Pop Pop Epistle #53 – February 14, 1996 Revisited

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Dear Grandkids,

Let me tell you my best Valentine’s story.

Way back in 1996 when your parents were 9 (Christy), 8 (Scott), and 5 (Tucker) a friend of mine and I went to a Promise Keepers Clergy Conference that was from February 13-15. Yes indeed, it was scheduled over Valentine’s Day. Yes indeed it was put on by an organization that strongly promoted men leading their wives and families. And yes indeed I made the choice to go and be away from my wife on purportedly the most romantic day of the year. Probably not the best decision I ever made but I didn’t do a  bad job of redeeming that decision – if I do say so myself.

Here’s what happened…

Greg and I felt so bad about being away from our wives that we decided NOT to be away from our wives. We arranged for our wives to spend V-Day with us – without them knowing it ahead of time.

On the morning of the 14th I called Nona from Atlanta and wished her a Happy Valentine’s Day and told her to look in a drawer of my dresser after we got off the phone. There was a letter that explained the following:

  • Her mom, your great grandmother, would be showing up at the house soon to look after the kids. She would get them from school  and take care of them that night and the next day. She didn’t have to worry about anything – everything was arranged for her to be gone.
  • There was an airline ticket for a flight that left RDU early afternoon.
  • She was to pack a bag for a one night romantic adventure and join me in Hotlanta.
  • I would meet her at the airport

She followed my instructions perfectly. I met her at the airport – along with Greg’s wife who was enjoying the same surprise – and we had an an awesome evening together including a romantic candlelight supper, a stroll through Underground Atlanta, and various other romantic kinds of things.  It was a Valentine’s memory that has gotten a lot of mileage through the years and one that we will never forget.

My guess is that one day each of you will be married. My encouragement to you is to look for ways to build memories that will last a lifetime with the one that you love. Those memories will help to anchor your relationship and will give you some fun stories to tell when your grandkids ask you to tell them stories about when their parents were kids.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Gkids2018

Pop Pop Epistle #52 – About Satisfying Our Thirst

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Dear Grandkids,

I probably preach about 2-3 times per year at my church. Last Sunday I preached a message from John 7:37-39:

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive….

My main point was that Jesus is the Fountain of Life and is sufficient to satisfy our deepest thirsts. It was a fun message to preach because I got to talk about the background of what Jesus said – which was the Feast of Tabernacles. So I delved into some of the Jewishness of my faith which is always interesting to me.

screen shot 2019-01-26 at 8.30.13 amBut I didn’t have time to share everything that I wanted to share. Those 3 verses are so full and rich that they pretty much preached themselves. One of the things that did not make it into the morning message was a little story that I found from C.S. Lewis’ book The Silver Chair, which is book 4 in his Chronicles of Narnia series. Here is the story about Jill and her thirst – you will easily see how I could have used it in my message if I had more time…

The birds had ceased singing and there was perfect silence except for one small, persistent sound, which seemed to come from a good distance away. She listened carefully, and felt almost sure it was the sound of running water.

Jill got up and looked round her very carefully. There was no sign of the lion; but there were so many trees about that it might easily be quite close without her seeing it. . . . But her thirst was very bad now, and she plucked up her courage to go and look for that running water. . . .

The wood was so still that it was not difficult to decide where the sound was coming from. It grew clearer every moment and, sooner than she expected, she came to an open glade and saw the stream, bright as glass, running across the turf a stone’s throw away from her. But although the sight of water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward to drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned to stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason: Just on this side of the stream lay the Lion. . . .

How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.

“If you’re thirsty, you may drink.” . . .

For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again,

“If you are thirsty, come and drink.” . . .

It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. . . .

“Are you thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. . . . The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. . . .

“Do you eat girls?” she asked fearfully.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

My hope is that you will always look to Jesus to satisfy the desires of your heart. There are lots of other places you could look to try to quench your soul’s thirst but you will ultimately be disappointed unless you respond to Jesus’ invitation to “Come to Me and drink.”

Never forget that you are very loved!

Gkids2018

Pop Pop Epistle #51 – Happy Birthday Bowen

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Dear Bowen,

screen shot 2019-01-13 at 7.58.27 pmI hope you have an awesome birthday celebration today. I believe that you have been celebrating all week – going back to last Monday night when your Clemson Tigers won the national championship. And then this past Friday when you had a party with all your friends to help Officer Bowen turn 4. Celebrating is always fun and your Nona and I hope to continue the celebration this weekend when we see you.

