PUNKINDOODLE…It’s Your Birthday!

IMG_3447.jpgDear Ellie,
Today (8/21) is your BIRTHDAY!!!!! I’m so excited. You are 2 years old today. WOW. Time is flying by. I remember very well the day you were born — we had a total eclipse of the sun. That should have been a clue or a warning for us that you were going to be something special.

I’ve told you this before, but when your mother was born, I thought I had met the most strong-willed child in the history of the world. And then you came along and said…”Hold my sippy cup.” It’s funny because now your parents are learning what it is like to parent a child who believes that the whole world is here just for you. I LOVE IT!!!

This past year brought a BIG CHANGE to your life. We had no idea how you would react when Baby Benjamin came along, but you have proven yourself to be a wonderful big sister. At first, you weren’t sure you were going to like having him around all the time, but I think he has grown on you. You help momma and daddy take care of him and he absolutely adores you. When he’s upset…you are able to calm him and he just loves looking at you.

One of my favorite passages from Dr. James Dobson’s book, The Strong-Willed Child is this one…

“Harshness, gruffness, and sternness are not effective in shaping a child’s will. Likewise, constant whacking and threatening and criticizing are destructive and counterproductive. A parent who is mean and angry most of the time is creating resentment that will be stored and come roaring into the relationship during adolescence or beyond. Therefore, every opportunity should be taken to keep the tenor of the home pleasant, fun, and accepting. At the same time, however, parents should display confident firmness in their demeanor. You, Mom and Dad, are the boss. You are in charge. If you believe it, the tougher child will accept it also.”

You see that last line? I made it bold — not necessarily for you but for your parents. When Nanna and I were raising your momma, we had to remind ourselves of this particular truth many times. I would say to myself…”Keith…YOU are the parent. YOU are the boss. Now get in there in act like it.” Many times it didn’t work because your momma would smile at me or saying something that would make me forget why I had been upset to begin with.

I tell you that because I see your momma every time I look at you. I’m 30 years older, but that little girl in my arms in the picture I have posted with this letter is a spitting image of her momma. Every time you and I are together, it brings back such wonderful memories for me. Every time Nanna and I visit you, we have so much fun and you bring so much joy and happiness to our lives.

You are a daddy’s girl and I’m so happy about that. Your daddy will teach you what a Godly man acts like. That will come in handy when you are in your 40s and we allow you to start dating. Right now you have daddy wrapped around your little finger — pretty tightly I might add. He talks a big talk, but I see how he responds when you bat those beautiful eyes at him.

You live in a world today where many children don’t realize just how special they are. For whatever reason, they don’t have a “cheering squad” in their life to encourage them and help them grow to be the person God intended for them to be. I thank God that you have that “cheering squad” in your life. Your parents, your Poppo and Nanna, and all your family are just crazy in love with you. But I want to remind you of just one more thing on your second birthday.

You are loved and cared for by God. Isaiah 43:4 says that “you are precious in My sight, and I love you.” No matter what happens in your life — don’t ever forget that promise from God. People around you may disappoint you and let you down — but God will never let you down. He will never leave you alone and His love for you is everlasting.

Ellie, your smile and your laugh is infectious. You brighten up the room when you walk in. I have a feeling God is going to use that gift in your life in a very special way as you get older. We need more laughter in our world. Unfortunately, as we get older, it seems we laugh less. You make sure that Poppo is always laughing. You (and your brother, Benjamin and your cousins, Hudson and Harper) remind me that our life story has a happy ending. Because of you, I am reminded each day that I am loved and accepted — not for what I do but for who I am. I don’t care how bad my day has been, all I have to do is FaceTime with you and Benjamin or talk to Hudson or Harper and all is right in my world. Thank you for that.

So, now we begin your third trip around the sun. I bet it’s going to be a hoot. I can’t wait to see how you grow and mature in this year. I have a feeling that I’m going to enjoy watching you and your parents navigate through the “terrible twos.” I’m already giggling as I think about it.

