Hell! Hell! Hell!

Long-time friend Toivo (George Nordling) gives us today’s Hole News. Check him out at www.yooper517.blogspot.com His story depicts a view of our religiosity we seldom think about. His book, Walking to the Light, tells the full story. Anyone battling booze will find it helpful. Sober for 25 years, Toivo teaches the men’s Bible class in his church.

It was Friday the 18th of December, 1970 that I accepted Christ. I didn’t fully understand it, but then eternity in hell was the other option, as I was told by my uncle Jim, chairman of the Board of Deacons at First Baptist of Ironwood. He was stern about this, and that scared me; he was usually a soft-spoken, gentle man.

The first option, as I understood it, was that I must live a sinless life or lose my salvation. Uncle Jim quoted me the verse in Hebrews about a dog returning to its own vomit. My chances to reach heaven were infinitesimal, as I understood it.  People in the Baptist Church were perfect: no cussing, no drinking, no movies, no chewing, no adultery, not one hair out of place. In other words, NO. I thought it would be better to die right away and forgo all the temptation I would face.

One Saturday in February, 1971, I was shoveling away the aftermath of a blizzard.  The bartender from the Wigwam tavern just down the street walked by, “Hey, George. You’re workin’ too hard there. C’mon down to the bar and I’ll buy you a beer.” I was tired and thirsty. I hadn’t had a beer in almost two months and this offer was too generous to resist.

This was about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. I woke up on the floor at home at 8:00 Sunday night, my dog licking my face and whining. I didn’t know if it was day or night. The TV was on; the kitchen messy with a full ashtray on the table and the garbage can overflowing with beer cans. I was headed straight for hell!  I blew it!  Well, I didn’t think I had much of a chance anyway. Damned Baptists were too strict. But they know everything there is to know about salvation of the soul.

I played church for the next month. I wouldn’t tell Uncle Jim what happened and disappoint him. I hated this because whatever the preacher said condensed to, “You’re going to hell, George, eternal hell.”

Hell! Hell! Hell! I had nightmares about going to hell. I replayed those nightmares over and over, wishing I had never talked with Uncle Jim. After all, ignorance is bliss. Depression revisited my life.

In March, Uncle Jim suggested I try a Moody Correspondence Bible Study. That’s how I discovered God’s grace. The dark pall hanging over my life lifted.  I felt joy. The study was Romans- the Epistle of Grace.

I still wasn’t perfect; still frequented the bars when I had a weekend off, vowing the next day to get on the wagon. The next weekend off I did the same thing. Eventually I would quit drinking via much prayer. Anyone who wants the whole story should get a copy of Walking to the Light. I wrote it; it has touched many lives.

Thanks, Toivo. You’re an honest friend.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Peanut Butter Gospel

What does it mean to serve God?

I suspect most Christians connect God-serving with religion—church life. But faithful churching may not be God-serving.

I’m not knocking the church; I love my churches and pastors, North (Baptist) and Southwest (Presbyterian). I was a pastor most of my working years, a denominational functionary for a decade. The church was Jesus’ idea. He didn’t burden the world with a bunch of Lone Rangers. But too many Christians miss the point of church.

Ask the next person you meet how their church is going. You’ll likely get a number: Our church is going great!—attendance is way up. Not so good—we lost a lot of members. We’re struggling—income is way down. Numbers have little to do with serving God. A huge, glitzy, noisy congregation can fail miserably, while a store-front handful can excel.

What about personal God-serving?  Have the mystics nailed it? They clear their minds of everything but God and live in a constant worship mode, forgetting the upturned eye can see little around it.

Consider Kathleen Norris’ words in a recent Inward/Outward: “I have come to believe that the true mystics are not those who contemplate holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in serene silence, but those who manage to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self…. If they are wise, they treasure the rare moments of solitude and silence that come their way, and use them not to escape, to distract themselves with television and the like. Instead, they listen for a sign of God’s presence and they open their hearts toward prayer.”

While prayer is vital, God-serving demands more. What good is prayer to a hungry little girl you don’t feed? The only way a church or individual can serve God is serve the needy around them.

Churches should be fueling station, empowering us to serve needs in our small circles; sometimes collectively: food shelf, clothing drive, layettes, etc. Ultimately, God-serving  boils down to the individual, whether we toss a jar of peanut butter in the food shelf box or feed a hungry little girl.

