of baseball has been played since then so since we were in Upper State New York it made sense, for a baseball fan such as myself, to pay a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The first thing you do when visiting the hall of Fame is to watch a 15 minute video that reminds you of some of the great moments of the game. I’m not gonna lie, I teared up watching it as I remembered just how much baseball was a part of my growing up years and how much I loved learning about the history of the game.

Then you can spend however much time you want to just walking around the three floors and looking at all the exhibits. It would not be hard to spend 6+ hours doing this – but we spent about two. I included the plague of Willie Mays in the picture above because he was my favorite player growing up… The Say Hey Kid. The two guys on the bottom left are Babe Ruth and Ted Williams (The Sultan of Swat and the Splendid Splinter). The fella on the bottom right is Roberto Clemente (The Great One). You can tell that one of the legacies of the best to ever the play the game is the nicknames that they were given.

You probably know that the people of God have their own Hall of Fame – or rather Hall of Faith – found in Hebrews 11. It would not surprise you to see inductees like Noah, Abraham, and Moses. But the surprising thing to me is to see names like Gideon, Samson, and Jepththah. The Book of Judges seems to go out of its way to point out their flaws and seeming lack of faith. And yet here they are in Hebrews 11. Although it is surprising it is nonetheless encouraging. Evidently these men, as flawed as they were, demonstrated remarkable faith during the course of their lives – perhaps in ways that were not recorded in Scripture but were a part of the oral history passed down through the generations.

So there is hope for me yet. Perhaps my flaws, though recognized, will be far outweighed by my faith. Hebrews 11:6 puts it this way…

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

 

And perhaps one day too I will be tagged with a really cool nickname like Willie, or Babe, or Ted, or Roberto, or Hank, or Joe, or Ernie, or Ozzie, etc.

But you can always call me Pop Pop! That’s the coolest name that I can think of.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 159 – About Niagara Falls

 

Dear Grandkids,

Nona and I just got back from a 40th anniversary getaway. Our anniversary was back on August 1 but because Judah was expected to be born around that time we put off our trip until last week. Glad we did. The cooler weather was awesome.

One of the places we visited was a bucket list item for Nona – Niagara Falls. I had gone there with Bett and Gus about 50 years ago but had almost no memory of it other than being there. (Perhaps you have already seen this post from last year.) It really is worth a visit just because the waterfalls are so spectacular. There are in fact 3 waterfalls – The American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls – which can all be seen in the picture below on the left. The American Falls is on the left, Bridal Veil is just to the right of the American separated by Luna Island, and Horseshoe is on the right.

A couple of things that I was amazed by:

1) Just how close you can actually get to the top of the waterfalls…

2) Just how cool it is to be on a boat at the bottom of the falls…

3) How much water flows over the falls day after day after day.

Having seen the Falls up close and in person made me wonder why someone might say to themselves, ” I wonder what it would be like to go over the Falls in a pickle barrel?” That is exactly what Annie Edison Taylor did in 1901. She was 63 years old, a civil war widow, a retired school teacher who needed money. And she surmised that a plunge over the Falls was a good way to make some. She survived the stunt – perhaps because she took her cat with her who had some extra lives to share – but the scheme did not produce the cash flow she hoped for. 16 people have gone over the Falls in the name of adventure and the hope of fame and fortune. 11 have survived.

I like a good adventure as much as anyone – but…

I hope you get to visit the Falls one day. As Nona said, “Niagara Falls did not disappoint.”

To reiterate the Scripture I posted from Psalm 42 in the aforementioned Pop Pop epistle…

Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.

 

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 158 – About Sunset Beach 2021… and Naked Man

 

Dear Grandkids,

Perhaps you notice that I am unveiling a new picture with this epistle. Judah makes his first appearance on the banner picture and now all nine of you are accounted for – as well as your parents. As I look at this picture I can see a little bit of each of your personalities shining through in this one moment frozen in time.

So what will we remember from Sunset Beach 2021. Here are a few from my perspective.