As always…Nanna and I love you unconditionally. Nothing you will ever do could make us love you any less. I may not always like your behavior — but my love for you is not based on your behavior. My love for you is based on the fact that somewhere in that little body of yours flows just a little bit of Poppo’s strong-willed personality and I LOVE IT!




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!



God has given the Son of my Right Hand

IMG_2910.JPGBenjamin Nathaniel Greening…what a noble name. In Hebrew, Binyamin Netan’el. I almost feel like I should address you as royalty. So…let me first say that I am honored to meet you and to be your POPPO.

Benjamin means “Son of my right hand.” In the Bible, Benjamin was the last of Jacob’s 13 children. After Jacob believed that Joseph had died, Benjamin became even more important to Jacob because he was also the last son of his beloved wife Rachel.

The right hand is an awfully important place. Jesus sits at the right hand of God in Heaven. The person on the right hand is in a position of authority and prestige. In your own family, I see that you are the “right hand man” of your daddy. You are going to help take care of your mommy and your sister and your daddy is going to teach you how a Godly man should live.

Nathaniel means “God has given” in Hebrew. No doubt about it — you are a gift from God to all of us. Our family values life and we believe that ALL life is precious so every time a baby is born, a part of Heaven is sent to this earth. I’m convinced that you and your sister Ellie and your cousins Hudson and Harper are all “God-given.”

So…your parents have equipped you with a name that I believe is going to encourage you to do great things in your life. What a wonderful way to begin your journey in this messed up world.

Now there is one important lesson I need to share with you as you get started. I’m afraid you are going to grow up believing you have two mommies. You see, I’ve seen this situation before. When your Uncle Dustin was born, your mommy was about 3 years old. She was an extremely strong-willed child and I often struggled keeping track of who actually was the “BOSS” in the house. I’ll tell you this…your mommy thought she was and she acted like it.

When little brother came along, she believed it was her duty to raise him according to her likes and dislikes. So Uncle Dustin has had to answer to 2 women from day one. By the way, Poppo had to do the same thing but it affected me differently.

You have a little sister who is EXACTLY like your mommy. Ellie is strong-willed and as she is right now learning to communicate more effectively, I’m finding she is quite opinionated as well. She is going to love you fiercely throughout your life. You will fuss and fight and she might even stick a screw driver up your nose (I’ll tell you that story another day), but when it comes down to it…she will be in your corner. She will probably always tell you exactly what she thinks — like it or not — but know that deep down in her heart, she wants you to be the very best you can be.

When your cousin Hudson was born, I started giving nicknames to my grandchildren. Husdon is SCOOTER, Harper is LITTLE BIT, and Ellie is PUNKINDOODLE. I’ve been thinking about your nickname for a while now. For the last 6 months or so, you have been the most active baby I’ve ever seen. Your mommy would send me videos of you moving around in her belly and I thought to myself…”this is the busiest child I’ve ever seen.”

I went around and around trying to come up with an appropriate nickname for you. Hudson wanted me to call you GLIDER HENDERSON. I have no idea where that came from and don’t be surprised if he doesn’t call you that. He lobbied for that to be your actual name until you were born…but fortunately he was overruled by your parents. I also thought about a “rapper” name. Your initials made me think of something like “Notorious BNG” — but other than your daddy who does a pretty mean NSYNC imitation (ask him about that), none of the rest of us have very much talent in that area. I also toyed with BiggyG, but I decided against that too.

I finally kept coming back to how active you were before you got here. You were so busy trying to get out here to meet us and you were so busy trying to get out because room where you were was tight! You were a pretty big boy. So I’ve decided to call you BIZZY. I’ve got a feeling you are going to be a curious, busy boy — and that’s exactly the way we want it.

