Tattoos of Our Tribe: A Note to Friend Debbie

“We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
I’ve lived with Holmes’ words a long time, Deb. You know my theology: Mystery, Sovereign Grace (all we have is given freely by God) and Incarnation.
I believe Jesus is who he said he was—Creator God become human to teach us all we are capable of knowing about Deity. How come I believe that while others do not? We’re back to Holmes’ quote. That’s what I was taught! Can I prove the Incarnation? Course not. But if it works for me, I have good reason to believe it.
Paul wrote that Jesus loved the church (his bride) he gave himself up for her. Divine love is yielding self-interest for the needs of others. That’s the gospel I try to follow. If in the end I prove to be wrong, what have I lost? I’m enjoying life more at 93 than I ever have; though cash poor, I abound in the only wealth there is—a friend like you.
Old Grandpa Lloyd

One Last Time

I had a brief Facebook brush-up recently over blind tribal loyalty then discussing theological issues. I backed off. Discussion becomes impossible when one side holds its viewpoint to be absolute truth.

You can’t do theology apart from history, as the story of two early scholars points out: Galileo (1654-1642 and Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543.

In 1633, Pope Urban VIII summoned Galileo to Rome to face heresy charges. He had been arguing with the Church about its teaching that the Earth was the center of the universe, the sun, moon, and stars all revolving around it. The Church quoted Aristotle and Ptolemy as well as the Bible to make its point, declaring any other view to be heretical, implying that Earth did not hold a central place in God’s creation.

Galileo had studied Copernicus theory that Planet Earth was not even the center of the solar system, let alone the whole universe. Galileo wrote a book, “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems,” which led him to the Inquisitors. Found guilty of heresy, he was ordered to recant. Galileo chose to save his skin. He wrote: “Therefore, desiring to remove from the minds of your Eminences, and of all faithful Christians, this vehement suspicion, justly conceived against me, with sincere heart and unfeigned faith I abjure, curse, and detest the aforesaid errors and heresies, and generally every other error, heresy, and sect whatsoever contrary to the said Holy Church, and I swear that in the future I will never again say or assert, verbally or in writing, anything that might furnish occasion for a similar suspicion regarding me.”

Galileo spent the rest of his life under house arrest in his villa in Arcetri near Florence. His book was placed on the Church’s Index of Forbidden Books, where it remained until 1835. It took the Church 350 years to publically dismiss Galileo’s heresy charge.

Fit that into your thinking where you will. I’ll stay out of the battle, but I’m grateful I see not the slightest conflict between true faith and true science.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

A Good, Faithful Servant Goes Home

After 99 years of faithful service, Cousin Lester Mattson died. He spent his last years blinded by macular desecration.

I remember Lester and his brother Freddie, closest cousins to my age in the Mattson clan, from childhood years in Duluth. When Elsie and I built Whiteface Woods in Cotton in the 70s, Lester became our pastor at Cotton Covenant.

Lester filled various roles with the St. Louis County engineering staff, serving the church part time. But he and wife Edie served far more than part time.

I recall driving home to Whiteface Woods one afternoon and coming upon a car upside down in a deep, wet ditch. Lester knelt in the water, holding up a woman’s head to keeping her from drowning while directing others to leverage back the front seat with a come-along Lester carried in his car. He freed the woman before the ambulance arrived.

A community-wide memorial will be held in Cotton this summer, and a time of remembering April 1 at Primrose Apartments, Duluth, where Lester lived out his years. . Northlanders are invited. Lester’s pastor, Dave Mork of Emmanuel Baptist, will lead. The service will begin at 10:00 A.M.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Sunny Saturday in Sarasota

Most of Florida’s highest elevations are at the tops of buildings, mostly expensive condos with views of the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. Sarasota is officially 16.08 feet, but just out of town at the celery fields is a ridge of land with a heliport at the top that is a whopping 100 feet above sea level. Except from the top of the tallest building around here, 26 floors I’m told, you can’t get any higher anywhere within perhaps a hundred miles. I walked up and took a picture.

It was a pleasant walk, but not exactly my kind of photo op, so I took the short loop trail back to sea level and found a Tri-color Heron fishing, I snapped three pictures in little more than a second as he struck at something and missed.

Better luck next time.

Young Grandpa Keith

Grandpa Lloyd’s Night Visitors

Sometimes you can’t win for losing. Like the Good Book says: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

I had my hip replaced last Tuesday morning. Feeling fairly perky, and weary of hospital life (seven surgeries including colon cancer in late 2011), I asked my caregivers if I could go home Thursday and do rehab there. That flew in the face of urgent counsel from the Girl in 313. You’re 93! she said. Hence, decided coolness greeted my Thursday return to Woodland Garden.

