Bob Gilmore’s Story #2: Don’t Sweat Life.

The June 14 Hole News told the first of two stories from Bob Gilmore’s English-teaching days at a Bible school in Thailand. The stories grabbed me because they illustrate so perfectly a principle I have long lived by. I base it on Philippians 2: 13: Quit fussing about serving God; get on with whatever is in hand. God is doing more in and through us than we can imagine.

Bob’s first story told about a troubled young man who sought counsel for a life-shaping decision. If you missed that story, go to www.holenews.org.

The second story grew out of the tour of a luxurious building in an upscale Thai community Bob and his English-teaching colleagues made, hosted by one of their students, a wealthy business man. The building was a costly tribute to Buddhism.

A dramatic spiral stairway with hand-carved decor led from the ground floor to a fourth-floor worship center. Sculpted stone pillars rose on either side.  A docent stood nearby to answer questions.

Bob asked the meaning of images sculpted on the pillars. The docent explained that one pillar told the life of Buddha from birth to Nirvana, the Buddhist equivalent of heaven. He confessed he had no idea what the images on the other pillar meant.

Bob studied the pillar. He was stunned to see Mary and Joseph, the creche, the Magi. The images told the of Jesus from Bethlehem to the assumption from the Mount of Olives. Bob explained the story to the docent, the first time the Buddhist man heard the gospel.

Does teaching English to Thai nationals without slipping in an occasional word about Jesus count as true missions? Check out 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Don’t rush past “To everyone who asks.” We can’t program God’s Spirit. Nor are we privy to what God is doing. Our job is to stir curiosity. So  Don’t sweat life. Live gently and confidently. God is fulfilling his purpose.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

More from Sandy Ridge

I was back to Sandy Ridge a few days ago and for those who don’t follow Facebook and have not already seen these, here’s some of the photos I took.They are mostly the same old same old, but that is what I go to Sandy Ridge for. I’ve never been disappointed by what I haven’t seen. The occasional oddity is nice, but not necessary.

Nesting Tree Swallows

This swallow is bringing food to its mate who is tending their nest.

The sun shining from behind this egret shows off its magnificent wing feathers.

The sun shining from behind this egret shows off its magnificent wing feathers. Back lighting isn’t preferred, but in this case serves a good purpose.

I stubbornly post reptile pictures just to poke those who think they are less photogenic than birds.

I stubbornly post reptile pictures just to poke those who think they are less photogenic than birds.

Full on sun brings out the detail of the mostly black bird.

Full on sun brings out the detail of  mostly black birds.

Robins live in the woods as well as in back yards. This one barely out the nest, accompanies me on a portion of my walk back to the parking lot.

Robins live in the woods as well as in back yards. This one, barely out the nest, accompanied me on a portion of my walk back to the parking lot.

Weekday mornings the marsh is mostly mine, one of the perks of retirement.

Weekday mornings the marsh is mostly mine, one of the perks of retirement.

So, there you have it. Nothing particularly exciting, but a pleasant couple of hours nevertheless.

Young Grandpa Keith

Feeling Old

I spent multiple hours over three days trying to get my email to work as I wanted it to on a new computer. Though I finally figured it out I wonder if it was worth the hassle. The digital world requires constant vigilance if you want to keep up. Ignore one significant development and you are irrelevant.

I thought I was a good citizen of the modern age because early on I embraced emailing as superior to the Postal Service and felt sorry for my friends who mourned the demise of letter writing. But emailing has largely gone the way of the U.S. Mail. It now mostly delivers irrelevant advertisements. Personal messages are few and far between.

It’s my own fault. I have mastered the basic cell phone but ignored iPhones and their smart cousins. They confuse me. The world of apps and texting passed me by. Almost everyone I know has abandoned emailing for texting. I’ve waited in vain for replies only to be told that my correspondent doesn’t do email anymore, and would I please text them from now on. I’m embarrassed to I admit to my astonished friend that I don’t text.

I’m feeling left out. I must be iPhonaphobic. Is there a twelve step group for this? Maybe someone should just delete me and put me out of my misery.

(Not so)Young Grandpa Keith

Goofs Unlimited

Big time goofs all around.

First, my cell phone died.  A New one is on the way; probably a new number. I’ll let you know.

Then, my email headed south taking the contact list and Facebook with it. My new email is lloydmattson5 at gmail.com. Please email me with your full name as I form a new list.

Amazing how helpless you feel with no phone or email.  I’ll put my IT guy Kevin on the goofs tomorrow. He and Tena are bringing Father’s Day dinner to me and Norma. Fortunately, I can still access the Hole News dashboard.

