Pop Pop Epistle #19 – Happy Birthday Grayson


Dear Grayson,

So… you are the first grand young’un to have a birthday since I started writing the Pop Pop Epistles. Hence you get the first one of these to be addressed specifically to you and you will also note that your picture has been updated below.

Now that you are learning to read perhaps you can read this little story for yourself. If not, ask your dad to – since it has to do with fishing…

A father and son went fishing one day. After a couple hours out in the boat, the boy suddenly became curious about the world around him. He asked his father, “How does this boat float?” The father thought for a moment, then replied, “Don’t rightly know, son.”

The boy returned to his thinking, then turned back to his dad, “How do fish breath underwater?” Once again the father replied, “Don’t rightly know, son.”

A little later the boy asked his father, “Why is the sky blue?” Again, the father replied. “Don’t rightly know, son.”

Worried he was going to annoy his father, he says, “Dad, do you mind my asking you all of these questions?” “Of course not son. If you don’t ask questions, you’ll never learn anything!”

Maybe you know that one of the things that I collect is questions. Not many people collect questions but I hope that you will enjoy collecting them too. Question asking is a great skill to learn for at least two reasons:

1) It helps you learn stuff that you don’t know – I have found this is especially true as I study the Bible. When I don’t understand something I ask questions until I get a good answer.
2) It helps you get to know people that you don’t know – By asking people questions it lets them know that you are interested in their lives. And this is really important as you try to help them know about Jesus and the gospel.

Here are two things I want you to do. 1) Ask your dad what is funny about the fishing story up above if you don’t already know. And 2) get your mom to help you come up with 3 questions to ask me when you see me next week – questions that will help you learn some things about me. And I might just have some surprises in store  for you when you do.

In the meantime, I hope you have a super terrific birthday today and an awesome birthday celebration with your friends tonight. I will miss being there with you. But here is my birthday blessing for you…

May you always find joy in your walk with the Lord. May He fuel you each day with a contagious gladness as you get to know Him more and more. May He fill you with curiosity about this world that we live in and the people around you and may He teach you to ask great questions as you grow up.

And may you never ever forget that you are very loved.

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #18 – About My Pillow


Dear Grandkids,

About 4:00 AM this morning as I was tossing and turning I made a decision…. the pillow that I was testing out for the 3rd night was definitely going back to the store. Over the past year I have probably bought, tried, and taken back about 20 pillows. Why? Because I am in search of the perfect pillow.

Here is the backstory. About 15 years ago when I was also searching for the perfect pillow I happened to stay at a hotel where I had a glorious night of sleep. I woke up thinking that my search was over. Only one problem – it was the hotel’s pillow. Well, not being bashful about these things, and because my circumstances were so tragic, I approached the hotel management, explained my situation, and asked if I could buy their pillow. (Now I know that at this point many of you reading this besides my grandkids are already grossed out because there is no way of telling what that pillow had already been through and who and how many had slept on it – but you must understand that desperate times call for desperate measures.) They would not sell it to me. But big props to Country Inn and Suites who understood my anguished predicament and GAVE me the pillow. Oh glorious day…and by that I mean Oh glorious night.

Fast forward 15 years to present day and my perfect pillow is starting to crumble and disintegrate. Pillows don’t crumble you say. Ah, but indeed they do when your perfect pillow is a foam pillow. I’m not talking about faux foam like shredded foam or gel foam or memory foam but genuine real deal foam. I have loved my pillow and now I am sad because I know it is dying a slow death. So once again I am search of the perfect pillow. And so far my search has been futile, frustrating, and fruitless. Just ask your Nona.

