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?

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!!!!!

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

Happy Birthday to My Favorite Red Head

E4D7DABA-DA1C-442A-A93B-EF7741DCE3FE.JPGDear Harper,

Tomorrow (9/6) is your 3rd birthday. My how time flies. I hardly know where to even begin. I cannot describe just how much joy you bring to our lives. This year has been marked by your ever-developing personality. We’ve actually started calling you “Miss Sassy Pants.” Your facial expressions are beyond description. Just looking at you, I break out in a great big smile.

You continue to show us your BIG heart. Whenever Poppo has a “boo-boo,” you are the first to be concerned and to give me a kiss quickly followed by “Is that all better Poppo?” And it most certainly is.

Your favorite thing right now is to dress up like a Princess or a “ermaid.” I guarantee you are the most beautiful “ermaid” I have ever seen.

You are also now able to give your brother as good as he sends. Funny thing about that. I’ve noticed that sometimes you are the instigator and yet Hudson is the one who gets in trouble. The old adage, the person who passes the second lick is the one who gets caught is proving to be true. You’ve learned how to get your licks in and then look at us with a pitiful little face to make us think you are the victim. We are slowly learning that there is a little devious side to that Princess personality. I LOVE IT!

A year ago you were just starting to talk and I couldn’t understand everything you said. Today…I can’t shut you up! LOL You ALWAYS have something to tell Poppo. And I’m learning that I love every story you tell me…usually because your facial expressions are so dramatic. I hope you continue to develop your story-telling ability. It will come in handy later in your life I think. Who knows…you might grow up to be a professional story-teller.

As our vocabularies develop, our view of the world grows and changes. Now that you are better at communicating, you are better able to express your emotions and let others know what you are thinking about. That is very important. In the same way, because you are able to communicate with us better…we can also share things with you that we believe are important.

My earliest memories of my life begin at about 3 years old — the same age you are today. Some people claim they can remember things earlier than that, but not me. As a matter of fact, I sometimes have trouble remembering things that happened THIS MORNING!

My love for God came early in my life and for that I can thank Granny and Popple (my parents). I grew up in a time when the church was the very center of our lives. EVERYTHING revolved around the church. It was the center of my community. My parents taught me from a very early age about how much God loved me and how important it is to serve Him. Granny and Popple taught me by their example how important God is.

The Bible says that the greatest commandment is to love God. You learn to do that by watching others who love and serve God. Your parents and your grandparents all love God very much. And we all do our very best to serve Him every day. I hope as you grow and mature, you will see that in our lives and that you, Hudson and your cousins, Ellie and Benjamin will follow that same path.

In a poem called “Death of the Hired Man,” Robert Frost wrote that home is “something you somehow haven’t to deserve.” He goes on to say that home is a place where “when you go there, they have to take you in.” In my life I’ve been somebody’s child and also somebody’s parent, and I think home is much more than that.

For me, home is where I truly learned what was important in life….and it started very early in my life. My parents did their best to live what they believed. Nanna and I tried to do the same thing with your daddy and Aunt Deeves. Now, your parents are doing that for you and Hudson.

Someone has said, “what you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” I think there is a lot of truth in that saying. As you continue this journey in life, our prayer is that you will always see how much we love God and how much we love you. The Biblical commandment to love God is written on our hearts and that’s why we talk so much about it to you. We want you to love and serve God the way we have.

As you grow older, I’ll share some stories with you about how God has ALWAYS provided for us. Even when it looked like things wouldn’t work out…God ALWAYS shows up and takes care of His children. I’m at the point now that I can say the same thing David said in the Scripture…“I have been young and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread” (Psalm 37:25)

I can’t wait to see what year 3 brings to your life. In the midst of it all, I KNOW this…God never forsakes us or leaves us. I want to teach you that lesson now so you will have confidence in it when you grow older. No matter what happens — TRUST GOD…He never fails.

