Did you know that the iris is Nona’s favorite kind of flower. Besides being a very pretty flower, it has sentimental significance to her – it was her mother’s favorite flower. So you would not be surprised to see a bunch of iris growing in our yard right now as it is peak season for irises.
Admittedly I am not much of a flower guy. But irises are indeed right perty. And I found out a few things about them that help me to appreciate them as well as to make an object lesson out of them.
For instance, I did not know that in Greek mythology Iris is the name of the Goddess of the Rainbow. And because the rainbow is a reminder of God’s covenant promise with His people (Genesis 9:15-17) every time that you see an iris in bloom be reminded that our God is a promise keeper…
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
The goddess Iris also escorted the deceased from earth to heaven, guiding them to their final destination. This association of irises and the afterlife became so entrenched in Greek culture that individuals would plant irises on the graves of loved ones. Now we know that this is myth, but irises can be a great reminder of the Lord’s promise that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
I also did not know that there are hundreds of varieties of iris. Lots and lots of different species and lots of different colors. Just to impress you with my word-smithing, they are what we might call sui generis. That is to say that they are unique. Speaking of the Red Hawk Bearded Iris, one reference said…
Large as well as prominently placed at the top of their erect and self-supporting stems, they are, conveniently, likely to be higher than the early-season growth of most perennials nearby. Iris show up well from a distance, then, so you don’t need more than an occasional clump to bring splashes of sui generis floral excitement to mixed plantings.
The connection for you is this: you also have been created to be very unique. There is no one else like you and you have been especially created to “bring splashes of sui generis” splendor to the world around you as you display the Lord’s wondrous imagination.
So the next time you see an iris take a minute and and notice it’s beauty. Take a minute and experience it’s scent. Take a minute and give thanks to God for being a promise keeper. Take a minute and thank God for creating you just the way that you are to demonstrate His glorious purposes. And then give Nona a phone call and tell her that you love her and are thinking about her.
Yes, I realize that today is NOT your birthday. Yes, I know that your birthday was last Monday. Yes, I just forgot to do a Pop Pop Epistle. My apologies. It does not mean that you are less loved it just means that your Pop Pop is getting forgetful in his older age. That being said… Happy Birthday!
For a 3 year old you are so full of LIFE and personality! I thought this would be a good chance to share ALL the words to a song that you are only familiar with the chorus of.
Your Mommy has no doubt told you that I used to sing this to her everyday on the way to school. And you have heard me sing it many times as it kind of represents the theme song of my life. I wrote it many years and still probably sing it every day as I am having my time alone with God. I hope it is a song that you are singing 75 years from now and are sharing with your kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.
It’s a great day to be alive
It’s a great day to wake up and sing
It’s a great day to be a child of the King
It’s a great day to be alive.
Life is an adventure
Each day a new surprise
A chance to watch God do His thing
Before our very eyes.
And those who say they love Him
Who call upon His name
Will find joy in the journey
And strength for each new day.
Today I’ll make a difference
Today I’ll take my stand
Today I’ll walk with Jesus
As He guides me by the hand.
I’ll set a good example
And I’ll live unselfishly
I’ll choose to live by faith
Because the Father has changed me.
And when this life is over
And eternal life begins
When death has claimed this body
And we’ve said goodbye to friends
There won’t be any reason
For us to be afraid
Cause when we see the Father
We can joyfully still say that…
It’s a great day to be alive
It’s a great day to wake up and sing
It’s a great day to be a child of the King
It’s a great day to be alive.
The past two years I have done May the 5th and May the 9th installments in this series. This year I want to share some May the 1st blessings that I am praying for you.
