What the Hell?

We talk a lot about following Jesus, loving him with all our hearts. We talk about getting saved. Saved from what? Hell, of course, eternal damnation. Well, what about getting saved from the hell this side of the grave?

I don’t know much about everlasting hell. I know a lot about day by day hell. And I’ve learned what hell is. Just as cold is the absence of heat, and dark the absence of light, so hell is the absence of God. Yet, some of the meanest people I’ve met claimed to be God’s children. How come they gave me hell?

I’m told mean has nothing to do with salvation–we’re saved by faith apart from works (religious rites). I’ll grant you: no one gets saved by being good. The closer we draw to God, the more we understand how hopelessly human we are. Entire sanctification—deliverance from all sin? I never get the hang of that. What about blessed assurance? If assurance means feeling holy all the time, I missed that too. I whack my thumb with a hammer: goodbye holy.

In my youth, I felt really holy after a rousing gospel service. Come morning, blah. Was I truly saved? Now I’m old, and I have learned a thing or two. My creed has  three points: mystery, sovereign grace, and Incarnation. Now when I whack my thumb, I find the hammer and get on with the job, assured the Lord knows about whacked thumbs. And I’ve given up on trying to love everyone–feeling warm and fuzzy toward them. Gospel love means treating everyone Christ-like  regardless how I feel toward them. Love is respect, kindness, honesty, openness, fairness

Once I was a hell of a Christian–don’t trample on my doctrines!  Now I’m a peaceful  Christian, trying to love everyone God loves. My hell-causing days grow fewer and fewer.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Addendum a Go

My Tuesday Hole News threw out the idea of a follow-up to my memoir covering the eight years since wife Elsie died. It will recount the series of remarkable occurrences that brought me to Woodland Garden and the life I love so much. A bunch of readers liked the idea, so it’s a go. I’ll post snatches in the Hole News then pull them together and hang the book on the Story Tree (www.lloydsstorytree.com.).

I have no idea where the project will lead. I will try a writing approach new to me. I’ll tell the stories to my imaginary friend Charlie Amorphous, allowing author comment that would be difficult in straight narrative. Blog readers can tell me if the approach works.

Why another book? I’ve written and ghost written many titles when is enough enough? I don’t know; but garrulous old men imagine others are interested in their experiences. Another reason: Useful writing always has purpose beyond mere story-telling. Jesus taught through stories, parables; Psalm 23 is a story.The last eight years have transformed my theology and my life. I want to tell about that.

Thursday’s powerful storm made the national news. Torrents of rain; wind gusts up to 100 mph; thousands still without power. Our blackout lasted 15 hours.  Amazing how dependent we are on electric power. No significant damage at Woodland Garden, but our city is littered with downed power lines and huge trees snapped off or uprooted.

Here’s a heads up,Northlanders; a top-notch program for any community center, church gathering, senior residence, or home party.  Wednesday neen Ron Matson set up his karaoke gear for Woodland Garden’s coffee-hour. His program drew the liveliest response of any I’ve seen. Everyone sang; several residents took the mike;  Judy Albrecht is a country- singing pro! I played along on several tunes.  We’ll have Ron back. Reach him at 218-348-6591.

Old Grandpa Lloyd








What Do You Think?

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy–my A minor harmonica wailed away. The hole in the night was upon me. I read a few pages, reflected, and  suddenly the wonders of my present status overwhelmed me. I  leaned back to ponder.

Eight years had passed since Elsie left for heaven. I was 85 then, and tired. I expected to coast a while then fade into the sunset.  Little did I know! Son Joel and Sue kindly invited me to Tucson to heal.

In May I returned to our Duluth home to live with Kevin and Tena, who came to help with Elsie. Summer passed happily, but in mid-November, an on-going health issue I  attributed to old age turned out to be colon cancer. The surgery was successful, but complications and rehab tied me up for six weeks. I returned home, rebuilt my strength, learned to manage a colostomy. In late fall, 2011, I found my way back in Tucson, gimpy afoot but renewed in spirit.

Feeling fine, I decided to take a shot at living alone–first time in my life. From Tucson I began an online search for a Duluth apartment within my limited means. I found a HUD Section 8 seniors’ apartment in my old Lakeside neighborhood and fired off an application.

Weeks passed. The reply finally arrived, identifying a glitch. Repeated mail, phone, and email inquiries went unanswered. Frustration mounted.  Then, out of the blue, Woodland Garden appeared on the radar. An opening  magically appeared. On July 7, 2012, my kids moved  all my earthly goods into apartment 301. The last four years proved to be the most enriching of my life, filled with the unexpected.

The Muse whispered. I felt a book coming on. There were stories that had to be told. Maybe an e-book called Addendum, The Rest of the Story published in bits  on the Hole News; then knit together to hang on the Story Tree (www.lloydsstorytree.com).

I love the idea!. What do you think?

Old Grandpa Lloyd





Real or Imaginary?

