A Single Vision

Helen Keller said, “Worse than being blind would be, to be able to see, but not have vision.”

I believe that the United States of America, our culture and the church in general in America are all in a crisis. Furthermore, I believe that this crisis will not be solve or resolved by the government or by legislation. I believe that the only way we will impact the world is for the people of God to experience a great movement of the Holy Spirit of God. We must spiritually awaken to God’s vision for the world or we will suffer the final judgment of God.

There is nothing in the Scripture that teaches us that we are to rest on our past success. There is nothing in the Scripture that says we should sit back with our feet up and watch while others impact the world for Christ.

Have you taken an honest look at our country lately? It seems as though trouble is winning out. I realize that’s not a very spiritual thing to say because as a Christian I know that ultimately God wins. While that is certainly true for eternity, today Satan is having a heyday. This nation is committing moral suicide. Actually, we are experiencing what the Bible describes as the law of sowing and reaping. The escalation of moral problems abounds — pornography, adultery, divorce, abortion, alcoholism and homosexuality are all accepted parts of our local culture.

And what about church problems? The average church today has had more fights and splits than a boxer. We blame it on COVID — but in actuality, COVID only accelerated what was already happening. There is a total lack of commitment to God, His Word, and His church in our world today. 20-25% of those who “regularly” attended church pre-COVID will not return.

Jesus told us that the world is supposed to know us by our love and unity — and to mention these things today brings a snicker from most congregations. There are people who claim Christ as their Savior who won’t speak to other Christians or if they do — it is very cold and uncaring.

I’ll tell you why it seems that evil is winning out in the world. It is because it is winning out in the local church. The church as become too much like the world. We have cast aside and are continuing to cast aside any semblance of God in our public lives. We somehow believe that what we do in our private lives has nothing to do with our “church” life. We think we can go to church on Sunday and then go out Monday through Saturday and live like the devil.

We started out tolerating sinful behavior in the church and then we legitimized it and now we are legalizing it nationally! Our sin today is literally flaunted in the face of our Holy God. Quite frankly, I believe that we are coming to a place in the American church where, if we refuse to call sin what it is and accept it for what the Bible says it is — there will be significant consequences to pay. Personally, I think we have forgotten that God’s clock is ticking and we are getting dangerously close to MIDNIGHT. My friends, just as sure as a time bomb has a timer which, when it reaches 0 detonates — so this world has a timer that is counting down.

I’ve stopped looking for the SIGNS of Christ’s coming and I’m listening for the SOUND of the trumpet of God!

“Pastor…have you given up hope? Don’t you have a word of good news for us?”

I absolutely do! The question is are you going to listen to it? The cure to the problems I have described above is found only in repentance of sin and returning to our first love. If we are truly going to impact the world for Christ, we must develop a vision that sees things differently than they are. We must see things the way God intends for them to be.

I have come to the realization that I am in the 4th Quarter of my ministry and there is one thing I desire to see in the remaining years of life and ministry.

I want to see a vision of Jesus

There is NOTHING that we do that is more important than introducing men and women, boys and girls to Jesus Christ. I’m done arguing about secondary theological issues. I’m done choosing up sides in this fight. There are over 7 billion people in this world and most of them have never heard the God. There are many people who don’t have one single verse of the Bible translated into their language. I believe we need to get a vision of Jesus Christ and then share that vision with our community, our state, our nation and the world.

I am praying that God will use me in the remaining years of my ministry to mentor young men and women who are going to eventually be missionaries in the darkest areas of our world. I’m not going to be the overseer of a nursing home or a funeral home! I’m going to put my effort into the lives of boys and girls, men and women who are truly on fire for God and who want to make a difference in their world. I refuse to allow God to write ICHABOD over my life and ministry!

Leonard Sweet, the E. Stanley Jones Professor Emeritus at Drew Theological School has said, “The church is like a vehicle careening down the road at break-neck speed. It really is somewhat of a danger to people. Everybody in this vehicle — called the church — is absolutely fixated on dome light issues: fighting for who sits where, who gets the pillow, who gets a window seat, who gets to drive, who sits in the front seat. They have forgotten that the purpose of that care is to go down the highway. We are so fixated on dome lights that we have forgotten to turn the headlights on”

Not only have many of us forgotten our purpose for existence — I’m afraid that most people in the church today have never learned what that purpose is to begin with. I keep hearing people say, “When are we going back to normal?” I hope we NEVER go back to normal! Normal wasn’t working. Normal was nothing more than people interested in their own comfort and traditions. I want something SUPERNATURAL. I want to see the Spirit of God move within the people of God in a way that glorifies Jesus and causes the world to say, “Those folks have been with Jesus!”