Poppo also gave something called “hashtags” to each child so when your picture is posted on social media from time to time, you will know that it’s about you. Your name made this one easy. Your hashtag will be #mylittlebuddy. That comes from my love of old TV shows and from the fact that your name means “Son of my right hand.” I loved Gilligan’s Island on TV. You and I can watch that together one day. Gilligan was the “right hand man” of the Skipper. So, you are going to be my “right hand man.” Remember being on the right is a position of prestige and authority. I need you (#mylittlebuddy) and Hudson (#mybuddyandme) on either side of me as we get into trouble together (not that we would ever do that).

Finally, I want you to know something that I have constantly and consistently told the other three grandchild. You have two cheerleaders in your corner ALWAYS — Poppo and Nanna. We love you unconditionally and we always will. There is absolutely nothing you can do that will ever make us stop loving you. We may not always like the choices you make in life, but there is nothing you can ever do that will change our love for you. That’s part of being in this family. We may disagree from time to time, but we value each other and we love each other no matter what!

Benjamin Nathaniel Greening…God loves you, Poppo loves you and I just know we are going to be the best of friends. You’ve entered a very special club along with Hudson, Harper and Ellie. You can call on Poppo whenever you need anything and I’ll be there ASAP. I’m honored to have you as #mylittlebuddy! Let’s have some fun!!!


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.

Happy Birthday PunkinDoodle…Tell Your Momma to Sweep the Porch

Dear Ellie,

Tomorrow (8/21) is your first birthday! It’s hard to believe you have been here a whole year. I’ve always been told that the older you get, the faster time flies. I didn’t believe that until I turned 50. Now it seems like time flies faster and faster every day.

Your first year has been so much fun. You are DEFINITELY your mother’s child! That makes me laugh right out loud! Several times (especially recently), your mom has called me and I can hear you in the background throwing a little “fit” or screaming because the attention is not on you at that moment. I just smile…because I consider this PAYBACK from God to your mom. I think she spent the first four years of her life believing that all the rest of us had been sent here to entertain her.

Every time Nanna and I see you or Facetime with you is special to us. We don’t live as close to you as we would like, so our visits are extra special. When I was a little boy, there was no such thing as Facetime. Shoot…there was no such thing as cell phones either! That explains the title to your first birthday letter from Poppo. I have a little story to tell you.

When I was a little boy, my grandmother (I called her Mammy…she didn’t like that by the way), lived in Roanoke Rapids and I lived in Potecasi. Today that wouldn’t mean a lot because people travel that distance every day to go to their job, but when I was a boy, you only went to Roanoke Rapids a couple of times a month if you were lucky. That meant I didn’t get to see Mammy very often.

Well, every couple of weeks, Mammy and Uncle Genie (he was my step-grandfather — my granddaddy died before I was born) would make the trip from Roanoke Rapids to Potecasi to visit with us. They usually came on Sunday afternoon after church. I didn’t always know when they were coming but there was a sign I looked for that was a pretty good indicator of their impending visit — my momma (Granny) would sweep the front porch.

Big deal you say? For me, it sure was. You see, nobody ever came in the front door of our house. The only two people I remember using our front door were Mr. Jernigan who drove the dry-cleaning truck and G-Buck. Mr. Jernigan would stop out front and come to the front door to see if we had any dry-cleaning that needed to be picked up. He usually showed up around 6-7pm usually while we were eating supper. He didn’t come in to visit because he was working. G-Buck usually showed up at the front door around 1-2AM every six months or so when he had “had a snoot full.” That’s another story for another day. It was a long time before anybody ever explained that one to me. All I knew was my daddy usually left to take G-Buck somewhere — so again…no visit.

BUT…when Granny would come home from church and grab the broom and shoot out the front door, I knew big doings were about to happen! When she swept the front porch that meant Mammy was coming to visit. Now, Granny probably has a much different recollection of this process than me — you can ask her about it some other time.