I am doing a little celebrating here in Durham as well.

4,339,747.

That is the number of steps that Fitbit tells me I walked in 2018. That averages out to over 83,000 steps a week – far surpassing my goal of averaging 10,000 steps a day (70,000 a week)

With that in mind and in honor of you being 4, I want to give you 4 STEPs that I hope you will take each day. I think that these 4 STEPs are a key to building great relationships with other people and living a life that pleases God. I have put them in the form of an acrostic using the word STEP.

S stands for Serve – Look for a way to serve someone everyday. The Bible tells us that Jesus “did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) What a great example to follow. Who can you serve today?

T stands for Thank – Make sure that you thank people for all that they do for you. Be a grateful person. This starts by being grateful to God for all the blessings you enjoy. Scripture says: “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

E stands for Encourage – God’s Word says that we should “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13) We all need lots and lots of encouragement. Make it a point every day to encourage the people around you by speaking words that build them up instead of tearing them down.

P stands for Pray – You have the incredible opportunity to bring the people around you before God’s awesome throne of grace. Don’t ever take for granted the power that is unleashed when you pray for other people. And if you ever need a prayer to pray for me (or really anyone) here is a great one:

 I pray that out of (God’s) glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Serve.
Thank.
Encourage.
Pray.

Those are 4 great STEPs I hope you will learn to take each and every day.

May God continue His good work in your life as you grow up and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. You have already demonstrated a love for other people and a contagious enthusiasm for life. May the Lord use you to advance His kingdom as you keep in STEP with the Spirit.

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Gkids2018

Pop Pop Epistle #50 – 2018 By the Numbers

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Today we close out yet another year.  Here are some of the significant numbers that tell the story of 2018…

0 – This number has multiple meanings. Zero new grandkids were added to the clan this year – after 3  of you joined the family last year. We know that we are expecting at least one at this point in 2019. (Ezra, we are looking forward to meeting you in March). I spent zero days in the hospital. I had zero kidney stones. I visited zero new countries.

5 – This represents the number of days that I spent in Mexico with a group from various churches from the Yates Baptist Association. We went there to meet a church planting pastor and explore the possibility of a partnership. It was a significant trip because I met a pastor from Durham that I became friends with who eventually hired one of your dads to his staff. Guess which one?

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10
– This was the 10th year of the Reyner Disc Golf Invitational. Around Christmas every year your dads and I have a one day disc golf tournament played at 2-3 courses around Durham. This year, and for the 3rd year in a row, Tucker prevailed – but everyone was still in the battle until the final 9 holes of our 54 hole tournament.

35 – I have been in vocational ministry for about 35 years. 10 of those years were in Raleigh and the last 25 here in Durham. I have only served in two churches which is somewhat unusual but it is a testimony to serving alongside 3 great pastors and to a philosophy of ministry I adhere to – one of the most effective ways to have lasting influence is to STAY.

37 – Way back on August 1, 1981 your Nona and I vowed before God and family and friends that we would be committed to each other for the rest of our lives. That was 37 years ago. It has been a wonderful adventure and an awesome journey as we have watched the Lord work in us and through us. We pray even now for each of you that the Lord would provide a “suitable helper” to walk through life with you and to sustain you with love and companionship when the time comes.

52 –  I did not fail to reach my goal of at least 70,000 steps every week of 2018. I actually averaged over 80,000 steps. This is significant to me because it means that I am being intentional to get exercise most every day and that I have been healthy enough to not miss getting my steps in.

I am very much looking forward to 2019. I have no doubt that this time next year there will be lots of new stories to tell. And here is a great verse from the Book of Numbers that is always appropriate to share at the beginning of a new year…

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Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Gkids2018

Pop Pop Epistle #49 – About the Incarnation

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Dear Grandkids,

Today is Christmas! I’m looking forward to celebrating with you and enjoying the gift giving and food and fun and being together. But today is really all about Jesus. Sometimes that is easy to forget with all the emphasis on presents and the way that this holiday has become so commercialized. A few years ago I wrote a poem (song) that helped me remember what today is really to be remembered for.