So as I lay wide awake at 4:00 AM thinking about my search for the perfect pillow this verse from Scripture came to mind…

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

There are so many people in this world who are involved in a futile, frustrating, and fruitless search to fill the empty places in their heart. Like my search for the perfect pillow, they try one thing and find it unsatisfying and then try something else and something else and something else. It was Augustine of Hippo, himself a frustrated seeker until he found Christ, who wrote in his Confessions

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

As you lie on your pillow at night, take a moment before you drift off to sleep and thank God that He has given us a perfect Savior. Thank Him for sending His Son to fill the empty places in our heart, to forgive our sin, to secure our salvation, and to fuel us with joy for the journey. Thank Him for offering us hope and for giving us His Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us and teach us. And thank Him for your pillow.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #17 – My First 8-Pointer


Dear Grandkids,

I got my first 8 pointer last night.

Now I’m sure you know that I am not a hunter nor the son of a hunter. Never even been hunting. Pretty sure that I will never go hunting. So it was rather unfortunate that I got my first 8 pointer last night.

I was coming down St Mary’s Road on the way back from a very good meal at Vinnie’s with Nona, Scott, Mary, Keller, and Mary’s mom. It was already dark and we were probably going about 40 mph. Out of the corner of my eye I see this big buck in the other lane trying to decide if he should cross or not. I remember thinking, “don’t do it bucko.” But he chose not to listen to me and then slammed into the driver’s side of our van. Not too much damage to us – a dent in the sliding door and knocked loose the left turn signal. Pretty sure the deer got the worse end of the deal.

Here is my takeaway as I have reflected on what happened:

One of the driving lessons I have learned over the years living in deer country is this: Don’t try to swerve to miss a deer. Swerving is more likely to cause you to crash. Better to hit the deer than to risk ending up upside down on the side of the road.

Scripture teaches us something similar…

Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (Proverbs 4:27)

“So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. (Deuteronomy 5:32)

You can get into a lot of trouble really quickly when you veer away from living according to the commands of God. In my almost 60 years of life I have seen this principle affirmed again and again… “Obedience to the Word brings blessing. Disobedience brings pain.”

There is plenty of pain to be experienced in this world without bringing it on ourselves. God will use pain to teach us some things that we would not learn any other way. But the pain and the hurt caused by our own sin and disobedience is an avoidable kind of pain. One that I hope you will steer away from as you grow up.  Choose blessing. Choose to turn your foot away from evil. Choose to do just as the Lord has commanded you. You will not regret making this choice.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop


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Pop Pop Epistle #16 – About My Heart


Dear Grandkids,

Earlier today I went to see my cardiologist. A cardiologist is a doctor who specializes in the heart. I try to see him once a year just to have him check me out – not because I have a heart problem but because I want to avoid a heart problem. I may have already told you that my dad died of a heart attack when I was 13. He was only 42. And I never knew my dad’s dad because he died of a heart attack before I was born. I’m hoping to be around a lot longer than they were so that you guys can say that you knew your Pop Pop really well. But you never know about these things.

So even though I don’t seem to have any heart problems physically at this point, I do have a major heart problem. The Bible informs us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). If I had not been given a new heart when I was 16 years old you would not want to call me your Pop Pop. I would be a selfish, self-centered, self-seeking, self-indulgent old man. As it is, I still have to fight hard against the disease of self. But thanks be to God who has rescued me, redeemed me, reconciled me, and created within me a change of heart through Christ Jesus my Lord.

Ezekiel 36:26 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh…” Were it not for this spiritual heart transplant I would be a very different person. Your Nona and I pray often for you that the Lord will give you new hearts as well and will remove the heart of stone that we are all born with.

One other thing about the heart. Do not EVER listen to the advice that is so prevalent these days, often shared by well meaning people, both believers and unbelievers, who tell you to “just follow your heart.” Your heart will lead you astray – because, as I mentioned above, it “is deceitful above all things.” Follow the Lord. Listen to His Word. Pursue Him above all things. And do the one thing that the heart is supposed to do. For as the Scripture says in Proverbs 3…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
    and He will make straight your paths.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #15 – About October 31, 2017


Dear Grandkids,

Today is October 31, 2017.

I could not let the significance of this day pass without writing to you about it. Most people in our country are celebrating Halloween. But for those of us who are believers we have much more to celebrate on this day as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day.