After the porch was swept, I waited to see that green Oldsmobile pull into our yard. I was so excited to see Mammy. Your Aunt Brenda and I would sit on the couch and tell Mammy about all the things going on in our lives. It was a fun Sunday afternoon because we also got to sit in the Living Room — and nobody normally sat in that room. You only used it when you had special company. Here’s a picture of me, Aunt Brenda, Mammy and Uncle Genie. I have another one which I decided not to include because Aunt Brenda and I are half naked (LOL). I’d have way to much explaining to do if I put THAT on the internet. I’ll show you the picture some time because you can see just how happy we were.


I’m sure you are wondering…”Poppo, why are you telling me this story on my first birthday?”

Well, go back to how I began. Nanna and I don’t live as close to you as we would like, so I hope that every time you hear that we are coming to see you, you get as excited as I did when I knew Mammy was coming to see me. Maybe we can develop our own “signal” to let you know that we are coming. With all the technology that exists today, that probably isn’t necessary.

Nanna and I love you very much and we enjoy every minute we get to spend with you and your parents. I’m so excited about this next year as you start walking and talking so that I can understand what you are saying. I look forward to watching you continue to grow up into the wonderful young woman that I know you will be. Even though we don’t see you every day…I can promise you, you are ALWAYS on my mind. I pray for you and I ask God to keep you safe and help you feel just how much you are loved when I’m not there to give you a big squeeze.

So PunkinDoodle…Nanna and I are headed your way later this week. We are coming to celebrate your first birthday with a party. There will be lots of family and friends there to celebrate YOU! And yes, this time, we are all coming just to entertain you. Tell your momma to sweep the front porch cause Poppo is on the way.

I love you with all my heart. Happy birthday PunkinDoodle.



Where Have the Preachers Gone?

“In a strange twist, the preaching of the cross is now foolishness, not only to the world but also to the contemporary church.” (Steven J. Lawson)

I know that Jesus promised that “the gates of Hades will not prevail against” the church (Matt. 16:18). I have complete faith in the truthfulness of that statement. Even as I understand that God’s church will prevail, I notice that God doesn’t promise no adversity for His Bride. In fact, just the opposite is promised. Jesus said to His followers, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22).

I entered the ministry in August, 1980. I was encouraged by some great preachers through the years. I read and listened and studied and have attempted to follow the advice given to me by my mentors — Always…without exception…PREACH THE WORD. I listened to Vance Havner, W.A. Criswell, Junior Hill, Bailey Smith, Adrian Rogers and a host of others. They instilled within me a love for the Bible and a desire to know more and more about God by studying His Word.

More and more today, I’m finding fewer and fewer of those who preach the word. Instead they have been replaced with men who are more interested in a business plan. They spend more time in leadership books than in THE BOOK. Their mentors are men and women who have succeeded in the corporate world rather than those who have suffered for the Kingdom of God. If Rip van Winkle were a Christian, and if he had fallen asleep fifty years ago, and awakened in 2018, he would be stunned. He would never have imagined a church full of people who are 3 miles long and 3 inches deep spiritually.

Way back in 1987, Eugene Peterson wrote a book called, “Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Ministry.” What Peterson wrote then is even more true today. Here’s a short portion of his thoughts.

“American pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on the church stationery and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn’t the remotest connection with what the church’s pastors have done for most of twenty centuries…

The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper’s concerns — how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money.

Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They attract a lot of customers, pull in great sums of money, develop splendid reputations. Yet it’s still shopkeeping; religious shopkeeping, to be sure, but shopkeeping all the same. The marketing strategies of the fast-food franchise occupy the waking minds of their entrepreneurs…

The biblical fact is there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor’s responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is his responsibility that is being abandoned in spades.” (Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Ministry, Eugene H. Peterson, 1987)

Where are the pastors who consistently, repeatedly, and faithfully stand before their congregations with a message from God? Where are the booming voices that say, “Thus says the Lord”? If you attend a church where one of these dinosaurs resides…pray for him. Encourage him. It is becoming increasingly hard to find such creatures.