As always, I want you to know that I love you with a love that cannot be broken. The whole world may one day turn its back on you…but you can count on this…Poppo and Nanna will ALWAYS love you. I won’t always agree with everything you say or do, but I promise my love for you is unbreakable!

Happy Birthday Little Bit. Keep smiling and laughing. Keep loving and enjoying life. YOU inspire me. You truly are my favorite redhead!

Love,

Poppo

Dear Hudson…Thanks for Being My Very Best BUDDY

Happy birImage-1thday Scooter! Over the weekend (6/22/19), we all gathered and celebrated your 5th birthday. It hardly seems possible that you could be 5 years old…but you are and you’ve been preparing me for this day for at least 4 months. Measuring time is not a concept you have quite mastered just yet — don’t worry, I have trouble with it as well. It seems the older I get the faster time moves. I know that at 5, you see it from a very different perspective. Ever since Nanna celebrated her birthday in March, you’ve been reminding me that your birthday was next and that you would be 5.

Watching you over these 5 years has been one of the greatest joys of my life. You love life and you help me see the world in a much different way when I’m with you. That’s a good thing because the older I get, the more cynical I tend to be. So thanks for keeping the little boy alive in Poppo! I just know 5 is going to be a great year for you.

Each time I write one of these letters to the grandchildren, I try and think of some life lesson that I would like to pass on to you. Now that there are 4 of you guys — you, Harper, Ellie and Benjamin…I’m trying to share things with each of you that I hope will help you as you grow and mature. This year I want you to focus on FRIENDSHIP.

Early on in your life, you told me that I was your buddy! I just love that. We’ve been buddies now for 5 years.  I know we are buddies for life, but you have a major life event taking place this year that is going to change our relationship just a little. You are going to SCHOOL! You are already excited about that and excited about meeting new friends.

One of the things I have noticed about you is how well you get along with others. It seems regardless of how old or how young the people are — you have a way of including everyone. One of your favorite things is to go to Chick-fil-a and play on their playground. My favorite thing about Chick-fil-a is EATING! But you like to socialize. No matter who is in there, when you come out — you’ve made new friends. You don’t always know their names, but you tell me all about the fun you are having with “my friends.” That makes me happy. 

As you start to school, you are going to meet lots of new friends. You will enjoy spending time with them and playing games and just getting to know new people. That’s a special time. I just want you to remember one thing. Don’t forget to include those who might be a little shy or they might be a little different in some other way than you. Not everybody is as outgoing as you are so it will be important for you to always be aware of what’s going on around you and if you see someone by themselves — invite them to join your group. I know you are going to do that because I already see that in your personality.

I know it’s hard to imagine, but Poppo hasn’t always been the loud-mouth, outgoing person I am today. OK — I probably have always been loud-mouthed, but I remember being excluded a time or two when I was a little boy. It wasn’t fun for everybody to be involved in something fun and I was on the outside looking in. I’ve never forgotten what it felt like and I’ve tried to do my best to look for those folks who might need an extra measure of encouragement along the way. I hope you will do the same.

I don’t know what you are going to be when you grow up. Right now, you want to be a police officer who catches poachers who are trying to kill the dinosaurs. I’m not sure there will be much of a market for that as you get older, but you never know. I do know that you are one of the top negotiators I’ve ever met in my life. No matter what anybody suggests, you always have a “better idea.” And you usually win the argument — especially with Poppo. I pray we can harness that skill and use it for good. Who knows — you may one day write a book entitled “The NEW AND IMPROVEDArt of the Deal.”

I realize that as you grow older, you will have more and more friends in your life. That’s the way God intended. But never forget…you’ve got one buddy who will always love you and will always be in your corner…cheering you on to become exactly what God has planned for you.

I love you Scooter. Thanks for being my BUDDY!

Love,

Poppo

Dear Harper…Happy Birthday!

Dear Harper,

Today (9/6/18) is your SECOND birthday! Where has the time gone? It seems like you just got here and now we are celebrating another birthday. I guess Poppo truly is getting old — just don’t tell anybody I said that.