We’re busting with pride! Nicole, Norma’s eight-year-old granddaughter, was accepted by the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS). She plays violin. GTCYS is a group of youth orchestras in the Twin Cities and nearby communities. Nicole’s parents are David and Kristie Kangas. They live in North Oaks, a St. Paul northern suburb. I’m proud to be Nicole’s honorary grandpa.

Thanks to son Keith for his thoughtful Father’s Day tribute (June 16 Hole News); and for his striking His Spoon Bill duck photo. Indeed, it’s more fun to fly than plow.

How great to have your kids as friends.

My next Hole News post will tell Bob Gilmore’s second Thailand English-teaching story.

Goofs aside, there’s a bunch of good stuff going on at Woodland Garden.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Happy Father’s Day

I recall writing about a decade ago that little of consequence has been left unsaid between dad and me. Since then there has been a lot more to the story and I’m no longer so sure. I’ve visited him less the last few years, but when we are together saying is our primary entertainment. Having arrived at my biblical max—three score and ten years—Dad’s almost 93 birthdays seems a daunting achievement.

Dad’s diamond willow walking stick has evolved into a cane, then a walker, and occasionally a wheelchair. His 200 plus Hole News followers have grown to over 300. He moved into Woodland Garden and Norma came into his life. He knows better what matters and what doesn’t. He thinks new thoughts having discovered how wide the horizon is the closer he gets to the sunset, all the while still treasuring his history.

Poet Mary Oliver contrasts prose and poetry with a beautiful metaphor. Prose, noble as it is, is in a harness. Poetry, however, has wings, and she would rather fly than plow. A good part of dad’s life has been spent penning prose. He’s been a pretty good plower. His results fill most of a bookshelf and hundreds of periodical pages. Dad isn’t done with plowing, but more and more he takes to the air.

Canes, walkers, and wheelchairs do not a prison make. Proof of this is that, though these days few of dad’s stories are new, they certainly are better. His harness has loosened and he is increasingly free to fly. One day, not yet, but on some glad morning, he’ll fly away, because flying is better than plowing.Spoon Bills.

Young Grandpa Keith

Geezer Treasure

Back when I was a kid, I collected stamps. I mounted them country by country in a three-ring binder. Learning of my hobby, our Norwegian neighbor gave me a Norse American Centennial stamp in mint condition. The stamp catalog said it worth ten bucks! That was more money than I had ever had.Temptation grew too great and I sold it along with my modest collection.

These days I collect people in two overlapping categories: friends and special friends. You can’t put a price friends. I am incredibly rich, and last week my riches paid dividends to my memory bank.

Bob Gilmore stopped by bearing sinful homemade donuts and a lovely prayer shawl knit by his wife Gayle. We talked for two hours. I reported recent adventures; Bob reviewed his Arizona winter. Knowing he had traveled extensively over the years, I quizzed him. He mentioned Thailand, where I had missionary connections, and told two fist-pumping stories that confirmed my compass Bible passage: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” God is always doing more in our lives than we know.

Bob served several short-term assignments at a Thai Bible college teaching English. The students came from many walks of life, most of them Buddhist. They enrolled to study English, not Christianity, and Bob honored that.

One day a distressed young man sought him out.  He was unhappy with a fortuneteller’s counsel about a promising job offer. He told him to go home. His first duty was to care for his parents.  The parents were in good health, still working, and the young man turned to his American teacher.

Bob confessed he didn’t believe in fortunetellers. He counselled the young to man to accept the job, to honor his personal worth. “You are a child of God,” Bob said. The young man responded with tears: “You are the first person in my life to tell me I was a child of God.”

I’ll tell you the second story next time.

Grandpa Lloyd

Friday’s Entertainment

My Facebook followers have already seen these pictures so you can skip this. I find myself victim to lethargy from too much lying about after three or four months of doctoring. I’m not used to hustling across streets to avoid getting hit without huffing and puffing and pausing to allow chest pain to subside. It is only laziness, and an aversion to excessive heat and sun, that ties me down any longer.

The woods and wetlands are about ordinary things; the creatures and flowers and trees never seen in the zoo or arboretum. These are the sights many people I meet at Sandy Ridge disparage with the words, “O, that’s just a. . .” Here’s a few pictures of Friday’s entertainment.Great Blue Heron

A mink sauntered across my path slowly enough for me to get a picture. Usually they rush about in the plant growth well hidden except for quick glimpses.

A mink sauntered across my path slowly enough for me to get a picture. Usually they rush about in the plant growth well hidden except for quick glimpses.

Blue Irises were past their prime but there were still some lingering beauties.