I WANT A VISION OF JESUS! I pray God will help me to do what I can for as long as I can so that I may help people catch this vision of Jesus and for the plight of lost people.

How Desperate Does It Have to Get?

“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)

There has always been some skepticism about the Book of Jonah. Many have tried to say that it is a fictional story that teaches a lesson by using allegory. One of the main reasons for liberal skepticism comes from the verse above (Jonah 1:17) which says that Jonah was “in the belly of the fish.”

Let me say up front — I believe that the story of Jonah is REAL. WHY you may ask. Because Jesus believed it. In Matthew 12:38-41, the Bible says, “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and threes nights in the heart of the earth.” Quite clearly Jesus accepted the story of Jonah as an accurate description of an historical event — so if Jesus believed it — I believe it too.

Now back to the story. The key to understanding this event is to see what happened as a result of Jonah being in the belly of the fish. HE REPENTED to God and by doing so he gives us an example of what happens when we repent of our sin.

First…when we repent, we realize just how desperate our condition really is. Maybe Jonah had thought that by telling God NO — God would just leave him alone and find someone else to go to Nineveh. But when he went overboard and was swallowed by the fish…I think Jonah’s perspective changed. He realized God was serious. God had arranged for Jonah to do some long, hard, serious undisturbed thinking. And sometime during that three-day journey inside the fish, Jonah came to the realization that his relationship with God was really out of whack!

Just think about it. Seventy-two hours is a long time to think. Three days and nights is certainly long enough to get desperate. That is the point most of us must come to before we take action. But many people today have ignored their relationship with God for a LONG time! There are plenty of people who right now think — “I’m pretty good. Me and God, we’re all cool!”

So…the question I would ask is this. How desperate must you become before things get truly settled between you and God? That may be how desperate things will get. Be prepared.

When our lives become desperate enough that we finally recognize that God’s way is the best way — then we will truly repent. Inside the belly of the fish Jonah decided that God’s plan for him to go to Nineveh didn’t look so bad after all. In every church there are people who attend but who know they are out of step with God. Yet, they have made up their minds that they are not going to change. Mark it down. Let them get desperate enough and they may have to reconsider God’s way.

Maybe God has been convicting YOU of sin recently. May you are convicted that God wants you to be a more verbal witness. Maybe you are convicted that you should give more to the work of God. Maybe God wants you to surrender your life to be a missionary. Maybe there is some sin in your life you need to shed. The question is…are you convinced that God’s way is the best way? If you aren’t, then you are saying, “God…I’ve not become desperate. I’m not thoroughly convinced that Your way is best.”

In verse 9 of Jonah 2, Jonah finally repents and says, “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” To truly repent, you must become desperate and you must realize that God’s plan is the best plan but then you must commit yourself to do what God has called you to do. Usually this is where our repentance is shortsighted. Real repentance has to include submitting your whole self to God and His plan — not just remorse for sin — not just saying “I will try and do better.” REAL repentance is when you finally say — “Lord, I fully commit myself to You. I will go where You say. I will do what You say. I’m not in charge any more — You are.”

I don’t how desperate you are right now to make things right with God, but I do know that God desperately wants every person to be in a right relationship with Him. How desperate does He want that? Enough that He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross as our substitute.

How desperate does it have to get in your life for you to fully commit to God? Be careful…you may find yourself in the belly of a fish with nothing but time to consider your decision.

Would You Mind Rescuing Me?

The headline caught my attention right away. It said, “He Can ‘Marry’ People — If Not Distracted By a Mouse.” The article was about a scam operation that was exposed in Cleveland, Tennessee. The operation “ordains” ministers for $20 each. The president of the Huntsville, Alabama Better Business Bureau decided to check out the operation. She sent in an application and a check for her CAT! She answered questions truthfully and listed his birthday as a few months previous. Explaining his call to ministry she wrote, “To make people happy and not hunt birds.” She directed friends whom she wrote down as references to admit that the applicant was a cat if they were asked. Sure enough, her cat was officially “ordained” as a minister of the Gospel.