Hole News reader Karen Broman shared my last post with a friend. A disagreement ensued between them. Her friend insisted my psychiatrist is a flesh and blood person. Karen believes he is imaginary. I was asked to clarify. Too quickly I admitted to making the fellow up, even as I pointed out that the ponds and woods at Caley Wildlife Refuge offer me spiritual, mental, and emotional refreshment and save me hundreds of dollars in counseling fees. I never visit but that I come away better than when I arrived.

I’ve been pondering the two versions of the same photograph I posted last time. I assumed my shrink would explain them next time we meet. I should know by now that he won’t. I have to figure it out myself, and I have a working theory: There is nothing in the adjusted image that isn’t in the original; it’s just too dark to see.

I exposed for the clouds, making the rest of the image too dark. The clouds give the sky its drama. Indistinct white blobs won’t do that. With the magic of Photoshop, I can brighten the darker parts, selectively if need be, until dim parts are in harmony with the clouds. I bring out the details and beauty I remember, not perfectly, but close enough.

When I’m in a dark mood I go to Caley Wildlife Refuge. When I leave things are always brighter. In the words of the Beatles, and my psychiatrist,  take a sad song and make it better. That is real enough for me.

Young Grandpa Keith

A Pond to Ponder

I paid a visit to my psychiatrist last Friday. I worry he might think I’m avoiding him if I don’t stop by once a week or so. My last therapist didn’t allow cameras in his office. This fellow expects me to bring mine. I sat down and waited for him to get things going, but he just looked at me. Finally he said, “Let’s not talk. Walk with me to the other side of the pond and take some pictures.” We walked and I did as he said.

I proceeded ahead of him, swatted bugs, and paused where there was access to the pond’s edge to take some shots. When we reached a point just about opposite of where we started he sat down on a fallen tree trunk. “Just watch,” he said, “and remember how it looks.” I pondered the pond for several minutes. I pulled my had brim down to shield my eyes from the sun and observed the clouds reflected in the water. Where the breeze didn’t make ripples the pond was the same deep blue as the sky.

“Now,” he said, “go home and make me two pictures; one straight from the camera, the other adjusted in Photoshop to be as close to how you remember the scene as you can.” Here is what is have for him on my nest visit.

Straight from the camera, stopped down to prevent blowing out the highlights in the clouds.

Straight from the camera, stopped down to prevent blowing out the highlights in the clouds.

Adjusted to my best recollection of color, light, and shadow

Adjusted to my best recollection of color, light, and shadow

I look forward to his explanation of the purpose of this exercise.

Young Grandpa Keith

Meet Rocky Johnson

I spent much of my life working with men and boys. Scout Troop 18 shaped my boyhood. For 25 years I connected with Scouting. I shared in men’s groups and I fished, hunted, and camped with boys in all my pastorates.  My decade on the denomination staff focused on work with men and boys. I wrote two books about boys and the church.  I got along fine with women and girls, but by choice I served guys.

Last Wednesday Emmanuel Church men met at Big Daddy’s Burgers for lunch.Clyde Rogers, the Sage of Juniata Street, hauled me there. Northlanders who haven’t visited Big Daddy’s should do so soon. The burger and heap of home-cut fries are almost sinful. Take a look: http://duluthsbestburgers.com. The real feast, however, was fellowship with my pastor and church friends.

Peter is my best Bible friend, apart from Jesus. He was a rough-cut, blundering fisherman, but Peter’s heart was right. During my traveling years, I put together a story called Meet Rocky Johnson. That was the name Jesus gave Simon Bar-Jonah the first time he met him. Peter means rock–I’m sure the guys called him Rocky. Bar means son; Jonah is a form of John. Rocky Johnson, clear as can be.

It was Rocky’s encounter with the Master recorded in Matthew 16:13-26 that taught me how to become a Jesus follower. My story walked with Peter from his great confession through his indignant rejection to Jesus’ sublime instruction. Peter and the Twelve believed Jesus to be the promised Messiah, the Son of God. Their doctrine was spot on. And we can’t fault Peter’s zeal. But following Jesus demands more: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Ego cries, I have my rights! Followers of Jesus have no rights. Jesus’ cross led to resurrection life; our cross frees us to liberty. I’ll have more to say about that.

Dare I say it again?  If we walk with God, we get where he’s going. Thanks, friend Rocky. You showed me the way.

Old Grandpa Lloyd


I’ve Got a Mansion

Life is so good I almost feel guilty.  I never expected to wind up in a three-story mansion with sculpted grounds, servants, a spacious library, and a backyard with ponds, deer, and snooping coyotes. I share the mansion with 7 men and 55 women, but we get along. One of the women kindly grocery-shops for me and prepares evening meals. She allows me to watch news and Jeopardy on her TV (I don’t have one).  She also tends the library, gracing the shelves with her orchids. Our mutual interest in the library compels us to spend considerable time together.

If, like me, you love books and good writing, you need to meet Bob Kelly. His weekly KellyGram packs a wealth of writing common-sense and quotes into a small space. Need a quote? Bob is your man. His 560 volumes of classified quotations contain about 1.8 million entries. Check him out at www.wordcrafters.info.

This week’s KellyGram put to rest the rumor that bookstores across the land are all fading, particularly used-book stores. I haunt the online version for our Woodland Garden library.

