What? A Lesson from Knickknacks?

Tyler with his arms full of a different kind of breakable pretty

Tyler with his arms full of a different kind of pretty

Last week I had the privilege of performing the wedding for Tyler, our first grandchild to be married. Tyler and his older—by five minutes—twin brother Ryan figure in an impressive list of anecdotes, not surprising, since they were the first of our eight grandkids. For the wedding reception fun time we were asked to provide some stories about Tyler.

Here’s one that goes well beyond being funny to illustrating an important lesson for all parents, coaches, and bosses.

Since my mom lived nearby when they were small boys, Tyler and Ryan often visited their great-grandma (Beppe). Each time they and their mom arrived, Beppe would quickly move all her precious breakables from coffee tables and low shelves placing them safely on the piano or on higher shelves out of reach of little playful hands.

One day my daughter dropped in unexpectedly with the boys, and was chatting in the kitchen with her grandma while the boys went into the living room to play. A few minutes later they appeared in the kitchen, their arms piled high with prized breakable knickknacks. Before anyone could say or do anything, they explained, “Beppe, you forgot to put away all your pretty things, so we brought them to you to put away.”

Okay! They had just demonstrated that they could identify breakable, pretty things, and were ready to be taught to leave them alone and not play with them—the next stage of development.

Why is it so hard for authorities and trainers to see when someone is ready to move to the next stage? I well remember at age 15 trying to get my father to understand that I was totally ready to learn to drive his car. After all, I knew about steering, braking, and changing gears from driving the neighbour’s small Ford tractor while doing chores on his farm. He eventually relented and reluctantly let me drive with him beside me. I got my driver’s license on my 16th birthday. He was surprised when, a week later I started driving a delivery van in my after school and Saturdays job.

Parents tend to keep doing things for their kids, denying them a chance to learn by experience and develop personal skills . I hear of young people getting married and neither one of them knows how to cook a meal, something our three daughters learned to do in their early teens.

At work, employees are held back from promotion, not because they are incapable of learning to do a more responsible job, but because their superiors can’t visualize them doing it.

Sadly, in church a similar attitude prevails. Leaders look at older teens and see them as kids goofing off in Sunday school instead of young people fully capable of leading a meeting or teaching a class.

It is by no means a new problem. The apostle Paul urged his protégé Timothy to keep teaching and wrote, “Do not let anyone put you down because you’re young.” 1 Timothy 4:12 (MSG)

Authorities such as parents, coaches, leaders, and employers, should do themselves a favour and see the possibilities in the people under their control and influence. They need to give them a chance to develop, to grow, to mature, and take some risks.

There comes a time when great-grandmas need to leave those breakable pretties on their coffee tables, and lead their grandkids into the next stage of development.

College Reunions: To Go, or Not to Go, No Question About It.

This past weekend Jo and I participated in a reunion of our Bible college alma mater. (Yes, the one that expelled me in my second year. But that’s another story.)



When we first walked into the registration hall I thought, Wait a minute. We’re in the wrong place. This is just a bunch of old people.

Why would we spend the time, effort and money to get together with people we went to school with, some of whom we hadn’t seen for half a century? Why would anyone?

We talked. We listened. And talked some more. For hours and hours. Everyone had the same two questions for everyone else. Where do you live now? What do you do? Sometimes the conversation petered out at that point, and sometimes that was the start of catching up to 50 or more years of stories of family raising, travels and ministries.

Since Jo and I were missionaries to Brazil for nearly 25 years and are still active in ministries, many people had kept up with us through our newsletters, emails and blog site. But we hadn’t kept up with all of them. So we did a lot of listening.

We got name cards to wear, with our names printed in large letters. Good thing too, since many of my old time friends had changed so much they didn’t recognize me until they glanced down at my name card.

Seeing how much people have changed, or haven’t changed is certainly one reason people come to reunions. I remember walking into an earlier reunion and immediately noticing someone I had dated in college. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Through all those decades she hadn’t changed a bit! Still just as fresh faced, and good looking as ever. As I stared astonished, I noticed a woman about my own age standing near this vision of loveliness. She was watching me and laughing softly to herself. Then she said, “Hi Jack, meet my granddaughter.”

We had lots of unstructured time to praise God together as we sat in sharing circles and told and heard encouraging stories about children and grandchildren, fascinating travels, and ministry successes. It was great. But as I led the closing program and banquet, I looked out over the 190 attendees and suspected that there was also a heart ache in every chair. Pain, disappointment, sickness, and failure are part of everyone’s life. Those stories came out during the more private conversations.

Probably the best part of the organized program was the sing-along when for over half an hour we all sang steadily, lustily, and loudly—and from memory!—old time hymns, and meaningful choruses. Yes, we even sang all the way through the Hash Chorus!

Here are some reasons to attend your college reunion:

  • You’ll be missed if you don’t show up.
  • Your family is tired of hearing your stories and you need a new audience.
  • It just might be fun.
  • To show off pictures of your amazing grandkids.
  • It’s a small world, and you’ll be surprised at the neat coincidences that turn up.
  • To listen to some real music.
  • You’ve always wondered what happened to what’s-his-name.
  • To renew old friendships, or start new ones.
  • To talk about the good old days.
  • 1-1-DSC_0275Others really want to see you!
  • You know you really want to
  • Extensive studies have shown that those who initially were hesitant about attending their reunion, were very happy they came.
  • Who knows when there will be another reunion?
  • Who knows if you’ll be around to attend?