God needs nothing from us but obedience. We serve him only when we serve people. Let’s go make a peanut butter sandwich for that little girl.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Old Man

Christmas has come to Woodland Garden. Each gathering area is beautifully decorated, with a colorful, lit crèche in the lobby.  Residents wander the halls taping Christmas cards to doors.

This evening the Edmonds (facility owners) will host a Christmas dinner for residents and staff. Jerry Thilmany and the Strollers will entertain, primed to play The Orange Blossom Special for Norma.

Last Christmas I hung my Littlest Tree on the Mountain story on each apartment door. As I pondered what to hang this year, lo to my wondering eye did appear a  fitting snatch of verse. The shy poet declined to let his/her name appear but gave me permission to share The Old Man.

Slower of step
And full of years,
With spirit unbent
He follows, not alone,
A path that wends
Through a woodland garden
Graced by flowers
He calls My Friends.

I will mount The Old Man appropriately and tape it to my neighbors’ doors with my Christmas greeting. Let it be my Christmas thought to Hole News friends as well, including many I have never met.

Come to think of it, friendship is the only gift that can never fade,  for a friend is the only thing from this life we will find in heaven.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

On a Roll

The Tooth book is on a roll. Rewarding feedback; some with questions. I’m always open to discussion—face to face, by phone, or email.

If you requested a Tooth book and it hasn’t reached you, email me at mattson.lloyd1 at gmail.com. If you would like a copy, send your address. Books are free; help with printing and shipping is appreciated. About 200 copies remain.

We have a limited supply of All the Days of My Life (first memoir book), ALASKA: New Life for an Ancient People, and Walking to the Light. Same deal: books are free; help with postage appreciated.

Hole News readers represent many theological traditions, some have no tradition. As the Tooth book’s back cover states, I have moved away from some views of my earlier years, but I have moved closer to Jesus. The Tooth book gives some of the reasons for my current views. They satisfy me, but I am open to new light.

I see no conflict between science and the Bible as God gave it. Jesus will return, but probably not on John Nelson Darby and C.I. Scofield’s schedule.  Jesus is Creator God become man to redeem mankind from death and darkness now and through eternity. We must not forget the now.  He alone holds authority. He did not cede that authority to the Bible. How we live, not how we worship, reflects our grasp of divine truth.  Salvation by works? No. Works reveal our salvation.

Christians who fight one another have nothing to say to the hurting world. Earnestly contend for the truth? Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He alone knows who are his. We may be surprised when we learn who he includes in that company.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

A Turnpike Runs Through It

Bridge Trail blends the convenience of civilization and the allure of nature. You walk 3 plus miles each way along a river bank, past a wild pond, through woods, spy cardinals darting across the trail, and startle deer browsing nearby. The path is paved; steel and concrete footbridges take you forth and back across the river; and on a nice day you meet dozens of others walking, jogging and biking, many of them with a young child in a stroller, a dog on a leash, or both.

The view from afar

The view from afar

Northbound on the trail just across the first footbridge about 70 feet above your head supported by a massive concrete overpass the Ohio Turnpike traverses the mile wide Black River Valley. Viewed from a distance or from the path beneath, the turnpike, an inescapable intrusion of human civilization possesses a beauty of its own. I don’t know which came first, but whoever put the turnpike 70 feet above the trail must have known that river valleys in the city belong to walkers, joggers, and cyclists, cardinals, and deer, not to semis and speeding cars.

Up above my head there's a turnpike in the air.

Up above my head there’s a turnpike in the air.

If you want your nature free of human traces; no paved paths, no power lines or hum of traffic; where even a silent high flying jet is an intruder, about the only places left are unexplored caves. And, just as soon as you visit one, you reduce the count by one.

Modern civilization is a good place to get away from sometimes. But just because a turnpike runs through it and the path is paved doesn’t make Bridge Trail any less a place to commune with nature and soothe my flustered soul.

Young Grandpa Keith

The Beat Goes On, Maybe

December: Birthday month in our family. Sally and Kevin showed up in November and October, but Keith, Joel, and David waited until December. They have overloaded Facebook with family photos of late.

I sadly neglected my kids during their youth years—too much travel—but they have forgiven me. They all made me proud and produced grandchildren and great-grands in abundance.