John 1:1-5,14,16 says this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Here is my attempt to poetically ponder these verses and remember why we enjoy this day every year. The incarnation – which means God appeared in the flesh in the person of Jesus – should be celebrated not just on December 25 but every day.

THE WORD BECAME FLESH

The Word became flesh and lived for a while
In a world plagued with sorrow and sin.
The magnificent Son – the most Holy One
Was determined the plague had to end.

The Word became flesh as the Father revealed
All His love in the life of His Son.
His manifest grace must have felt out of place
When He saw what the devil had done.

The Word became flesh as God testified
To the truth that had never been heard.
The Savior appeared, God spoke loud and clear
Through the voice of His Incarnate Word. (Refrain)

The Word became flesh as the Father set forth
To give freedom to all who were bound.
Hope was restored, though  God’s Word was ignored
When a cross took the place of a crown.

The Word became flesh leaving heaven behind
Giving up all the honor He had.
“Abba Father” He cried as He suffered and died
“I now know what makes You so mad.”

The Word became flesh as God testified
To the truth that had never been heard.
The Savior appeared, God spoke loud and clear
Through the voice of His Incarnate Word.

You are going to have many voices vying for your attention in the years to come. You will do well if the first voice that you listen to every day is “the voice of His Incarnate Word.”

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Gkids2018

Pop Pop Epistle #48 – About December 17, 2011

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Dear Grandkids,

Today is a day to celebrate!

indiainjuriesIt was 7 years ago today that Nona, Christy (aka Mom, aka Aunt), and I were involved in a pretty bad accident in India. Pretty bad in the sense that we are all “lucky” to be alive. The accident itself has been blogged about elsewhere (HERE and HERE and HERE) so I won’t spent time going over the details here – I will just say again that today is a day to celebrate!

We celebrate that we were around to see…

  • Tucker and Danielle get married.
  • Scott and Mary get married.
  • Grayson’s birth
  • Bowen’s birth
  • Keller’s birth
  • Miller’s birth
  • Asher’s birth
  • Audrey’s birth

We celebrate 7 more years of ministry with our awesome Ridgecrest Baptist Church family.

We celebrate never to be forgotten memories made in Italy, Switzerland, Poland, The Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Estonia, Russia, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.

We celebrate 7 more years that Nona and I have been able to enjoy together (37 and counting).

We celebrate generally good health at our ripe old age of 60 – with just a few minor repercussions from the accident.

We celebrate Nona’s retirement and the opportunities this gives her to invest in your lives.

We celebrate and treasure all those moments that we have been able to spend with you.

And we celebrate God’s faithfulness to us in many many ways – none greater than the opportunity to abide in His immeasurably great love for us expressed through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So we do indeed have much to celebrate – and we anticipate  that this list will only grow longer in the years to come as the Lord fuels us with life.

As you read this, take a minute and celebrate the goodness of God in your life and as you do…

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Gkids2018

Pop Pop Epistle #47 – About My Feet

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Dear Grandkids,

I’ve been thinking about my feet a lot lately. I know that sounds kind of weird but there is a reason why.

For the better part of my life I have taken my feet for granted. I never thought about them when I walked or ran. And as you know I do a lot of walking. For the last few months, though, my feet have been bothering me when I walk. Which made me think about them with every step. So I tried getting a new pair of shoes. But that didn’t really help. So I exchanged those shoes for another pair (which my 30 day return policy allowed me to do). I just did this yesterday so the verdict is still out but here is what I found out from Mr. Shoe Guy…

Turns out that my two feet are different. My left big toe does not do what my right big toe does. And my left foot is shaped different than my right and is not as strong. It has a tendency to collapse when I come down on it. This makes walking very uncomfortable. I basically have a “roll bar” in my new pair of shoes to try to help. I don’t like thinking about my feet. There are so many other things that I would rather think about.

But as long as I am going to think about feet I might as well think about what the Bible says about feet. So here are a few choice verses worth pondering about feet.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”Psalm 119:105

“Ponder the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” Proverbs 4:26-27

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”” Isaiah 52:7

“The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:19

So perhaps the next time you are washing your feet, or tying your shoes, or clipping your toenails, or squishing your feet in the sand at the beach – think about what God’s Word says about feet and rejoice with great joy that He has given you two feet to use for His purposes.

And don’t ever take your feet for granted. I sure won’t anymore.

Never forget that you are very loved!