The church is constantly taking a beating because of operations just like this. There are always people who take advantage of people’s gullibility. Fortunately, most people are able to separate the misdeeds of the few from the true desires of the majority. Still, many of us have a feeling that the church of Jesus Christ is not all Christ has called us to be. That’s sad. The church is the most important institution in society. Even those outside the church have a desire for the church to be all she claims to be and all Christ called us to be.

There is a scene I remember from WINNIE THE POOH that goes like this:

POOH — “Did you fall into the river, Eeyore?”

EEYORE — “Silly of me, wasn’t it?”

POOH — “Is the river uncomfortable this morning?”

EEYORE — “Well, yes…the dampness you know.”

POOH — “You really ought to be more careful.”

EEYORE — “Thanks for the advice.”

POOH — “I think you are sinking.”

EEYORE — “Pooh, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind rescuing me?”

If a society ever needed rescuing, ours most certainly does. How much longer can our communities and our nation be allowed to deteriorate? How long can society afford girls who are children themselves having babies with no father to help raise them? How can children have any chance at all where drugs are available almost on every street corner? How can we tolerate boys and girls going to school in fear? How long will we allow babies to be murdered in the womb where they should be safest? When is somebody going to do something to help those experiencing daily poverty of mind, body and soul?

Our nation has experienced a moral drift in the last few years that has produced a generation (maybe more) of selfish people. Because of our selfishness — we have neglected a vital ingredient of life and community — connectedness. The world is crying out to us as believers — “Hey friends, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind rescuing me?”

I believe that in order for us to be all Christ called us to be, we must recapture some of the elements that propelled the early church. They literally turned the world upside down because of the transformation that had occurred in their lives because of their connectedness to Jesus Christ.

We must recapture a sense of who we are. Listen…being BUSY in church is not the same thing as being GODLY. I know a lot of very busy churches and church members who are still ineffective in the work of the Kingdom. We were saved to be disciples of our Master, Jesus Christ. That means we are STUDENTS in Christ’s school.

As we remember that we are students — learners — followers of Jesus, the Master…we will also recapture a sense of what we are about. As Jesus walked the Road to Emmaus with the two disciples, He gave us our mission. In Luke 24:47, Jesus said, “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

The essential mission of the church is witness to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is to call our communities and our nation to righteousness, and to proclaim the Good News that we are forgiven and made right with God by the cross of Calvary. Our chief task is evangelistic. Our task is not to make earth a better place to go to hell from. Our task is to make sure people know Christ in His fullness and that they are rescued by His shed blood so that they don’t go to hell!

“Would you mind rescuing me?” I have a feeling that this cry will increase in intensity in the days and weeks ahead. The question is…will we (believers) hear the call and come to the rescue?

Cordially Yours…

Mark 12:38-44 records the familiar story of the widow and her offering — known as the “widow’s mite.” As I have reflected on that story, I’m reminded that the Bible says that “the common people heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Perhaps they knew instinctively that Jesus was one of them. Jesus was turned off by people who puffed themselves up, who were impressed by their own importance, who sought to do things in a grandiose way that they might win the praise of others. He despised hypocrites, people who paraded their piety, who spoke in stained glass tones, who prayed long prayers so that people might be impressed by their impassioned prose.

Jesus much preferred people like the poor widow who came to the Temple to give her gift to God. The rich people were making a big deal presenting their offerings. They wanted people to be aware of their charity. They used large coins so that when the pieces of money fell into the box an impressive clanging sound could be heard by everyone.

This poor widow, however, quietly placed in two tiny coins similar to the one pictured. This coin is known as “the widow’s mite” and is dated to the first century. I purchased it on one of my trips to Israel. This offering (both coins) had a value of less than a penny!

Probably no one else in the crowd noticed her offering. BUT Jesus did — and that’s a pretty impressive audience. He called together His disciples and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12:43-44).

I believe God is always thrilled to see authentic faith, authentic devotion, and authentic love for God. Based on what she did, there was absolutely no doubt that this widow loved God.

I’m reminded of the story of the young soldier who was overseas. He was writing his girlfriend back home. He wanted to send here a telegram because he thought that would make more of an impression. So he gave the telegraph operator a message to send. The message was this: “I love you. I love you. I love you. John.”