Kind Cousin Patt sat with me through Thursday night–a hospital-release requirement. My education set in. They say old age is all in the head.  Not true! It hit my legs. Removing compression sox for the night took me to the ante-room to hell; donning then in the morning set the devil to grinning.

I made it through Friday night and took to my new lounge chair for the night, now enhanced with a fancy, foam foot-elevator. Around midnight, my bladder whimpered and I eased to a sitting position. As the foot rest lowered, so did the foam elevator, sliding me gently to the floor, nothing hurt nothing but my pride.

No way can I get up. I maneuvered the end table into position, found my cell phone, and reluctantly summoned the Girl in 313. Determining I was not hurt, she gave an I-told-you-so fist pump and phoned the Fire Department (residents are not allowed to aid a fallen person).

A sturdy man and a woman came in their big read truck and skillfully plunked me back in my chair. Smiling sweetly, without a chastening word, the Girl in 313 skipped on home.

I think there’s a lesson there.

Old Grandpa Lloyd



Not For “Ten”

Susan Kline, my favorite Fresh Start writer, recently rendered a come-uppance.  She called her devotional Not for “Ten,” citing Ephesians 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” We too easily overlook the last part of the verse. We are not self-made.

Susan wrote, “Living in a culture that embraces achievement, it’s no wonder people feel compelled to meet…such high standards in their work and personal lives. However, reality can put a quick end to this ideal. Even the most seemingly-perfect individual, job, or family has flaws/imperfections. Constantly striving for “perfection” is not only detrimental to our well-being, it is not God’s desire for us. Let me repeat: It is not God’s desire for us to strive for perfection.” Susan reinforced her theme with stories and scripture, sending me to a corner to repent.

Proofing your own stuff accurately is all but impossible, so why do I tear my hair out when a Hole News piece comes out with a typo? Why do I rewrite ad infinitum?  Sure, you have to be reasonably literate, but you don’t have to be Hemingway, who, incidentally, took literary liberties with language that would shock your English teacher.

God often worked through flawed people. He once used a donkey. God multi-tasks: while is working on me, he is working through me. I well recall the moment Ephesians 2:10 hit me: God set my life agenda, equipping me to fulfill every assignment.  And I recall when Philippians 2:13 struck home: I’m not perfect; never will be: “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Often I find an early draft of a piece I spent hours polishing makes my point just fine. That old adage comes to mind: if it works, don’t fix it.

Check out Fresh Start. Maybe Susan and the other fine writers will have a word just for you. Email  Tracy at Oakwood Church. ( Ask to be added to the e-list.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Three Piles

Yesterday’s mail brought a book gift from Joe Grove, a colleague from way back. Cache Lake Country by John J. Rowlands knocked 85 years off my life, plunging me into deep pondering. An old poem came to mind: Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight, / make me a child again just for tonight!

I put the book atop the Read Now pile, one of three book piles within reach of my lounge chair. The other two: Read Soon, and Why Did I Buy This?  Given my 93 years, I should shun long-range stuff.

Ultimately, Cache Lake will  join Deep River Jim’s Wilderness Trail Book and My 1934 Boy Scout Manuel on the bookshelf, titles that shaped my boyhood.

I can’t imagine life without reading. The Bible is woven into my thought life. I seek out online devotionals, hunting for gems not dissertations.  I avoid empty reading, theological or otherwise.

I want books that make me put them down to ponder. Cache Lake Country does that. So does book two in the Read Now pile, Limping Through Life by Jerry App, a superb Wisconsin storyteller. How precious the memories of childhood and youth that still echo in old age.

I wonder, will they still echo in heaven? That thought was generated last week;  hip replacement is ten days off. As pre-op stuff gets underway, both my primary care doctor and surgery nurse asked my choice, should something go awry. I replied, Just let the old guy go home; he’s been hanging around long enough.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Climb Every Mountain

Climb Every Mountain. I love that song and the movie; and I love mountains. I never got into rock climbing, but I’ve backpacked many mountain trails and ridden horses on a few.

My first mountain was Lake Superior’s pre-glacial shoreline. It towered 300 feet above my childhood home. Like the bear in a ditty Mother sang to me, I longed to climb the mountain, to see what I could see. I was about eight when neighbor John Stai hiked me to the top. Like the bear, all I saw was the other side of the mountain—unbroken woods stretching north.

I couldn’t imagine then my job one day would take me to mountains across the land. My more pious colleagues accused me of goofing off. They are all dead now, while I sit here, revelling in the mystery of providence. Every wilderness trip seemed to fulfill a special purpose for one or more persons.