It was on this day in 1517 when a German professor named Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Now that might not mean a lot to you now but I promise that it was a very big deal. And it will mean a lot to you in the future.

Here is what Kevin DeYoung (an author/pastor that I hope you will  read much of as you grown up) wrote in his blogpost this morning about this day:

We give thanks for Luther, flawed and fallible though he was, for the role he played in igniting a reform movement that caught fire in the cities of the Holy Roman Empire, spread through the rest of Europe, and now reaches to the ends of the earth. Wherever we find Scripture alone as the highest and final authority, grace alone as the only hope for resurrecting spiritually dead sinners, faith alone as the only instrument by which we are joined to Christ and justified by the imputation of his righteousness, Christ alone as the only atoning sacrifice for sin, and God alone as the ultimate object of our worship—wherever we find these truths sung, savored, and celebrated, we have reason to rejoice in the Reformation….

And so on this momentous day when we celebrate the rediscovery of the gospel and the recovery of true worship, we commit ourselves once again to the worship of our triune God and the gladhearted declaration of this gospel. And if the Lord should tarry another half-millennium, our prayer is not first of all for another Luther, but that we may be an instrument in the Lord’s hands just as Luther was.

De Young mentions the 5 Solas that are paramount to the Reformation:

  1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
  2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.

I look forward to talking with you in the days to come about why these are so important to what we believe. I am so glad that I am your Pop Pop and very grateful for each of you.

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

(By the way, today is your dad/uncle Tucker’s Re-birthday. Ask him to tell you about that day sometime)

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Pop Pop Epistle #14 – About My Friend Leon


Dear Grandkids,

Let me tell you about my friend Leon Dorleans. You will probably never meet him but he is worth getting to know. He is almost 70 years old now. I met him about 20 years ago. He is a pastor from Haiti that I got introduced to at a time when our church was looking for an opportunity to do some mission work in that country. We struck up a friendship which began a great relationship between us but also between our church and his ministry – Haiti Outreach Ministries. There is much that I have learned from him over Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 5.38.20 PMthe years. Here are a few things that I hope you will learn as well:

Your early life does not define the rest of your life – Leon was born in one of the poorest countries in the world. Even today the per capita income is less than $800 per year. Most Americans make more than that each week. He had nothing materially but he did have a mother who insisted that he get an education. And it was his education that gave him opportunities to be a difference maker on behalf of the kingdom of God. He has been used to influence thousands of young men and women in Haiti and to bless the country of his birth – even when he easily could have left Haiti and lived in the comfort and ease of America.

Vision separates great leaders from good leaders – Almost 30 years ago Leon started a Bible Study with a few people in the Cité Soleil area of Port-au-Prince. But he did not allow the success of that study to keep him from thinking bigger. Much bigger. Out of that Bible Study has come 5 church plants  reaching over 3200 people each week and 4 schools providing an education to over 1500 children. A medical clinic. An orphanage. And a vocational school. Leon’s vision continues to fuel Haiti Outreach Ministries with the power of possibility as he holds onto the promise that “nothing is impossible with God.”

Enthusiasm is contagious – You do not have to be around Leon for very long to recognize that he is passionate about the work that God has entrusted to him. And he has a gift for communicating that passion very enthusiastically. People are drawn to be a part of the work God is doing in Haiti because of his excitement. As you grow up, my prayer is that you will find a God-ordained passion and unashamedly tell everyone you come in contact with about it with unbridled enthusiasm.

Investing in people pays huge dividends – Leon realized early on that there is much more profit to be gained by investing in people than money. The dividends that are being reaped are eternal and are growing at a rate far beyond what a healthy portfolio could ever produce. Take note of the way that other people invest their lives in you as you grow up and then make it a life long pursuit to invest your life in the lives of others. This is a gospel mandate – to make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples.

I hope that one day I will have the opportunity to introduce you to my friend Leon. If not, make it a point to learn from men like him.