If your alma mater is a Christian College, then a reunion is a foretaste of The Great Reunion! And that’s the Reunion no one wants to miss!

I Distinctly Remember Forgetting That

“Jack!” my usually loving and soft spoken wife growled at me, “You are so bitter and so harsh, you can’t even control what you are saying and who you are saying it to.” She followed up this judgement by recommending that I quieten down and go to sit by the creek behind the house to meditate, think and pray.

She was right, as she often is, so I walked down the path from our mud-walled house in the Canela village to the small creek, thinking back over the past year. We, along with all other linguistic and educational teams working with Brazil’s indigenous people, had been under increasing pressure from the new leftist government. Numerous attacks on us “culture destroying missionaries” and “emissaries of multinational corporations” accused us of everything from being spies to exploiting the indigenous peoples for our own profit.

Since none of these accusations were even remotely true of us, we had prayed consistently that the unreasonable demands on our time would cease and the blockages and obstructions to the work would be lifted. Instead things got worse. I had not been reacting well.

I sat down on the log dock and thought of the names of individuals who were declared enemies and others who had hurt me. The Holy Spirit was quick to bring to mind ten people and situations that I deeply resented. I wrote them down in the notebook I always carried, while He reminded me that I was to forgive each one on the list and love them instead.

I forgive you. I'm letting it go.

I forgive you. I’m letting it go.

It took a long time. But I eventually did it. I underlined the first name and said aloud, “I, Jack Popjes, hereby forgive you . . . . . for . . . .” I said the name and the offence. Then I tore the name off the list and, further tearing it into small bits, I dropped them into the creek repeating, “I forgive you, I love you,” as the pieces floated down stream.

I then processed the second name in the same way, then the third. As I said, it took a long time. At the end, I prayed and thanked the Holy Spirit for bringing these people to my mind and helping me to forgive them. I walked back to the house, found Jo praying for me, and told her what I had done. I hugged her and whispered my thanks and sat down at my study table finally able to concentrate on work again. I had forgiven, but I didn’t think I would ever forget.

I was wrong.

A few weeks later, back on the mission centre, I told our colleagues at a prayer meeting what I had done to forgive. As I told the story, it dawned on me that of the ten names on my list I could only think of two. I had forgiven, committed myself to forget and God, who knows how to forget our sins, helped me to forget.

Decades later I came across a quote by Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, who, when someone reminded her of an earlier vicious verbal attack by an opponent, said, “I distinctly remember forgetting that.”

I know what she meant. I distinctly remember that forgiving-and-forgetting incident so clearly that I was able to tell you about it just now.

Jesus was very serious about our need to forgive, not only because we have been forgiven, but because God won’t forgive us our sins against Him, unless we forgive those who sinned against us.

What a relief forgiving brings! The air is fresher, the sun shines brighter, and the emotional load is lighter.

What Happens to Christian Young People At College?

This week our two oldest granddaughters are entering institutions of higher learning. Savannah studied one year in Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, but is taking her second year of at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton. Arienna’s first year of higher education is at Joshua Wilderness Institute at Hume Lake in east-central California.

Our granddaughters are just two of a huge flow of Christian young people who this fall are pursuing higher education. Some, like Arienna, will study in a Christian setting, others, like Savannah, will live and study in a decidedly non-Christian situation.

Meanwhile, back home, thousands of parents wonder what will become of their children’s Christian faith. They have heard horror stories of young people entering university with a good, solid faith in Christ, and a reputation for being active in church, but who lost their faith and dropped out of church after graduation.

Fortunately this fear is not well founded in fact.

Sure, we can all tell anecdotes of young people we know who lost their faith in college, but the statistics show a much more positive picture.

Six years ago, the Pew Research Center surveyed evangelical young people in North America on the subject of Christian faith and higher education. They differentiated between high school graduates, those who had some college, and those who were college graduates. The four questions were:

  1. Is religion very important to you?
  2. Are you certain in your belief in God?
  3. Do you attend church at least once a week?
  4. Do you pray privately, outside of church services?

The answers showed that the more education the young people had, the stronger their faith was. The responses to the question on church attendance, for instance showed 54% of those with only a high school education attended church weekly, while 60% of those who had some college did so. A whopping 70% of college graduates, however, attended church at least once a week.

These findings surprise us, but they shouldn’t. We evangelical Christians tend to define ourselves and our faith by being different from our surrounding society. We remember the command,

“Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.” Romans 12:2 (GNT)

Sociologist Dr. Bradley Wright who reports these findings in his book “Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites . . . and Other Lies You’ve Been Told” writes,

“Cultural conflict strengthens Evangelicals’ faith, and what better way to experience this conflict than college? Going to college causes Evangelicals to further engage society, thus highlighting and strengthening their faith.”

Grandson Ryan Graduated With Stronger Faith in God

Grandson Ryan Graduated With Stronger Faith in God

Our oldest grandson, Ryan, is a  good example. He graduated from Grant MacEwan University last year, having served as a highly respected Senior Resident Assistant. In his second year, he and a friend started a Bible study in the residence–the first regular student led Bible study in the history of the residence. In the beginning of his third year, students came asking, “When are you starting the Bible studies? I don’t want to miss any.”

Ryan and our other grandkids were well prepared for college, even in a secular setting. They all have a solid Christian education, some through a Christian school and others via home schooling. Plus, they had faithful daily prayer backing from parents and grandparents, and probably others.

Well prepared students, strongly supported in prayer, daily experiencing the strength of Jesus, tend to finish college with a powerful, more vital faith than when they started.