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Pop Pop Epistle # 46 – Happy Birthday Audrey

Dear Audrey,

It has been awesome having a front row seat to your first year of life. I love the way that your face lights up whenever you catch me smiling at you.

Having just finished up Thanksgiving I am very grateful to be your Pop Pop and to have a chance to see you grow up. It came very close to not happening.

Just a little more than 30 years ago, on November 28, 1988 a very powerful tornado came through the neighborhood where we were living in  Raleigh. It was 1 AM in the morning and we were sound asleep. Your daddy was just a little more than 1 year old at the time and was also asleep across the hall as was your 2 year old Aunt Christy. We were woken up by our golden retriever Cassidy who was scared to death, by the roaring sound of a nearby train, and by the pounding of stuff hitting our house. Turns out that stuff was from other houses in our neighborhood that had been torn in half as well as the remnants of K-Mart from 3 miles away that had been wiped off the face of the earth.

We were very fortunate and had minimal damage but just a block away dozens of houses were completely destroyed and a little girl was killed when a chimney collapsed in on her while she was sleeping.

The horrific F4 tornado stayed on the ground for 84 miles. It destroyed 425 homes and 78 businesses, left 157 people injured and killed 4 people in total.

So you can see what I mean when I say that I am grateful to be your Pop Pop. I am excited about what the Lord is going to do in your life in the years to come and anticipate that He is going to use you to be an incredible blessing to others. My prayer for you is this…

May the Lord fuel you with His abundant grace and give you more joy than you could ever possibly imagine. May your life overflow into the lives of others in such a way that they are overwhelmingly blessed as God’s Spirit produces bountiful fruit in your life that is used to nourish and nurture the people around you. And may the joy of the Lord always be your strength.

So Happy Birthday #1. I’m looking forward to celebrating many more with you along the way.

Never ever forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle #45 -About the Gettysburg Address

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Dear Grandkids,

You have probably noticed that I enjoy using some lessons from history to pass on some of my Pop Pop wisdom. I hope that you will grow to love history as you get older. There is so much that history can teach us. For instance…

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 2.19.33 PMIt was 155 years ago today that Abraham Lincoln gave what many believe to be “the most eloquent articulation of the democratic vision ever written.” His “little speech,” as he referred to it is known to us as The Gettysburg Address. The year was 1863 and our country was being torn apart by civil war. He used a mere 272 words to brilliantly share why the Union had to fight and win the tragic war between the states. Lincoln’s speech followed a two hour address by Edward Everett, one of the most famous orators of the day. It took Lincoln less than 3 minutes to say what he had to say. And yet it is one of the most famous speeches ever delivered.  (And does anyone remember what Everett said?)

Here is the lesson I want you to learn. Words have incredible power. And you don’t have to use a lot of words to say a lot. Choose your words carefully, whether you are talking to one person or speaking to thousands – which I believe some of you are destined to do.

At the end of the movie The Darkest Hour, the Viscount Halifax says of a speech just given by Sir Winston Churchill a quote worth remembering: “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”  I love that quote. It will be something I will always keep in mind whenever I have the opportunity to preach. Churchill was an oratorical master. He used language to motivate and embolden people to greatness.

This is also what is so awesome about Jesus. As you read the Bible note that He does not have to say much to say a lot. He has a bunch of one-liners that have been quoted and re-quoted for over 2000 years.

But, alas, I fear that I am using too many words to make my point. But if you remember nothing else, always remember this…

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #44 – Happy Birthday Grayson

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Dear Grayson,

Happy birthday. This is going to be an awesome year. It has been really fun to watch you grow and learn and change over the last 12 months. I love the fact that you love to read. And I love the fact that you are becoming a song writer. A few years ago I wrote a song that you have probably heard me sing to you but it seems especially pertinent now as you celebrate another birthday. The name of the song is It’s A Great Day To Be Alive and the refrain goes like this:

Each day is an adventure
Another new surprise.
A chance to watch God do His thing
Before your 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.

I love the fact that you are always up for a Pop Pop adventure. I love that you love fun surprises. The Lord is already doing a good work in your life and I can see His joy evidenced in you. No matter what comes your way in the years to come – whether they are fun surprises or challenging surprises – may His joy always be your strength. It is indeed a great joy for me to be your Pop Pop.

Never forget that you are very loved!

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