Preachers, we are aliens in a strange land. This world is not our home. We must remain true to our calling. “Preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (II Timothy 4:2-5).

Thank God for the men who continue to preach that Heaven is real, Hell is hot and that Jesus is Glorious! May their tribe increase in these last days.

Scooter…It’s All About FAMILY


Happy 4th birthday Scooter (June 22)! I found 5 of my favorite pictures of us for your letter this year. I’ll admit, my eyes sweated just a bit as I looked back to June 2014 and saw how you have grown over these 4 years. It seems like yesterday, Nanna and I…along with a room full of others were patiently waiting for you to get here.

This has been another eventful year in our lives. You are growing into a wonderful big brother to Harper. It makes me so happy to see you loving on her and trying to take care of her. Don’t get me wrong…you have your moments with her, but for the most part you are doing what a big brother is supposed to do. Just this morning, when you saw Harper, you said, “Hi Harper. You are soooo cute!” I just love that.

You also became a cousin this year. Aunt Deeves and Knuckle Nate had a baby this year. From the first time you met Ellie, you were smitten. You call her Baby Ellie. In fact, we all call her Baby Ellie now. My guess is you will probably still call her Baby Ellie when she is 18 years old! You really love Harper and Baby Ellie — that makes me happy.

Whenever you see Poppo and Nanna these days, you want to know if we are going to do something FUN. Usually, the conversation goes something like this…”Poppo, let’s do something FUN.” “Like what Scooter?” “Well, I have an idea. Let’s go to the aquarium and see the sharks…or let’s go to Dollywood…or let’s go get pizza and play dinosaur games.” You have a list of things you like to do and you are always ready with an idea!

That brings me to something I want to talk about with you today. It’s one of the most important words you will ever hear…FAMILY. You are blessed with a family who loves you very much. Between Nanna and Poppo, Nonnie and Poppy and all the rest…I hope you realize just how much you are loved.

Family is important. In the Bible times, family was the most important part of life. If you wanted to understand society, you talked about family relationships. The ancient Hebrews spent much time sharing stories about family. We have lost some of that importance in our world today, but YOUR FAMILY — Vaughans and Hills — still believe that the most important thing in life is FAMILY.

Many people in the world today find their identity in what they do in life or where they live. There is a popular TV show today called Jeopardy. When they introduce the contestants on that show, they usually introduce them by telling where they are from and what they do. For example, if Poppo was to go on Jeopardy, they might say, “A Baptist preacher from Seymour, Tennessee.” We seem to boil people down to those two things in our world and I think that’s sad.

I want you to know that you are not defined by where you live or what you do, but who you are. And you are part of a FAMILY. The Bible paints a picture that teaches us that we are part of a family TREE. Each individual is a branch on that tree. As different members of the tree pass away, we are left with the leaves and branches of others who carry on the family tradition and family name.

Your Popple (my daddy), always taught me that the most important thing in life was your name. It didn’t matter how much money you made or what kind of car you drove…what mattered is what people thought about when they heard your name. When people hear your name — Hudson Keith Vaughan, I want them to think good thoughts. I want them to think of a person who treats all people the way he would want to be treated. I want them to think of a person who shares the love of Jesus by the way he talks and by the way he lives his life.

You are getting old enough now to begin to understand just how important family truly is. When you were born, I told you that no matter what you did or where you went, we would always love you — unconditionally. Families don’t always agree on everything, but at the end of the day I have learned that when the world turns its back on me, the people who stick by me are FAMILY. Don’t ever forget that.

I’m looking forward to many more adventures this year. There are some people who think I put too much emphasis on Nanna, my children and my grandchildren. They think I post too many pictures of you, Harper and Ellie on social media. You know what? I don’t care what they think. I believe that my greatest accomplishment in this life is my family. When I’m gone, I don’t want people to talk about my preaching or how I was as a pastor. I want them to remember one thing…Keith Vaughan loved his FAMILY.