Through the years my kids shared in my work and continue to share. Sally’s emails often feed me Hole News starter-thoughts. You know Keith through his Hole News ponderings, photos and Tooth book reflections. Joel’s Cat in the Manger story and Dave’s devotional writings found their way into the Hole News and Tooth book. Kevin is my IT guy and emergency Hole News back-up.

Somewhere in the gene pool the kids found musical skills. Sally played piano and sax in high school and now sings in Duluth’s symphony chorus. Keith strayed from singing to the pulpit. Joel, Dave, and Kevin turned into gifted singers, song writers, and entertainers: Joel with the QChord; Dave guitar, banjo, and uke; Kevin 12-string guitar. I love their programs. Occasionally they let old Dad play along.

Sally entered college when our family moved from Alaska to denominational work in Chicago in 1962. Keith followed two years later and Joel headed for Viet Nam. That left Dave and Kevin to share my summer adventures: canoe trips, backpack treks, ranch weeks at the Box Y in Wyoming, Alaska roamings.  I report some of those adventures in By the Campfire’s Ruddy Glow.

And the beat goes on. A plea from Pat Fergusson, a Hole News VIP (vision impaired person) led me to consider turning the Tooth into an audiobook. I bounced the idea off Joel, primary reader for the Alaska audiobook. My librarian consultant, as usual, complicated a simple plan: Why not have family members read the parts they contributed to the book? And Paul Boskoffsky read his hammer story? Kevin agreed to produce the CDs–probably four, each containing four 12- to 15-minute segments. The plan is still burbling, but there’s a good chance it will gel.

I’m grateful for the kids God gave me and Elsie. They treat me kindly. Happy December birthdays to Keith, Joel, and Dave

Old Grandpa Lloyd

CEO and Chairman of the Board

I noticed that Facebook wants to know what position I hold where I work. My work is listed as “retired.” I clicked on a little down arrow and was presented with some suggested titles to pick from. One of them was CEO. I decided that was the appropriate title. I didn’t actually select it because I am so incredibly modest. I only chuckled at how witty I am.

All my life I’ve not been CEO or Chairman of a Board, unless you count the newspaper I and my friend Bobby Henman founded when we were about 10 years old. He was the reporter and I was the boss because I had a mimeograph machine in my basement used by my dad to print the Sunday bulletin. Our first and only scoop was coverage of the death of a puppy we had briefly who died mysteriously. Bobby wrote the story. I punched up the copy. But we had no typewriter to cut a stencil, and neither of us knew how to type or operate the mimeograph machine. We abandoned the business.

When I worked I had a boss. In retirement I don’t (spouses don’t count). And I need one. I am given to laziness and procrastination. With no clock to punch, deadlines to meat, and paychecks that come whether I’ve accomplished anything or not, whole days go buy with nothing done worthy of having gotten out of bed.

Realizing I am now CEO and Chairman of my Board I have authority to shake me from my lethargy and order me to get about doing something, like a Hole News post. And, while I often talk to myself, I never talk back.

Young Grandpa Keith

A Pretty Good Story

Oscar

Another senor moment. I neglected to attach a promised photo to the December 8 Hole News. Better late than never, they say. To read the story, go to www.holenews.org, scroll down to The Fundamentalist. The above photo (circa 1950) shows fishing friend Oscar on the right with his son-in-law Perry and old grandpa Lloyd before he got old.

The following story first appeared in a December 2010 Hole News. I touched it up a bit and, on the advice of my librarian advisor, turned the littlest tree turned into a girl. I wrote the story 25 years ago for my Sunday morning story tree gang.

She was the littlest tree on the mountain and she knew it.  Not only was she little, she was different.  All around her tall cedars spread their magnificent branches.  The littlest tree wished she could hide her crooked limbs and rough bark.  She was a stranger. She didn’t belong on the mountain.

The cedars reached for the sky, their fragrant wood sought after by the king’s builders.  Every cedar on the mountain dreamed one day he would see the king. The littlest tree heard them boast. “I will live in the king’s palace!” cried one. “Oh, I too,” said another, looking proudly down his straight trunk.  Said another, “I will be a beam in the royal banquet hall.  What grand sights I will see!”  A deep voice boomed from up the mountain, “I will be a pillar in the throne room, the grandest place of all!” And a slender young cedar sang, “I will be a mast on the king’s fine ship; I will sail the great, deep sea!”