The telegraph operator said, “Son, for the same mount of money you can send one more word.”

So he amended his message and it read like this: “I love you. I love you. I love you. Cordially, John.”

Many people today profess their love for God — “I love you, I love you, I love you,” but when push comes to shove, their devotion is more like “cordially” than it is love.” This widow put her money where her heart was. She gave all she had. And Jesus praised her.

By giving all she had, this widow was saying I TRUST GOD! You see there was no Social Security, no pension, no monthly check from the government she would be receiving now that her husband was gone. Widows were quite vulnerable. Unless her husband was a wealthy man or unless she had children to support her or perhaps other family m embers that would take her in, she was at the mercy of society. Jesus indicated her poverty, when He said that those two coins were all she had. By giving all she had, this woman did it trusting that God was going to provide her with her daily bread. That’s a tremendous amount of trust.

This poor woman had never read THE ART OF THE DEAL, but she must have trusted that there was more than enough in her Father’s storehouse and that He would provide for her. That kind of trust, that kind of confidence, that kind of hope pleases God. Those two little coins — worth less than a penny — were this woman’s way of saying — I KNOW GOD WILL PROVIDE!

There is a lesson here for you and me. Do you truly trust Jesus or are you in a “cordial” relationship with Him?

Don’t Live in the “Bittersweet”

Someone once called life the great leveler, and that makes a lot of sense to me. Have you ever noticed that often times a joyous occasion has a taint of sorrow mixed in? Mothers always cry at weddings, and I think I know why — they are so happy for their little girl or boy who is growing up, but the sad part is that the wedding marks the end of their little girl or boy. Now they are all grown up, taking on responsibility of their own. It’s a happy time, but a sad one, too. It’s what we call Bittersweet.

Many of the experiences of life are that way. Think of a young couple having their first baby. What a wonderful experience it is. The room is all decorated with a crib, all the little baby outfits, the stroller, the car seat, the whole bit. But amidst all the excitement and happiness there is often a great deal of anxiety. It’s a wonderful time — but it also Bittersweet.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus experienced this kind of Bittersweet feeling as He entered Jerusalem that Palm Sunday so many years ago. The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was Bittersweet. Jesus experienced the praise of the crowds and the exuberance of the moment. There were people running up and down, throwing their coats in the road, screaming at the top of their lungs — “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” There was a lot of wonderful things going on, but there was some sadness mixed in too. 

I think that thing that strikes me most about that first Palm Sunday is this…I’ve always wondered where this huge crowd of people was when Jesus really needed them. Where were all the well-wishers when He was in anguish in Gethsemane? Where did they hide when He was beaten and scourged? Why didn’t someone step forward while He hung on the cross? It’s amazing how short-lived their enthusiasm was. 

But before I get too critical of their fair weather followers, I probably ought to look at my own level of commitment. How many times have I, like that crowd, been exuberant when the Spirit really moves? How many times have I stood and cheered or sung at the top of my lungs in a worship service, but when somebody says something derogatory against Christians, I’ve just nodded or looked at my shoes? Why didn’t I stand up for what I believe? Because too often, I am just like the crowd. I want to go with the flow, I don’t want to swim against the current. I don’t want to make waves. My enthusiasm for God fades — the bitter along with the sweet. 

“So Pastor…where is the GOOD NEWS?”

I’m glad you asked. In the same way Jesus wept for Jerusalem of old, I believe He weeps for America today. He agonizes over our blindness to the wonderful gift of salvation which we are offered. But the GOOD NEWS is there is a significant difference between ancient Jerusalem and modern America. Their chance is past — their moment of decision was thousands of years ago and they missed it. The sweet part of this whole story is that our moment is not gone. We have not missed the chance to open up and say “YES” to the peace of Jesus Christ. As long as we are alive — God gives to us an incredible opportunity. So, let’s not make the same mistake as the people of Jesus’ day. Let’s truly commit ourselves to Jesus Christ and celebrate this day and every day as a wonderful gift from God. Let’s make the most of every opportunity to stand up for Jesus and give glory and honor to His name. Don’t live in the Bittersweet — let’s truly live in the SWEET!