A man who Poppo admired a lot was Menachem Begin. He was the Prime Minister of Israel. Here is something he said and I truly believe it’s true.

“Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth.”

I love you Scooter and I am so thankful to God that He made you a part of MY FAMILY. Happy birthday.



Do It Right or Do It Again

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

I mowed my yard today. That’s not such a big deal because people do that every day. But as I mowed my yard today, I remembered an important lesson taught to me by my daddy when I was just a young boy.

When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my parents told me I had to get a job! They suggested that I take the 22 in. push mower we had and ask the neighbors if I could mow their yards. Mrs. Edla Edwards, Julia and Moody Howard, and Mr. John and Ms. Blanche Galloway agreed and they agreed to pay me the grand sum of $2 every time I mowed their yards. That was $6 a week if you are keeping count. I used that hard earned money to buy cardboard insoles to go inside my shoes for the winter. You see, I had to walk 4 miles, uphill — both ways, in blustery snow with my sister on my back in order to attend school. But that’s another story for another day.

I would mow the yard and as an 8-year-old boy, I would sometimes miss a streak or I wouldn’t cut close enough to a bush or some other such thing. Usually, my customers wouldn’t say anything — they realized it I was just 8 and just getting started in my grass cutting career. But I learned very quickly that my daddy didn’t overlook those minor infractions.

When he came home from work, he examined my work to make sure I had done a good job. And I didn’t have to do just a “good job,” I had to do it to satisfy my daddy’s standards. On a couple of occasions, my daddy came home and made me take my lawn mower and go back to the yard I had mowed and “do it right.” I must say he didn’t have to do that but a few times. It was embarrassing to have to go back over to the neighbor’s yard after I had already finished and after I had already been paid and after I had already put away the mower and changed my clothes and was playing in the yard.

“But Daddy, it’s not that big of a deal. Mrs. Edla didn’t seem to notice that I forgot to cut along the ditch bank. I’ll get it next week. She’s already paid me anyway.”

Here is where I learned the lesson. My daddy taught me that I could either do it right or I would have to do it over. You see, it didn’t matter that Mrs. Edla hadn’t caught my oversight. It didn’t matter that I said I would take care of it next week. It mattered that Stanley Vaughan’s son was going to do a good job EVERY TIME or he would come back and make it right.

I didn’t like learning that lesson way back then. But as I mowed my yard today, I smiled as I looked over my yard. I don’t like anybody else to cut my yard…I want to do it myself. The reason? I’m the only one who can cut my grass to the standard my daddy set for me. I do it right because I don’t want to do it over.

I smiled a little smile and thanked God today for a daddy and momma who taught me the lesson of integrity and honesty in everything you do. Wise old Solomon learned the same lesson I learned (maybe his daddy David was a stickler for detail too). Solomon said, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” Whether it is mowing the yard, or serving in the church, or doing your job…do whatever you do right the first time so you don’t have to go back and do it again.


More in Common Than You Might Think

Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking about the deaths of Rev. Billy Graham and Professor Stephen Hawking. They seem so opposite.

Billy Graham…American Evangelist, Ordained Southern Baptist minister.
Stephen Hawking…English theoretical physicist, cosmologist

Billy Graham…Florida Bible Institute and Wheaton College
Stephen Hawking…University of Oxford, Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Billy Graham…friend of Presidents
Stephen Hawking…played Words with Friends with Sheldon Cooper

Billy Graham…good health until his death at 99 years of age
Stephen Hawking…Lived with ALS for over 55 years and died at the age of 76

On and on I could go listing the differences between these two. One is known as the most influential Christian leader of the 20th century and the other is known as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest physicist of all time.

Billy Graham believed Genesis 1:1 — “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Steven Hawking said this…”Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation.”

Billy Graham said, “If God can be fully proved by the human mind, then He is no greater than the mind that proves Him.”
Steven Hawking said, “What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t.”