That terrified lad, separated from his father atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin, lost in a whiteout cloud. His words at the evening campfire still enrich my memory.

Box Y Ranch,Wyoming. Three brave campers climb the mountainside to sleep under the stars. Darkness falls and coyotes begin to yip. Flashlights trace a wandering path to our base camp. And the boy and his first trout. Cap Matt and the kids will never forget.

Leaders ending a training backpack trip in the Oregon Cascades rain forest. A liberal PH.D candidate officiates; a fundamentalist youth pastor serves. We break chunks off a smoky fire-baked bannock and drink Grape Kool-Aid from our tin cups. Tears of bonding flow.

The weary hike to Twisp Pass in the Western Cascades, another man’s pack on my back. Riders and mule pack train long gone.  The flash in the dark; a boy on fire, his face blackened. His father’s song of surrender. And the lonely night in my tent, shaken by near tragedy. Why am I doing this?

That all happened 50 years ago. Now I know why.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Echoes of Lincoln

Thanks to those who labored through the Lincoln poem. I planned just a few lines for Lincoln’s birthday, but The Girl from 313 insisted on the whole works. Knowing where my supper comes from, I obeyed.

While working with the poem, I read Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings. The novel moved me like no other book of recent memory. Maybe we need to rethink foundational issues of our faith.

How in God’s name could any Christian endorse slavery? Yet hordes of Christian Americans owned slaves from colonial times to the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation freed four million slaves.
Christians fought and died to defend the practice, citing the Bible.

Slave-holders and abolitionists roared texts at one another. Yes, Old and New Testament God-followers held slaves. Jesus and Paul did not condemn slavery, though Paul admonished owners to treat bondservants (slaves) kindly, while he required slaves to respect their masters and give them fair value. On one occasion, Paul sent a runaway slave back to his master.

Slavery was horrible beyond description. Read Kidd’s gut-wrenching book. Yet, Steven Foster’s happy-Darkies myth (My Old Kentucky Home) lives on.

Do Old and New Testament cultural norms set the pattern for us? If so, women, remain silent in the church. If you have questions, ask Hubby at home. Sure would have been quiet in some churches I served had the women not spoken up. I can’t measure the spiritual insights I gained from godly women.

John R. Rice, fundamentalist evangelist of a generation back, wrote Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Woman Preachers. He was firmly against them, though he accommodated other stuff Paul opposed. A life-time railer against Hollywood, when TV came on, don’t bother him during Gunsmoke

lavery is found in virtually all cultures through history. Black agents sold Africans to slave traders. Free Blacks in America bought slaves. today, Bible-thumping occupants of pulpit and pew seek to enslave others to their way of thinking. Puppet Christians.

We need to rethink the nature of scripture, and what following Jesus really means.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Song of a Man and a Land, Part Four

This concludes the story poem of American’s greatest president. Lincoln was more than story and myth—he confronted the nitty-gritty of life. You may want to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln embraced those who opposed him, drawing on their strengths. Would that today’s politicians would learn from him.

But it is not a hymn or camp meeting song
Or a mighty anthem I hear,
But a martial air, hot oratory,
The reticent marching of fear.
The retching cry of my child-State,
Sick with the gall of her slaves,
These are the sounds that fall on my ear
As Abe takes the President’s chair.

Half slave half free? Secede! Secede!
The boom of the guns of Fort Sumter.

I watched from a mountain my people make war.
Homes torn, lands ravaged, men fell.
I grew sick from the stench of Andersonville
And the northern dungeons of hell.
Spades ripped my sod. The weight of the dead!
Men hid their shame in my soil.

Then peace. No, not peace, war never brings peace,
But a stupor before the next conflict.
Abe, tired, faced the task of mending his land,
But one shot was yet to be fired.
The last soldier to die in that most tragic war
Was the man from the cabin of logs.

Death-felled, yet Abe Lincoln stood tall,
North and South lowered flags that day.
The Union reborn in hearts called to mourn,
They wore blue coats and gray.
A dirge from the South, a moan from the mouth
Of the people Abe Lincoln set free.
Men gathered the Clod, turned back the sod,
My earth folded close, Abe was gone.

From the north Arctic snow to the summer green South,
One flag, Abe’s flag, was unfurled,
To remember God’s clod, a new kind of man,
In a new kind of land in the world.
A mingling of earth and faith and breath,
Wrought by God for the dark and the fair,
From bold hybrid seeds, of hymn tunes and creeds,
Of courage, daring and prayer.
In the Man, in the Land, see the Book and the Cross.
Don’t lose them, freedom lies there.

Old Grandpa Lloyd