And by the way… never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #13 – “The joy of the Lord is your strength”


Dear Grandkids,

Do you know what my signature verse of Scripture is? (It is not to be confused with my Life Mission Verse which is for another epistle at another time) My signature verse is the verse you see on the banner at the top of my blog: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” You would also see it displayed on my business card if I gave you one. Let me give you a bit of context for this familiar verse….

It is found in the Book of Nehemiah chapter 8. God’s people had just recently returned from exile in Babylon, having traveled about 900 miles to get back home. The Word of God had just been heard by them for the first time in a long time. They heard it read by Ezra the priest and then several of the Levite men helped the people to understand what the Scriptures said. Their hearts were pierced and they were overcome with grief as they realized how parched their soul’s were and how hungry they were for a Word from God. Nehemiah tried to comfort them by saying, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

The people were weary. They were weary physically and emotionally as well as spiritually. As you grow up you will find that there are times in your life when this will be true for you as well. And you will need strength. And my hope is that you will find that strength in the “joy of the Lord.”

You will have other options – options that will promise you strength and courage but that will ultimately leave you feeling even more empty and even more weary. But if you seek to find strength in the joy of the Lord you will ultimately be satisfied. Here are a few reasons why this is so – no matter which way you interpret the phrase…

1) If you interpret “joy of the Lord” to mean “the Lord who Himself is joy-filled” then finding strength in Him will indeed be satisfying. Why? Because God is a happy God. He is not a grumpy Gus who is stewing over the way things have gone wrong and why people won’t listen to Him or do what He says. He is by His nature joyful – or to say it another way, full of joy. Have you ever been around people that you consider joyful? They are refreshing. They are energizing. They are invigorating to be around. They infuse the people that they are around with vigor – or strength. Being in the presence of God is the same way: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

2) If you interpret “joy of the Lord” to mean “the joy that comes from God” then finding strength in Him will also indeed be satisfying. Why? Check out this awesome verse in Romans 15…

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

When God fuels you and fills you with His joy it is accompanied by peace and hope. And peace and hope can revive a weary soul and give much needed comfort, contentment, and fortitude in the midst of life when it is most draining. Find you joy in Him and you will never regret it or be disappointed when the disappointments of life seem overwhelming.

So never forget that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop


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Pop Pop Epistle #12 – About Cinque Terra


Dear Grandkids,

You might have noticed that I have a new picture at the top of my letter. This is not just a pretty picture it is a special place for your Nona and I. It is the town of Manarola which is one of the 5 towns that make up the area on the Italian Riviera known as Cinque Terra.

We would love to take you there one day. We had a chance to spend 3 days there a few years ago when we were traveling around Italy and would consider it one of our two most favorite places in the world. Here are a few reasons why – with a couple of lessons that are worth keeping in mind:

We enjoyed the incredible beauty –  Breathtaking beauty in fact. The picture in no way comes close to depicting how beautiful this area is. Part of our time was spent just sitting and enjoying what our eyes could take in. Likewise, even here in the States we need to look for and enjoy the beauty around us. God has created a beautiful world. Yes, a world that in many ways has been marred by  and smudged by The Fall –  but there is still much beauty to behold if we will look for it. It may come in the form of a landscape, or a smile, or a sunrise. But take the time to enjoy and be captivated by beauty.

We enjoyed good food – We have a lot of food memories from our trip but a few of our favorites come from Cinque Terra. There was a little hole in the wall place in Manarola where we got a delicious Basil Pesto something that made our mouths water. And then there was a bakery at the top of the hill in Vernazza called the Pirate Caffe that had some awesome treats worth going back for. Needless to say, I like good food. In our spiritual lives we need to make sure that we are getting the food that is necessary to sustain us and help us grow. Don’t neglect to let the Word of God feed you daily so that you can serve Him vigorously.

We enjoyed good exercise – One of the fun things to do in Cinque Terra is to hike from town to town and enjoy the sights along the way. We took a hike from Riomaggiore to our town of Manarola which ’bout killed me. We had to climb over a mountain. It was indeed good exercise and after it was over I was thrilled that we had done it even though it hurt along the way. In our journey with God, often we need to push ourselves and allow our faith to be stretched in order to experience greater joy and to get to know the Lord better.