Great weather – Not too hot. Not too cold. Good breeze off the ocean. Maybe the best weather we’ve had yet.

Lots of walks – All the early morning walks. The turtle hatchlings walk where we did not get to see turtle hatchlings. The excursion to “jellyfish” bay. Walks to Crab Island and the shops at Sunset. Lots of steps for the week.

The melted ice cream fiasco – My new love affair with Blue Bell ice cream did not turn out so well since the freezer was not keeping the ice cream frozen  But the soft serve was still yummy.

Sam – If this doesn’t ring a bell, just think of Aunt Jeanne’s foot.

Boogie boarding and wave jumping – Really good waves to catch with G and to jump over with the younger cousins

Chess Games – Lots of chess games and trying to teach about the dignity of resigning honorably.

Desserts – So many great cookie varieties – especially my double chocolate pudding cookies.

Naked Man – This is the one we will probably remember most about Sunset 2021. Police cars outside our house. Christy opening the door to go downstairs to find out what was going on – only to find a naked man passed out on the top step of of the stairway. “There’s a naked man on our steps” will long be remembered as an iconic beach memory and one of those statements you just don’t expect to hear on vacation.

Christy always does such a fantastic job with a recap video – we tried to do a re-enactment of naked man but it just doesn’t have the same effect with clothes on. Enjoy and remember and…

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 157 – Where I was 20 Years Ago Today

 

Dear Grandkids,

Today we say goodbye to Sunset Beach. Another family vacation is in the books, more memories to hold onto, and back to real life. But it only seems appropriate to remember for you what happened 20 years ago today. It was perhaps THE most culturally defining day of my lifetime. And I have lived through a lot of defining moments – a presidential assassination, Watergate, Vietnam, a moon landing, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, etc. What happened 20 years ago today dramatically changed our country and we feel the ripple effects every. single. day.

It was a Tuesday. Sometime between 9:00 and 9:30 AM. I was in the parking lot at the Post Office down the street from my church when it was announced on the radio that a plane had crashed into the side of one of New York City’s Twin Towers. At the time it was reported as a crazy air mishap. But 30 minutes later when another plane crashed into the other Twin Tower we began to understand that this was more than accidental.

Little did we know how much more. I was meeting a friend for lunch at Elmo’s Diner in Durham when we got the news  that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon and another plane (Flight 93) had crashed in Pennsylvania. We would later find out that it was targeting either the White House or The US Capitol Building. I can remember saying to my friend, “What is going on?”

As the day unfolded we learned that these four planes has been hijacked by  terrorists – later to be associated with the group known as al-Qaeda and masterminded by Osama bin Laden. Almost 3000 people died that day. The attacks resulted in the largest loss of life by a foreign attack on American soil.

Your parents were in middle school and high school when 911 (as it is referred to) happened. I was planning that coming weekend to raft the Gauley River in West Virginia (and its class 5 rapids) with a buddy to celebrate his 40th birthday. That did not happen as he got grounded in Toronto when air travel was shut down. Overnight the world became a scarier place to live.

Things that we are quite familiar with today did not even exist prior to 911. The Department of Homeland Security, The US Patriot Act, The War in Afghanistan (which just ended, sort of), ISIS, the TSA, Immigration Reform, the TV show 24 and it’s hero Jack Bauer.

September 11, 2001 will rightfully get talked about and remembered a lot today. But there are other things worth remembering as well…

  • The God that we worship and serve was not surprised by anything that happened on that day.
  • A quote that bears repeating: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
  • A Scripture from Matthew 16:33 where Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
  • A reminder that when things seem out of control, God is still in control.
  • Our faith is built on the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus and the  blessed hope that He will return one day to make all things right.
  • People are capable of incredibly heroic exploits – but the most heroic thing that we can do is to demonstrate love to the people around us every day.

There will no doubt be more days like 911 in our future but as a people of faith we are not to live in fear, but rather to hold out the hope of the gospel. God’s good news always trumps the world’s bad news.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

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