The littlest tree looked down on her dark, gnarled trunk.  Oh, she was strong enough, and almost straight; but she was so small.  “I can never hope to see the king,” she sighed.

Then one autumn morning the woodcutters came.  They laid down their axes to look bout.  A gruff voice said, “Over there; a fine tree for the king’s ship!”  Axes rang and the young cedar crashed to the ground. “Up there, that big one.  Just right for the king’s throne room. Take those smaller ones for the palace.”

All day the woodcutters swung their axes and the littlest tree grew sadder and sadder.  “I will grow old and die on this mountain,” she said, “I will never see the king.” With all her might she wished she had never been born.

In her sadness she scarcely heard the gruff woodcutter say, “We need one more; not big or fine; the Bethlehem innkeeper needs a small tree to repair his stable. There—that one.”

The littlest tree felt the axe bite her trunk. “A stable!” she cried, “I’m fit only for a stable!  Now for certain I will never see the king.  What king would come to a stable?”

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Have You Taken Your Bell Walk Yet?

Two years ago I posted my feelings about Salvation Army bell ringers and their red kettles. It bears repeating.

Bell ringers at the mall are to me as birds singing in the woods. They are part of the ambience of holiday busyness. I know Christmas is highly commercialized. But all the while we complain about it we join the shopping crowds, go to parties, pile presents high under the tree, use more of our credit than is smart, eat too much, drink too much, and generally have as good a time as we can manage. ‘Tis the season of socially sanctioned self- and other-indulgence. I don’t believe God minds no matter what some of His self-proclaimed spokesmen claim . . .

. . . provided we “Hear dem Bells.” They are the conscience of Christmas busyness and self-indulgence. As in the old song the words come from dem Bells are ringin’ out de gospel of de Lamb. It is a gospel of love, compassion, and generosity for your community’s invisible people–the homeless, the poor, the abused, the hungry, the lonely. Jesus didn’t mince words. “As you do for these, the least among my brethren, so you have done for me; and vice versa.”

At least once this season take a bell ringer walk with a pocketful of change, about $20 worth is the amount I recommend. Take some children with you, and put a little something in every bell ringer’s kettle until you run out. Then treat yourself to a favorite holiday libation and see how good it can taste.

I took my bell walk yesterday. There’s plenty of time left to take yours.

Young Grandpa Keith

Story Anyone?

I tell stories. Rarely does someone tell me they remember one of my sermons, but people often tell me they recall one of my stories. To be remembered, tell stories.

The November 30 Hole News reported a fishing trip with Oscar Victorson. If you missed it, click on www.holenews.org and scroll down. The above photo (circa 1950) shows Oscar (right), his son-in-law Perry Hedberg, me, and Oscar’s old Terraplane. The story was rock solid true.

I make that point because some friends have the temerity to inquire if everything I write is true. I assure you, every word I write is a true word. You can count on it.

I get most perturbed when my fishing stories are challenged. Why, they ask, does the big one always get away? Simple enough: that’s how it got big. The humungous trout in “Evolution and Grandma Hoopla’s Fine Jersey Cow” does evoke questions. Winner of the coveted Hip Boot award at the 1989 Lake Ellen Hunting, Fishing, Camping & Literary Society honors banquet,  the story appeared in Bigfoot and the Michigamme Trolls.

A lifetime of stream fishing left me with a treasure-hoard of memories. Once I took 16 Alaska grayling on 16 casts, missing #17 when two fish hit the fly at once, bouncing it out of the water. A walk around little Baily Lake in Wyoming yielded over 70 cutthroat trout. I kept the bigger ones for supper. On Bear Creek in Alaska, a grizzly came within 30 yards of where I was fishing. Fortunately, he was more interested in the creek than me. On my next Bear Creek visit, the morning produced 70 pounds of Dolly Varden trout and red salmon. Campers ate the salmon; we flew the trout to Egegik and gave it to widows.

Storytelling is as old as mankind. The Old Testament is a story anthology.  Parables (teaching stories) account for about one-third of Jesus’ teaching. A story can tell what a sermon can’t

Nowadays, when a sticky subject comes up, I bring in Charlie Amorphous (he’s still courting Aggie). Charlie asks the right questions, which I answer. Should you come across one of my stories that sounds a bit fishy, chalk it up to memory lapse; a very present help in time of trouble.

Old Grandpa Lloyd