Giggles…

Dear Harper,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Today (9/6) is your 4th birthday. It is so hard to believe that we welcomed you to this world four years ago. The older I get, the faster time seems to pass. I’m sure you don’t feel the same way, but one day you will understand what I’m talking about. Nanna and I are so proud of you and I hope today is a wonderful day filled with fun and giggles.

Speaking of GIGGLES, that’s what I want to talk to you about. Each one of my grandchildren has a special trait that is unique to that child. Hudson loves to tell me about dinos, Ellie has a smile that lights up the room, and Benny is constantly running around and his nickname (Bizzy) is the most appropriate of all of you. But you Harper…your unique trait is GIGGLING! Even as I am writing this, there is a big smile on my face because I can just hear you.

When you see me, the first thing you do is run to give me a hug and you GIGGLE. It is a sound that I believe originates in Heaven itself. God knew what 2020 was going to be like — especially for Poppo — and He gave you the ability to make me happy with a sound.

One of our favorite things to do right now is to watch Bluey (for those of you without grandchildren…Google it). Bluey has awakened your imagination and you love playing games that you have seen on Bluey. So, we play “Keepie-Uppie” and “Heavy.” And as soon as we start playing…you guessed it…you start GIGGLING and I start laughing. All you have to do is say, “Do YOU mind?” and with the little GIGGLE that follows and I start laughing — OUT LOUD!

For the adults, 2020 is not going to win any awards for our “Favorite Year.” The “virus” has created a new normal for our lives. And it has affected every area of life. For me personally, it has been a tough time dealing with all the decisions that I’ve had to make. There is always stress in the life of adults, but with all the things going on this year…my stress level has been super elevated. That’s why I think God gave you this gift to GIGGLE. I can’t explain it, but that GIGGLE has a way of lowering my stress level like nothing else can.

One more thing that I love about you is your “motherly heart.” Whether you are playing with your baby dolls or standing in the middle of the room with your hands on your hips talking to your dad, brother and Poppo — it is apparent that you have a mother’s heart. When you grab your baby dolls, you immediately tell them that “mommy is going to take care of you.” That is so sweet.

You have at least 3 great role models for this “mother’s love.” You mommy, your Nanna and your Nonnie are all special ladies who love their families with unconditional love. As you grow and mature, you watch them and follow their examples. If you do that, you will one day be a wonderful mommy yourself.

In Job 8, the Bible says, “He will yet fill your mouth with laughing. And your lips with rejoicing.” You have certainly provided that much needed laughter for Poppo. I love you and can’t wait to see how you grow and mature this year.

Remember…no matter what happens in your life, you can always count on the fact that Poppo and Nanna love you…unconditionally. I will always be a cheerleader on the sidelines for you (and your brother and cousins).

Thank you for the GIGGLES…keep doing it…it sure brings a lot of happiness to my life. And by the way…you are still My Favorite RedHead!

Love,

Poppo

Happy Birthday PunkinDoodle

IMG_4906.jpgDear PunkinDoodle…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! You are 3 years old today (8/21). That’s unbelievable to me. Three years ago, Nanna and I came to Raleigh, NC and on the day you were born there was a total eclipse of the sun. I knew right then that you were going to be a special little girl. I WAS RIGHT! You light up the room just by walking in. You love to snuggle (and Poppo loves that), you love to read (and Poppo loves that), and you LOVE Rosie (and Poppo loves that)! We have a lot in common.

I don’t like that you live so far away and I don’t get to see you as often as I would like, BUT you love to call me and Nanna on Facetime and that makes the distance seem not quite so far away. I love how you always take the phone and show me all your toys. I love it when you put the phone on the table and I get to watch you eat your supper.

The bigger you get…the more like your momma you become. Your strong-willed personality is in full display and I giggle every time you try and assert your dominance with your parents. It reminds me of the days when your momma would do that to me and I would think to myself — “I sure hope you have a little girl JUST LIKE YOU one day.” I’m convinced that your personality is going to help you be a success in whatever you do.

2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. It has made me think a great deal about what is really important in life. People can’t go to work or church and children aren’t able to go to school right now. It’s been pretty depressing! So I thought about what I might say to a 3-year-old that would help you (and Poppo) feel better about this crummy year. So…here’s three things this almost 58-year-old would like you (the 3-year-old) to know.