May the 1st verse of Psalm 23 encourage your soul as you are reminded of the Lord’s care and provision for you and that He will supply all your needs.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
May the 1st verse of Romans 5 reassure you as you ponder what it means to be justified by faith and find your confidence in the cross.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
May the 1st verse of Romans 12 motivate you towards daily surrender and to see your life as a sacrificial offering to the Lord who as mercifully saved you.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
May the 1st verse of 2 Corinthians 5 fortify you when life is hard knowing that we are “not living for the dot but for the line” that stretches into eternity.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
May the 1st verse of Ephesians 5 energize you to pattern the things you do and the things that you say after King Jesus as you remember just how much the Lord loves you.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
May the 1st verse of Hebrews 12 fuel you with determination and resolve as you consider all those who have gone before you and are even now cheering you on to stand firm in the faith and pursue Christlikeness with all diligence.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…
We are still deeply buried in the midst of this coronavirus thing. And we have no idea at this point how long it will go on. Here are some reflections from Habakkuk 3 who was dealing with his own pandemic and wondering when would life ever be normal again…
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength;” (Habakkuk 3:17-19a)
In this short book tucked away toward the back of the Older Testament, Habakkuk asks the kinds of questions that we all ask from time to time:
Why, God, do I cry for help and it seems like you don’t listen? (1:2)
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing and injustice in the world? (1:3)
Why do you do nothing when wicked people triumph over the righteous? (1:13)
Where are you when I’m jobless and and have no hope for a financial upturn? (3:17)
The one thing that you notice when you read this book is that though Habakkuk is complaining, he is complaining to God. This is a healthy kind of complaining. It is the complaining of a man who passionately loves God and is trying to make sense of who He is and what He is doing in the world around him. It is the kind of complaining that takes the time to listen to God after he puts all his gripes out on the table. It is the kind of complaining that isn’t trying to twist God’s arm into getting what he wants. Habakkuk loves God but there is much that he does not understand and much that he does not like. So he tells God. He is not ditching his faith; he is not turning his back on God; he is not complaining to whoever is willing to listen. He is talking with God. I say “with” rather than “to” because he takes the time to listen to what God has to say.
Pastor/author John Ortberg says in his book God Is Closer Than You Think, “When we are passionately honest with God, when we are not indulging in self-pity or martyrdom but are genuinely opening ourselves up to God, when we complain in hope that God can still be trusted – then we are asking God to create the kind of condition in our hearts that will make resting in His presence possible again. And God will come. But He may come in unexpected ways.”
After he has said his piece to God, Habakkuk finds peace with God. He is reminded that God is indeed in control. He is reminded that dire circumstances do not mean you cannot experience joy. He is reminded that each day he needs God’s strength to deal with life. He is reminded that even though life often seems unfair, that God is a fair and just Sovereign.
You will have plenty of opportunities to complain over the next 70 years of your life. Take your complaints to God even as you trust that He is indeed in control.
And may you find your joy and your strength in Him each and every day – no matter what you may have to complain about!
Today is the 100th day of the year 2020. It has been a different kind of year to say the least. But besides all the coronavirus stuff that is going on there are lots of other reasons to think about this day. Here are a few for your pondering minds:
It is Passover – Passover began last evening and will continue until April 16. For the Jews it commemorates their liberation from slavery and bondage in Egypt. Specifically, it remembers how the angel of death passed over all the families who had sprinkled blood over the doorposts of their homes and spared the killing of their firstborn.
It is also Maundy Thursday – “Maundy” is a shortened form of mandatum (Latin), which means “command.” On the Thursday of Christ’s final week before being crucified and resurrected, after washing His disciple’s feet in an extraordinary display of humility, Jesus gave this commandment to His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).
Interestingly, it was on this date, April 9, back in 1945, that pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged at Flossenburg, only days before the American liberation of the POW camp. The last words of the brilliant and courageous 39-year-old opponent of Nazism were “This is the end—for me, the beginning of life.” His book The Cost of Discipleship is considered a Christian classic.
On a more mundane level…
Today would have been the start of the 84th Masters Tournament. As you most likely know it is the one sporting event more than any other that I look forward to every year. It has been postponed because of Covid-19 so I am sad – but I rejoice with great joy that it will be resurrected in November.
At the beginning of the year I set a goal to do 100 pushups for 300 of the 366 days of the year. I am happy to report that so far I have done 100 pushups EVERY day this year for a total to date of 10,000.
And I continue to walk. So far in 2020 I am averaging 12,300 steps per day. My goal is only 10,000 so I am well above average.
I will leave you with a Psalm to ponder. Appropriately Psalm 100…
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
This epistle may come across as fatalistic but I’m willing to take that chance in these unprecedented days. As I write, the coronavirus is running rampant around the world. It has not yet reached it’s peak but it has found it’s way into our home. Scott was not feeling well on Friday, went and got tested, and the test came back positive. He is officially quarantined in our house. He doesn’t seem to feel all that bad at this point but this has made a surreal situation all of a sudden seem incredibly real.
There is no guarantee that the virus will stay contained in his room. There is no guarantee that I or anyone else in our home won’t get it. There is no guarantee that “this too shall pass” without grave consequences. Pun intended!
For that reason I did not want to leave things unsaid. I have always been better at communicating on paper than verbally because it gives me a chance to process what I want to say before I say it – and then review it and make sure I said it the way I meant to say it. So bear with me if this gets a bit lengthy. My hope is certainly that we can read this together 10 years from now and rejoice together that we all dodged a bullet.
No matter what happens always know this: God is my refuge and my strength, a VERY present help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
I am a blessed man and have had an incredibly blessed life.