In spite of what Professor Hawking believed or didn’t believe about God, he and Rev. Graham would absolutely agree on one thing which they both discovered. Rev. Graham discovered it on February 21, 2018 and Professor Hawking discovered it on March 14, 2018. They both discovered the truth of a verse found in Hebrews which says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die…” (Hebrews 9:27).

“Good” people have argued about the existence of God and the origins of the universe for centuries. From an academic perspective, Professor Hawking was perhaps much more qualified to talk about such things than Rev. Graham. In the world’s eyes, Rev. Graham was just a country preacher who believed an outdated, unprovable book called the Bible. Professor Hawking was an Oxford educated theoretical physicist who said, “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”

And yet, on March 14, 2018, Hawking discovered something that Graham had preached and it turned out to be true…all men die.

This led me to think about the question WHAT NEXT? After these men died…what happened to them. Professor Hawking had a theory about that. He said, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

For Billy Graham, he believed something quite different. He said, “Death is not the end of life; it is on the gateway to eternity. Though the Christian has no immunity from death and no claim to perpetual life on this planet, death is to him a friend rather than a foe, the beginning rather than the end, another step on the pathway to heaven rather than a leap into a dark unknown.”

“Pastor Keith, you really haven’t told me much today that I didn’t already know.”

I’m well aware of that. It’s just that I keep coming back in my own mind to that verse in Hebrews…”It is appointed unto men once to die.” Now that verse goes on to say that after death comes the judgment. I suppose Hawking and Graham have both found out the truth of that statement as well.

Suppose Hawking was right. We are just computers whose parts finally wear out and that’s it. Then I guess it really doesn’t matter how we live while we are here. What’s the point? Just do whatever you want to do, when you want to do it and however you desire to do it. You and I are here for only a brief time so just LIVE IT UP. Take no thought for tomorrow.

The problem I have comes not because I more closely identify with Rev. Graham than Professor Hawking. The problem I have arises from the fact that deep within my being, I know that there must be more. There is a deep longing inside of every human being to know the answer to three basic questions…Where did I come from?, Why am I here?, and Where do I go when I die.” Professor Hawking believed that you are here by accident, not design and that when you die…you are just dead. For me, that just doesn’t inspire me at all.

I do believe there is an afterlife and that there truly is a Heaven where I will live for all eternity. I believe that I am on this earth by God’s design. He put me here and He has a purpose for my life. He desires that I live in such a way that I point people to Him and that I bring glory to Him by the way I live and by the way I treat others. I believe that one day, I will reach that “appointed day” and I will die…and when I do, the most important thing will not be the awards I win or the books I write. The most important thing will be simply this…how did I respond to my Creator’s offer of a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.

I believe there is purpose for every life…not just in the here and now, but for eternity. And eternity is too long for me to be wrong about its existence. The Bible (which has proven itself trustworthy in my own life) says that God looks at us and sees two classes of men. He sees those who are saved through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the GRACE He extends to every soul who will believe on Him…and He sees those who are lost because they rejected His authority in their lives and lived as though He didn’t exist and rejected His freely offered GRACE.

You must decide. Are you going to follow the way of Professor Hawking and take you chance on theories that may or may not be true? Or are you going to follow the way of Billy Graham and countless others who have found true peace and fulfillment in this life by surrendering themselves to the plan and will of God?

Too many people today want salvation, but they want it on their own terms according to their own understanding. But God…our Creator has provided the means and the method for our salvation. As Billy Graham said so many times, “Your salvation is a free gift, made possible only because God planned it…Christ paid for it…and the Holy Spirit assures you of it.”

There is appointed for YOU a day…nobody knows when it is, but Professor Hawking AND Billy Graham would agree that there is a day appointed for you to die. My question for you? Where will you be 30 seconds after you take your last breath on this earth? You don’t have to go through this life wondering if there is anything in “the black hole.” You can have the absolute assurance that when you take your last breath here on this earth, you will take your first breath in Heaven with God. I beg you to place your faith in Him today.