Here’s a fun entry from this week’s KellyGram:

DAVID WINS–AGAIN! Thanks to a recent ezine from long-time colleague and friend John Pearson, I finally joined the ranks of the millions– make that mega-millions– of folks worldwide who have laughed and cheered at how one man took on a giant U.S. company over its customer service policies–or lack thereof. It’s nearly as good as the original story of David and Goliath.

The hero in this story is, in fact, named David, and the Goliath he brought down is United Airlines. He’s a musician named Dave Carroll and his story has become the stuff of legend. After being stonewalled for months over a damage claim, he began writing songs- -three of them– followed by a book, describing his experience. It became the launching pad for a speaking career, including a TED speech, and is now a case study at the prestigious Harvard Business School. Do yourself a favor and watch the YouTube video titled “United Breaks Guitars.” If it doesn’t brighten your day, I don’t know what will. I’ve watched it several times– so far!

Thanks, Bob, for your friendship and weekly shot in my literary arm.

Old Grandpa Lloyd



To Everyone Who Asks

I’ve been stringing words together most of my life, preaching and writing. Now and then, something comes out that rings the bell, like the July 7 Hole News. Two particular phrases drew comment: “a sense of purpose,” and “I finally learned what following Jesus really means.”

People of faith view life differently, determined by background. Like snowflakes, we’re alike but different. I spent too many years dead certain my tribe had the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. One day I began to wonder how my beliefs came to be. I traced them back to childhood—my home, my church, my tribe.  I began to read and listen to others. I concluded you can’t do theology apart from history; or fully understand scripture without considering he nature of ancient languages—semantics, philology.

Loosed from tradition, a bright new world dawned. My theology shrank to thee broad points: Mystery, Sovereign Grace, and Incarnation.  Philippians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:10 came alive. God is at work in us to will and to work for his good pleasure–his, not ours. God equipped us in Christ to fulfill tasks he would send our way. I learned Jesus holds all authority; not my tribe; not even in the Bible. Jesus calls me to follow him.

I’m learning to live simply. No soul sweat, no pious rituals. I laugh and love and work, always sensitive to needs around me. I don’t walk around seeking souls, yet hardly a day passes someone doesn’t initiate conversation with me about spiritual concerns.

Take a long look at 1 Peter 3:15 (emphasis mine): “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.” My job is to create curiosity.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

One of Life’s Great Mysteries

Coffee is my drug of choice. I acquired the addiction when I was 18 and just had my tonsils out. Hot liquids soothed my throat. Theretofore I had only the occasional cup and failed to understand all the excitement. It was served too hot for anything but sipping so wasn’t a thirst quencher. I didn’t taste very good. Like other drugs it required persistence to achieve dependency.

I don’t like either cream or sugar. I take my coffee black, medium strength, no sugar, and piping hot. You can keep your flavored coffee and those weird beverages people line up for a Starbucks.

This morning I made coffee as always—same amount of water, same four heaping scoops of coffee. About 10 minutes later I poured my first cup and marveled at how bad it was. It was little better than weak tea. Yesterday it was so strong it might as well have come from Starbucks and cost $3.50 and no free refills. Tomorrow, if I’m lucky, it’ll be somewhere in the tolerable middle.

I can’t explain this. Something supernatural must be to blame. I get the same variations even if I buy a new pot like a carpenter blaming his tools. It is not my fault. Even I can fill a pot to the top and count to four. Admittedly it is usually about 5 AM and the need to satisfy my addiction is compelling. Still, a full pot of water and four scoops of coffee is hard to screw up.

I’m open to explanations, but be aware I’m a skeptic. I’ve also puzzled over socks that disappear in the dryer and no one has yet satisfactorily explained that.

Young Grandpa Keith

Happy Anniversary to Me

Four years ago today, son Kevin and son-in-law Dale moved me and all my earthly goods into Woodland Garden, Apartment 301. My first live-alone adventure began.

Woodland Garden came out of the blue in answer to a maiden’s prayer; a tangled, remarkable story. The benefits that followed were more mine than hers. This evening, that maid and I celebrated my anniversary over Omaha steaks in her apartment down the hall.

Woodland Garden is a powerful parable of providence–God fulfilling his purpose in his children’s lives. I have enjoyed four blessed years. How many more can I expect? I don’t know, but I extended my AARP membership six years. Six years will put me in striking distance of 100. Why not? Cousin Vi is doing fine at 101; Aunt Esther made it to 106. God, of course, holds all options. I will have all the years required to get done what he has in mind; the rest doesn’t count.

Three gracious gifts bring about my sanguine outlook: good health, abundant friends, and a sense of purpose. My beloved church and pastor nourish my soul. Maid Norma feeds me supper and fills otherwise-lonely hours. The Sage of Juniata Street stretches my brain over coffee. My kids and Cousin Patt are good to me. The monthly cash flow overflows enough to play a bit and lend modest help to others. Best of all, I’m at peace. I finally learned what following Jesus really means.

This geezer has it good. Thank you, Lord.

Old Grandpa Lloyd