What a blessing to be born into a Jewish family that was full of love. Even though my parents split up early in my life, both my dad’s family and my mom’s family were some of the most caring, generous, fun-loving people that I know. And to grow up in a home with my mom and my brother – during the tumultuous ’60’s – and not just survive, but thrive in so many ways was more than I could ask for.
What a blessing to grow up in Aiken, SC and have so many great friends – many of whom were instrumental in my faith journey. (I could name lots of names but I would no doubt leave someone out. Let me just say that I am grateful for the influence of so many good friends over the years.) The eyes of my heart were opened to faith in Christ late in my high school days and it changed the trajectory of my life forever. What a blessing to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have been “rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)
What a blessing to meet your Nona in the summer of ’79, in Galveston, Texas of all places, and begin an awesome adventure of love that has now lasted 41 years (almost 39 of those being married). She is an astonishing wife, ministry partner, co-laborer in our parenting adventures, and now Nona. When I think back to the days when I was a student pastor and we had 3 young kids and when I ponder the sacrifices she made on my behalf so I could pursue God’s calling on my life, I am beyond amazed. There were many years when I would be gone 4-5 weeks for camps, mission trips, conferences, etc and she would parent solo without grumbling or complaining. Even now I am awed by her work ethic, her desire to pursue God, her generosity, and her constant and creative investment in all of you. I am hopeful for about 35 more years of sojourning this life together – but I also know that if this virus (or anything else in these next few years) were to take me away that she would continue to find her strength and joy in God’s steadfast love and would continue to exude a robust faith always knowing that she is blessed “in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)
What a blessing to be a dad. My legacy is already being lived out through your parents as I watch them carry on in the faith and diligently raise all of you to do the same. Make sure that they are reminded often of these dad-words.
Christy – It is truly a delight to be your dad. And a joy to watch you be such a creative mom, wife, and disciple-maker. You are a gift! May you abide deeply and find nourishment for your soul daily in the Lord.
Chad – I am grateful that the Lord brought you into our family and it is fun to watch you grow as a pastor and leader. N.F.T.P.A.A.W and N.F.T.P.W.A.T. May your boldness be used to transform the city of Charlotte and to infuse your kids with courage.
Scott – I am amazed everyday as I watch you with your kids. You are an incredible father. The Lord is going to use you in ways that neither of us can even imagine right now. May you be fueled each day by the joy of the Lord and find your strength in Him.
Mary – You are such a blessing to our family. You are amazingly resilient and demonstrate a tenaciousness as you wait upon the Lord. May your heart overflow with gladness as your hope is rooted in Christ.
Tucker – You display a fearlessness and a willingness to try anything. The Lord will greatly use your daunting spirit as you submit yourself to God. May the fear of the Lord drive your pursuits as you seek Him and His righteousness.
Danielle – It is challenging to me as I watch you treasure friendships and invest in relationships. You are incredibly authentic and real. May God’s grace and peace fill you each day and cause you to hunger to know Him better and better.
What a blessing to be your Pop Pop. Eight of you young-uns in the last eight years and who knows how many more. I have every intention of watching all of you, graduate, get married, and have kids of your own. But just in case that does not happen I hope these Pop Pop Epistles will help you to navigate your way through all the challenges that you will face in this life – and there will be many. Always remember that it is as true for you as it is for me… God is your refuge and your strength, a VERY present help in times of trouble.
I’ve been trying to decide what my 100th post should be – seems like a significant number. Finally decided to go with the obvious since we have NEVER experienced anything like what we are experiencing now in our country. So I am going to give you some of my reflections on this coronavirus pandemic that is presently re-designing what the culture of the United States will look like.
1) Even though I am an introvert (I am energized by my alone time) I am finding that I miss being around people. My three primary places to find community are church, Chick-fil-A, and family – all of these are compromised right now.
2) I tend to be a glass half full kind of guy, meaning that I have a very optimistic outlook about things. Regarding Covid-19, this means I think everyone else will get the virus before I do. I am learning that I need to be less of a risk-taker in terms of my social distancing practices.
3) The stock market has lost one third of it’s value over the last few weeks. As I approach my retirement years you would think this might give me cause to worry. Interestingly, I have no concerns about this. I haven’t even looked at my accounts. As I read on a placard this past summer, “Worry is just a waste of imagination.” This encourages me as it affirms my trust in a God who is sovereign and has everything under control.
4) I miss sports. Especially this time of year. Specifically I am missing the NCAA tournament, the start of baseball season, and golf. I have come to love the word “postponed” – as in “The Masters has been postponed, not cancelled!”