Blue Irises were past their prime but there were still some lingering beauties.

I watched this Great Blue Heron for 10 minutes trying to figure out what to do with it. It was too big to swallow. I gave up watching before he gave up trying.

I watched this Great Blue Heron for 10 minutes trying to figure out what to do with  a catfish too big to swallow. I gave up watching before he gave up trying.

Still my favorite marsh bird.

Still my favorite marsh bird.

Young Grandpa Keith

Dead Trees

Nothing lives for ever, not even trees. Undisturbed forests are littered with the trunks and stumps of trees that succumbed to wind, lightning strikes, insects, and diseases. Sandy Ridge has a good number of standing dead trees that contribute to the wide choice of habitat that host the rich variety of wetland life that make it far and away the best wildlife viewing around here.

Some of the dead trees still standing in the marsh.

Some of the dead trees still standing in the marsh.

Woodpeckers chop holes in the dead wood in search of insects and to use as nests. They are willing to share the holes with others like these tree swallows.Tree Swallows web

Young Grandpa Keith

Happy Meals

McDonald’s has no monopoly on happy meals. The week I enjoyed two.

Tuesday noon ten souls circled a table at Sunset Lounge. We were all cousins save for spouses and my Finn sweetheart Norma. Dorothy and Walter Lindquist sat next to me and Norma. Walter was my first cousin. I hadn’t seen him since he was a little kid. After both had lost their long-time spouses, they renewed a friendship of their youth. It’s a love story too long to tell here.  They chose Dorothy’s home in Esko, just south of Duluth.  Turned out, they lived across the road from a dear friend of Norma!  Figure the odds.

Next in the circle came Paul and Emily Lundberg from Maryland.  Emily was also a first cousin. They had come to Minneapolis for grandson David’s high school graduation. David and his mother Beth sat next to them.  The Lundberg’s connected with the Lindquists and set up our lunch group.

My daughter Sally and husband Dale completed the circle. They remembered Emily from Bethel College days.

Conversation flowed back and forth and across the table. Graduate David had an impressive list of honors. Dorothy and Walter provided old-time music for nursing homes. Both played violin; Walter sang.  That caught Dale’s attention. He teaches violin and he and Sally sing in the Duluth Symphony Chorus. An idea began to germinate. If we added Kevin’s 12-string guitar and my harmonica, we’d have a fine band. Keep tuned, Northlanders. Some summer evening Woodland Garden’s community center will rock with a Mattson Family Jam. Glad to have you join us.

Wednesday Big Daddy’s (duluthsbestburgers.com) hosted my second happy meal. Eight Emmanuel Baptist men spent an hour overeating and swapping friendly insults and mostly-true stories. I sat next to Big Daddy (Dave Gonhue) working on onion rings and a Grandpa Cheeseburger, grateful Pastor Dave’s table prayer hadn’t mentioned the sin of gluttony.  Psalm 133:1 came to mind: How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Happy hours with my extended family and church family. Life can’t get much better than that.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Poor Devil

Well, son-in-law Dale did it again. You’d think an aging college-trained man would read more carefully. Here’s the essence of his recent email:

“Just read your recent blog with a quote from O.W. Holmes.  It seems you are in favor of the “tattoos” Holmes trumpeted.  As we all know, tattoos are the work of the devil, not a thing Christians should have installed on God’s perfectly-created bodies.  Can you explain your acceptance of this practice?”

Explain? There’s nothing to explain. Skin tattoos were never in Holmes’ mind. And you should know a sober, straight-laced elder like me could not be a tattoo fan. If I were, I wouldn’t blame the poor devil. We blame him for way too much. Sheer human perversity can cause all the grief we can handle. Anyhow, the devil has better things to do; like stirring up church fights.

Tattoos, body piercings, men’s earrings, facial hair, women painting their toes—stuff like that–stem from social custom and are morally neutral. I wore a cool mustache for years. Once (only once) I came home from an Alaska trip with stubby white whiskers that made me look like Burl Ives. Elsie said, “You’re going to be real lonely until you get rid of that mess.”

But you raise an issue worth exploring. They tell me tattoos are really painful to remove. So are soul tattoos. Attitudes and ideas implanted in the psyche during cradle years and sometimes beyond set deep roots. Many people come to a point where they sort out their beliefs and turn away from questionable stuff. Others live and die, insisting tribal tattoos are beyond questioning. I’m grateful for people and books that boosted me to an orbit that freed my mind to look at history and weigh evidence. It took too long.

The Lord didn’t ask me to check my brain at the door when he drew me to him.

Old Grandpa Lloyd