We enjoyed good rest – Our time in Cinque Terra was about half way through our trip. We had already spent a few weeks exploring Rome and Sorento and Florence and Tuscany and we were tired. CT was a great place to rest and be refreshed so we could enjoy the rest of the trip. Yes we got good exercise but we also got good rest. We need good rest. Which is exactly why the Lord instituted the Sabbath. As you grow up make sure that you take the time to rest and to allow your body and your soul to be refreshed.

Nona and I hope to do some traveling with you in the days to come. There is much to be learned and many memories yet to be made.

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop


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Pop Pop Epistle # 11 – About my Fitbit


Dear Grandkids,


That’s how many steps my Fitbit recorded that I walked last week. My goal is to get in at least 70,000 steps each week. I probably average about 84,000 steps. And I haven’t missed getting to my goal since I started at the beginning of the year.

I have found that my Fitbit is very much a motivational tool to get me up and moving. And now that I am in my 60th year and given the heart history among the men in our family, I very much need to keep moving. So anything that keeps me motivated I am a fan of.

So here is what I have been pondering…. My Fitbit keeps me motivated to keep walking so that I stay in shape physically but what is it that motivates me to keep walking to stay in shape spiritually.

Here are a couple of verses that talk about “walking in the Lord…”

By THIS we may know that we are in Jesus: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked. (1 John 2:5-6)

 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 4)  

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…. (Psalm 1:1)

15  …the prudent man gives thought to his steps. (Proverbs 14:15)

So where does my motivation come from to walk diligently with the Lord? There are several ways that I could answer that question but at least one of the answers would sound like this: It comes from you!

You motivate me. I don’t want to disappoint you. I don’t want to do anything that would make you ashamed that I was your granddad. After I have gone to be with the Lord, I want you to be proud of the legacy that I have left behind.

So I keep walking. And hopefully I keep “walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10)

So thanks! Even at your young age you are already having a great influence. May it continue to be so as you grow up and may you also “walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop


Pop Pop Epistle #10 – About Las Vegas

PP5Dear Grandkids,

Yesterday was a very difficult day for our nation. You will undoubtably hear about it as you grow up in connection with other such days that are yet to happen. 59 people lost their lives and over 500 people were injured in a random act of violence. And unfortunately, yes, it will happen again. Some other time. Some other place.

I wish that I could shield you from such things but I cannot. This is the world we live in. What I can do is share a few quick thoughts that might help you as you grow up in this crazy, messed up, increasingly more violent world. Hopefully we can talk about them more in depth in the days to come.

1) Fear not! – This is an often stated dictate in Scripture. Why? Because we are prone to fear. But it is easier said than done. The reason God can say this is because He usually accompanies the command with a promise: “I will be with you.” The presence of the Lord makes all the difference as we try to navigate our way through life.

2) Hold on to hope! – It would be very easy to give in to despair and hopelessness but by definition we Christians are a people of HOPE. Cling to the hope that the Scriptures give us that a better day is coming. Perhaps not in this world but in the world to come. And when that day does come, mortality will seem like a bad dream and we will forever find joy in Life as God intends for it to be.

3) Hold out hope to others! – People need the hope that we have to offer. Gun control is not the answer to our problems. Government is not the answer to our problems. The gospel is the answer because it is only in the gospel that the problems we face are sufficiently dealt with. People cannot live without hope and when they finally realize that the world cannot give them the hope they are looking for we can extend the hope of the gospel.

4) Pray! – The stuff that we hear about everyday, like Las Vegas, is not a surprise to God. Just read the Book of Revelation and you will see that things get worse before they get better. We are given a much neglected prayer in the last chapter of that book that goes like this… “Come, Lord Jesus.” Yes we should diligently pray for peace to reign in the hearts of men. Yes we should pray that God’s protection will be upon us. Yes we should pray that the joy of the Lord will be our strength in these difficult days. But let us not neglect to pray that the Lord will soon come and make all things right. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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