I cannot begin to tell you what a joy you are in our lives. Your laugh is contagious and you absolutely light up a room with your smile. It was obvious when Hudson was born that he was a strong-willed child so we thought you would be our calm child. Well…not so much. You are giving your big brother a run for his money in that department. You may have outdistanced him just bit because you have the shrillest squeal I have ever heard in my life. I have a cousin, Natalie who had a very high pitched voice when she was a child. I kinda kidded her about that all her life. I’m beginning to wonder if your shrill squeal is my payback for making fun of Natalie. If so, I would like to publicly apologize to Natalie right now for that. You have her beat! When things don’t go your way…that squeal makes dogs howl all over the neighborhood!

You are also becoming our little princess. The funniest thing you do to me right now is this. When I ask for a kiss, you often tell me no. But then you present your cheek to me so I can kiss you! You won’t give Poppo kisses, but you allow Poppo to kiss you. Thank you, your highness.

But Little Bit, there is something else very special I have begun to notice about you. You have what I call the “second child personality.” I doubt there is scientific evidence to back up what I’m about to say, but I’ve noticed this before. Your daddy has this trait, your Aunt B (Poppo’s sister, Brenda) has it, and when I got to know your momma…I discovered she has it as well.

As your little personality has developed, I’ve noticed that you have a tremendously big heart. I noticed it first in the way you take care of your “babies.” Whenever you hold a baby doll, you love it and then bring it to Poppo and want me to love it too. That is so cute. But it goes way beyond that.

Second children seem to have this compassionate part of their personality that is greatly enhanced over the first child. I see this in you already. You are always concerned about everybody else. You want the approval of your big brother, you want to make sure everybody else is happy and you are quick to give a hug or to ask “you ok” when we sneeze or even cough. It seems that you have this inner instinct that causes love and compassion to be your first response to others.

I can’t tell you how happy that makes us. I can’t tell you how many times you have come over to me, asked me to hold you and then you put your head on my shoulder and just gently pat my back. You don’t always know what kind of day I have had or what kind of foolishness I’ve had to deal with that day, but you seem to know that laying your head on my shoulder and patting my back will make it all better. That, my darling is a God-given gift.

Just this week, Hudson was riding his bike down the driveway at our house. Nanna and momma and I were all out there watching and encouraging him. I was holding you. All of a sudden, I looked at you and you had both fists balled up and you were screaming to Hudson — “PUSH, PUSH.” When he was able to ride the bike, you raised those arms and just screamed, “YAY!!!!!” You were as excited for him as you would have been for yourself had you accomplished the same thing.

Oldest children don’t always see the importance of things like that. I can say that because I am an oldest child. In the Bible, there were two sisters — Mary and Martha. I think Martha was an older child. The Bible says she was always distracted doing things and being busy. That sounds about right. Mary, on the other hand was more observant. She sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him teach (Luke 10). I think you may turn out to be my Mary in a Martha world.

Many people unfortunately believe that you have to be busy and doing something all the time. Those people (like Poppo) sometimes miss opportunities to show compassion — not because we don’t care, but because we are too busy. I think second children — like you, your daddy and momma, and your Aunt B — are able to see things I don’t see. You all see how important it is to show compassion and to be encouraging. I’m thankful for that.

It’s so much fun for Nanna and I to watch you, Hudson and Ellie as you grow and mature. Each one of you has special qualities that God has given you which I know each of you will use one day to glorify Him. We love all of you so, so much.

I’m looking forward to watching you go through this second year. You are a typical two year old — we all see AND HEAR that. But you also are a special child — the second child. You seem to see through eyes of compassion. I pray that gift continues to grow and mature in you.

Remember…Nanna and I love you UNCONDITIONALLY. No matter what you do or where you go, we will ALWAYS love you. That doesn’t mean I won’t correct you when you misbehave, but I promise to always be your biggest cheerleader in life.

You truly are #MYFAVORITEREDHEAD. Happy birthday Little Bit. I love you.