5) This pandemic has reminded me just how creative people are. Lots of stuff is popping up on social media everyday that is humorous, inspiring, and outrageous. People have lots more time on their hands and it is spurring creativity. Here’s one that I thought was really good.
We don’t know how long this is going to last. We do know that the world is changing right before our very eyes in short order. We don’t know what the long term ramifications are going to be. We do know that there will be a new normal once this is all over. We don’t know what the Lord is doing as He allows this pandemic to run it’s course. We do know that He is in control…
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Happy birthday. What a wild and weird time to celebrate your FIRST birthday. Perhaps when you are older and reading this for the first time the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) world-wide crisis will be ancient history. But for now we are right in the middle of it and it is effecting EVERYTHING – which is why you did not have a birthday party to speak of. We are learning a new term – social distancing and we don’t like it much at all. Nona and I are glad that we at least get to come over and celebrate with you, Asher, and your parents.
It just doesn’t seem all that long ago when we were celebrating your dad’s 1st birthday.
This is going to sound strange to you but back in 1991 no one had cell phones. Few had personal computers. There was no internet. There was no such thing as Facebook or Amazon or Google or Spotify. Blogging was not a thing. People got their news from something called newspapers. No one had ever heard of Harry Potter or Tiger Woods or Ariana Grande. The Batchelor was the single guy down the street not a long running reality TV show. Donald Trump was a real estate developer not the president of the U.S.
A lot has changed in 29 years. And a lot will change in the next 29 years. But one of the great truths of Scripture that we can hold on to is this…
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world,from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalms 90:2)
As you grow up this will be a truth to cling to when the whole world seems like it is topsy-turvy like it is now. And I promise there will be times when your world (if not the whole world) will seem topsy -turvy. You can always count on Jesus and trust that He will be with you through whatever comes your way.
Defining moments would be defined as those moments in time that give shape to a person, or country, or group, etc.
You will experience many defining moments in your life. History will one day tell us if our country is in the middle of a defining moment right now as we deal with the declared national emergency known as COVID-19 or the Corona Virus. I am writing this on a Sunday morning instead of being at church because our governor has mandated that groups of 100+ should not gather. The term “social distancing” is new to us in 2020 but may be commonplace in your lifetime. We shall see.
In my lifetime I have lived through quite a few defining moments for our country:
The assassination of JFK
The 1964 Civil Rights Act
The assassination of Martin Luther King
The first moon landing
The 1969 New York Mets World Championship
The fall of the Berlin Wall
September 11, 2001
2008 economic recession
The election of Donald Trump as president in 2016
No doubt others could be added and these could be debated (certainly the 5th one but as a Mets fan I had to stick it on the list) but they are certainly significant “moments” that dramatically shaped our country.
About 10 years ago (in 2010) I wrote a series of blog posts that talked about defining moments in my life. You can read them as you have interest and time:
Here’s the thing about defining moments. Certainly there are moments that can and will shape the future and trajectory of your life. But they cannot and should not define who you are. Your life should be defined primarily by what the Lord says about you. Here are a few verses from Scripture to ponder often and deeply – especially when the world around you is going crazy and trying to shape you into it’s mold…
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.(Romans 12:1-2)
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
Metamorphosis is a big word. It means transformation. Which is another big word. Both words have to do with change.
You probably already know that I was a Student Pastor for 25 years – 10 years in Raleigh at Providence Baptist Church and 15 years in Durham at Ridgecrest Baptist Church. Back around 1987 I initiated a weekend retreat for our students at Providence which is commonly known as a D-Now Retreat but which we called Metamorphosis. We wanted God to use the weekend to bring about change in the lives of our students.
Little did I know how enduring the weekend would be. This past weekend we had our 25th Metamorphosis weekend at Ridgecrest – Meta2020. It involved about 70 students from our church plus about 12 other student groups. All total we gathered about 400 students from the Durham area for 3 awesome times of worship. Besides these large group times, students met in small groups at the homes where they were staying for the weekend to discuss God’s Word and have conversations about what the Lord was doing in their lives.
Your parents were a part of Metamorphosis weekends probably longer than any other students. They were involved because they were my kids even before they were old enough to participate and then they were involved as leaders for many years after they graduated from high school.They can probably tell you a lot of Metamorphosis stories.
Here are a few pictures from both the Providence and Ridgecrest events. See if you can spot your parents in any of these pictures.
And here is a pic from this years Metamorphosis at Ridgecrest.
I hope that as you grow up you have lots of opportunities to make fun memories with friends and that God also uses to create life-change. It has been fun for me to help create these kinds of Metamorphosis memories for about 33 years.