  1. Enjoy being 3! Seriously…if you feel like dropping down and taking a nap — DO IT! If you want a waffle and peanut butter for supper — DO IT! Grownups think way too much about working long hours and having to eat certain foods so we don’t get “too fat.” We struggle with stress and headaches and worries. We spend too much time worrying about what other people think. I often wish I could just say, “Hey…I’m going to eat a half-gallon of Blue Bell and take a nap. The work will be here when I wake up!” At 3, you can do that — so DO IT!
  2. Get messy! You want to jump in the mud puddle? DO IT! Somebody else is going to wash your clothes anyway. You want to spend the afternoon finger-painting? DO IT! Make a mess. As an adult, I’m way to concerned about keeping things clean and tidy. Making a mess is fun and it helps relieve stress.
  3. Work on your hand-eye coordination. I wish somebody had told me that at 3. If I had spent more time on that, maybe I could have succeeded at sports. Work on it now so you can play hockey or soccer or baseball or whatever you want to play!

Here’s my point PunkinDoodle. I don’t want you to get to 58-years-old and look back and wish you had done things differently. Enjoy life — every day, every minute. Treat your time as a gift, because that’s exactly what it is — it’s a gift from God. He has created everything (waffles, peanut butter, ice cream, mud puddles and sports) — and He created it to bring JOY to your life. So enjoy it. Make it a habit now to enjoy life and then grow that habit as you grow older.

I know 2020 hasn’t been what we might have wanted it to be, but we aren’t going to concentrate on the past. We are going to look to the future! God is in charge. The Bible says that God knows everything and He is in charge of everything. That means you and I don’t need to worry about that. Let Him take care of those things and we will just enjoy life — snuggles, reading, Rosie and ice cream. I’m going to try and do a better job of doing that myself. I’m going to try and take lessons from you, Benny, Hudson and Harper. Let’s have FUN. Let’s enjoy life and most of all let’s thank God for the time He is giving us.

From a 58-year-old to a 3-year-old — life is shorter than you think so make the most of the time God gives to you.

Remember this…no matter what happens in your life — Poppo and Nanna will ALWAYS love you — unconditionally. I may not always agree with the choices you make, but I will NEVER EVER stop loving you.

Happy birthday PunkinDoodle. Let’s go get some birthday DONUTS! We can do that and get away with it because IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY and YOU ARE 3!!!!!

Dear Hudson: Happy 6th Birthday

webmail.valleygroveDear Hudson,

I hardly know where to start. Six years ago, you changed my life! I became a POPPO on June 22, 2014 — which is also the day you were born. Since then, we’ve added 3 others to our little club, but you are the one who first called me POPPO.

I wish I had written down all the fun things we have done over the last six years. You are an expert in dinosaurs, snakes, monsters and Bakugans (For those of you reading this…Google it). I learn something new every time we get together. There is never a dull moment when you are around.

Something happened yesterday (6/21/20), however that reminded me that you are growing up. For 5 years, our Sunday afternoon routine has been to eat lunch with the family and then watch a few cartoons on TV and take a nap. You are the only one of the grandchildren who ever liked to take a nap with me. The other 3 don’t like naps AT ALL. About 6 months ago, you informed me that you were too old to be taking naps. In fact, you said, “Poppo, Vaughans don’t take naps. They PLAY!” I guess I knew that day would finally come, but it was just another reminder that you are getting older.

BUT…yesterday, after you played in the pool with Harper, Ellie and Benjamin…you said, “Poppo…you want to go lay down and rest a while? It will be like old times!” So, you made a pillow fort on my bed — we watched 30 minutes of cartoons and we took a little nap. You were right…it was just like “old times.”

My guess is these “old times” days are going to be fewer and farther between now that you are going into the first grade. You are making new friends and you are playing baseball and getting busier and busier. I just want you to know that I cherish these days.

On another note…as you grow older you are going to interact with more and more people. Some of them will look different than you, some will talk different than you, some will come from a different part of the world than you. I want you to remember this…ALL people — no matter who they are or what they sound like or look like are made in the image of God and they ALL deserve our respect.

In Matthew 7:12 Jesus said, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Scooter…we live in a world right now that doesn’t seem to remember this teaching. There is a great deal of selfishness in the world, but Jesus said that you and I need to be different from the people in the world. When we meet people, we are supposed to show them a love and respect that acknowledges the fact that we all bear the image of our Creator. If we can do that…perhaps we can change the attitudes of people in our little part of the world.