Image-1.jpg Dear Harper,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You are 1 year old today. It’s so hard to believe. 365 days ago, you made your grand entrance and our world has not been the same since!

You are no longer “the baby” of our family. Baby Ellie was born a little over 2 weeks ago and that makes you “the middle cousin.” I think you will do just fine in that role. You met Ellie over the weekend. Everybody got along just fine and I bet ya’ll are going to be best buddies.

The title of your letter is a little different. I’m not even sure what a “hashtag” is, but this one has become your signature line when I post pictures of you. I think people use “hashtags” to call attention to special things they want lots of people to see. When Al Gore invented the internet I don’t know if he knew all the trouble he would cause, but when I post pictures of you, Hudson and Ellie…it makes the world-wide web a much happier place…I guarantee! You are the prettiest redhead I know and you certainly are #MyFavoriteRedHead.

You are still my “Little Bit” but in recent days you have discovered just how much fun it is to EAT! I haven’t seen anything that you don’t like. That’s good. Don’t be a picky eater. Food is just too good to miss out on things by not trying it. I’m having to buy extra Little Debbie oatmeal cookies because you really like those. You need to understand that I don’t share my Little Debbie cookies with just anybody — but you are just too cute and too special for me not to share with you.

You are a jumping bean! That’s your favorite thing right now. You hold on to my hands and jump up and down and laugh. Nana calls you Tigger (from Winnie the Pooh) because you jump so much. You are a bundle of energy and you are curious about everything — especially Rosie. Rosie is a sweet girl and she just lets you pull on her ears and play with her paws. She loves it when you and Hudson come over to play.

There is one more thing I want to talk to you about today. It’s been weighing on my mind for a while, and I want to make sure you understand this from the very beginning.

We live in a crazy world right now. People are not always nice to each other the way they should be. That makes Poppo very sad. I was taught that it didn’t matter what color your skin was or where you came from, God loves all people and He wants us to treat each other the way we would want to be treated. Our family has always tried to live by that rule.

Most of the time when you and I are together, we like to sing. And one of our favorite songs says, “Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white; they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

That is not just a song to me. That is the way I always want to see the world and it is the way your parents and your grandparents want you to see it as well. We don’t judge people based on the way they look or where they come from. We are supposed to love all people because God made them. It is wrong for us to treat others differently just because they look differently or talk differently or come from a different part of the world from us.

Remember the Bible verse that says, “For God so loved THE WORLD” — that means EVERYBODY in the world is loved by God —  “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). That means that Jesus came to this earth and died on the cross so that all of us can have a personal relationship with God. NOBODY is left out. Anyone who admits their sin and believes in Jesus will be saved. As you grow older, we will talk much more about that.

Right now, I just want you to learn early to treat everybody the way you want to be treated. Everybody will not always do things that are lovable — but we love them anyway because God loves them. Don’t ever treat people differently just because they don’t look like you or dress like you or talk like you. I think this is one of the most important lessons you can learn in life.

I’m sorry to tell you that people will not always treat you nicely. Sometimes they will talk about you and they may hurt your feelings. That is NOT FUN. When it happens, always remember that Poppo loves you more than anything and I will do my very best to make sure you always know that you are loved and that you are special to God. There is nothing that you cannot do if you trust God and follow Him. As you learn that lesson, always remember how bad it feels when people don’t treat you nicely. That will help you understand what other people feel like when they are treated unfairly. I pray that you will always share that special smile with everybody you meet. It will sure brighten somebody’s day!

Well, here we go. Today begins your second trip around the sun. I’ve made almost 55 trips and you, Hudson and Ellie have made the most recent ones my favorites yet. I can’t wait to see what happens to us this year. Whatever comes our way, always remember that God loves you, Nana and Poppo love you and there is absolutely NOTHING you can ever do to change either one of those things.

I love you Little Bit. You truly are #MyFavoriteRedHead.