2020 has already been a doozy of a year and we are only half way through. I don’t know what the rest of the year will bring, but I do know this…

Nanna and I love  you very much and we always have and we always will. You won’t always make decisions that we agree with, but that will NEVER change the way we love you or your cousins. We LOVE being your grandparents.

And Scooter…whenever you feel like you want to have a day that reminds you of “old times,” I will always be ready. You can call me any time and I will always be there for you.

Happy 6th Birthday Hudson. I love you forever.

Love,

Poppo

 

Happy MOST UNUSUAL Birthday Benjamin

0May 29, 2020

Dear Benjamin,

It’s been one year since I met you. I knew right away we were going to be buddies. The only time you aren’t happy is when we put you down for a nap! Otherwise, you live up to your nickname BIZZY! You are constantly on the move trying to find your next adventure. Smiling, laughing, almost walking — but ALWAYS in the middle of everything going on. Poppo can’t help but smile every time I look at you. Your smile and laugh are infectious.

Speaking of infectious…your first year has been an unusual one. New words have come into our vocabulary  — some that haven’t been used in 100 years. Pandemic, quarantine, COVID, social distancing, shutdown, virtual school — what a mess. Several months ago, a terrible virus infected literally millions of people around the world. In the United States alone, before it’s done, more than 100,000 people will have died from this virus. We have never seen anything like it. In addition to producing much physical sickness, it has also caused A LOT of mental sickness. “Social distancing” was intended to keep us safer because we wouldn’t be as close to one another as normal, but in many cases it caused “social isolation.” Distancing is good — isolation is not good.

We NEED each other. We were created by God to be in fellowship with one another. Because of our desire not to make other people sick, our distancing had the unintended consequence of causing many people to be isolated. We are finally starting to get out and around people again and boy does it feel good.

Nanna and I had not been able to see you or Ellie for over three months except on FaceTime (for which I am so grateful). But seeing and talking to you over the phone is just not the same as being able to hug you and play on the floor and outside. Nanna and I have worked very hard for the last 5 weeks to make sure we didn’t expose ourselves to any unnecessary germs so we could be here to celebrate your birthday. I can’t tell you how excited we were when we got here this week. You can tell by my smile in the picture just how excited I was to see you! I was afraid you might not know me right away since you had only seen me on a phone screen, but I was wrong. As soon as you saw Nanna and Poppo — that big old grin covered your whole face and I knew you were as excited to see us as we were to see you.

You reminded me that no matter how much distance there may be between us, the love in our hearts for one another is so great that distance doesn’t matter. Nanna and I were not going to miss your first birthday for anything and thankfully, we are able to be here with you.

You won’t remember this, but the world that we live in will change forever because of this virus. Your “normal” is going to be different from the “normal” I have known. That’s not necessarily good or bad — it just is what it is. In other words, we accept it and adapt. Throughout your life, there will be many times when you have to change and adapt. Hopefully you won’t have to do that because of a severe sickness like this, but that’s the way life works. Nothing stays the same forever.

But I want you to remember this. No matter how much things in the world may change, there are two things that will NEVER change. God NEVER changes. The Bible teaches us that. In Malachi 3:6, the Bible says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” Benny…that’s GOOD NEWS! No matter what happens around you, no matter how much your life and the world around you may change…God NEVER changes. You can always trust His Word and you can always trust Him to do what is right. I don’t always understand the way God works, but I believe His Word and therefore I know He never changes.

The second thing that will never change is that Nanna and I will ALWAYS love you. I try and remind all you grandkids of this each year on your birthday. We may not always agree with your choices in life…but I promise you that our love for you will always be unconditional. I love you because you are you — not because of anything you do or don’t do.

I’m thankful for the technology that allows us to see and talk to you during this time we are quarantined, but nothing replaces the ability to physically be present with you and experience your infectious laugh IN PERSON. I thank God that we have been able to do that for your first birthday.

I can’t wait to see how you grow and develop over the next year. Hopefully, we won’t have any more pandemics and we can physically get to experience all the fun we want. I love you BIZZY — you are my little buddy.

Love,

Poppo