A Small, Small World

It’s a Small, Small World

My Tucson days are growing shorter but brighter. Editorial assistant and special friend Norma joined me last Monday. Our first week together has been full.

On March 8 we will shuttle to Prescott to visit my brother Art then home from Phoenix March 11 to wait out winter.

Several encounters through the week reminded us we live in a small world after all. At the Minnesota potluck, we chatted with a woman whose sister lives just across Calvary Road from our Woodland Garden home.  The Woodcarvers Club exhibit produced a man whose boyhood home one was one block from the Glendale Street house Elsie shared for 30 years. He remembered my policeman father.

At the Minnesota potluck, a man asked where I got my haircut. Billy’s Barbershop, I said. Thought so, he said. Looks like their work. He said, I visited Billy’s last week. An old gentleman pulled out a harmonica and Barber Billy left his chair, dug out his guitar, and played along. I recorded the performance on my cell phone.” I admitted I was the harmonica guy.

Jeff and Karen Huddleston drove us through the Saguaro National Park, and son Joel and Sue guided us through the sprawling Desert Museum. He rented a power scooter for me—my first such experience. In both parks we read page after page from God’s other book

Restaurants threaten to do us in. Wednesday night Joel and Sue hosted a late Valentine party. I gave Norma a belated valentine, a small pendant necklace. Last night Jeff and Karen took us to a casino restaurant, the fanciest, most expensive eatery I ever visited.

Norma enjoyed the Cactus Quilters prize-winner exhibit. For the second year in a row, Sue’s amazing handiwork won Best of Show. Her colorful purse took second place.

Saturday morning Norma browsed the crafts sale while I read up on trilobites in a coffee room publication. Crafts sales don’t grab me.

Daily trike rides through the Park (1,100 units) deepened our appreciation of respite from what’s going on in Minnesota. We are grateful for God’s gracious care ofhis elderly children.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Great Philharmonica Band

This Sunday the Holy Way Presbyterian philharmonica band will perform for the first time. They will accompany me on my first solo appearance since I was discovered at Billy’s Barbershop a week ago. The band will set a record. The musicians will receive their instruments, rehearse, and perform within the space of five minutes, backing up maestro Lloyd in perhaps the most theologically profound songs ever written: Jesus Loves Me.

I formed the first philharmonica band over 25 years ago in Ironwood, Michigan during an early interim pastorate. I stumbled on a source for low-priced, respectable harmonicas manufactured in China (where else?), and ordered a batch for my morning worship Story Tree.  Since then, over 500 kids have joined Pastor Lloyd In producing somewhat heavenly music.

Parents occasionally complained about their kids’ incessant practice—at home, in the car, sometimes in church during congregational singing.  I told them, “Just be grateful I don’t play drums.”

The homely mouth harp symbolizes a vital spiritual principle: giftedness. Creator God equips each of us uniquely to fulfill his purpose where he places us. Predestination?  Something like that. Read carefully Ephesians 2:10 and Philippians 2:11- 12.

How come I could play Jesus Love Me on that Hohner Marine Band (50 cents) my uncle gave me on grandpa Preston’s farm when I was five or six? It tasted of Bull Durham. How was it through the years I could make respectable music on a dozen or more instruments with little effort?

My ear for music came as a gift, as natural as breathing. No credit to me. Had I put forth the effort to master an instrument, even the harmonica, I could claim some credit.

I can do some things reasonably well, but my ungifted list far exceeds the gift list. My first watercolor apple turned into a jack-o-lantern; the country church became a barn. The visual arts just aren’t my thing and I have no regrets.  No amount of practice will turn me into Rembrandt. The Lord didn’t send me to the kingdom to paint pictures. Almost everyone can learn to pound out chopsticks on the piano. Paderewski could turn chopsticks into art. I have introduced hundreds of kids to the harmonica, not to make them musicians but to win their friendship.

If we don’t work to make worship fun for kids, why include them? Hang the dignity.

Old Grandpa Lloyd


The Magic Twenty Dollars, Again

Four Girl Scouts ambushed me leaving the grocery store I walked to yesterday, 40 minutes each way. They and one of their moms surrounded a small table piled with boxes of cookies. They drew me into their circle with little girl smiles and infectious conversation.  Like you I have my favorites among the several kinds they sell, but my commitment to keeping my blood glucose number low made me a poor customer. Still, the thin mints and the lemon cookies tested my resolve.

What saved me from buying a boxful and eating half of them on the way home was a hand drawn sign asking donations for families of military men and women. The girls said I don’t look like someone who doesn’t eat cookies. I explained that that was why I don’t. By then I was ensnared by their charms and agreed to skip the cookies but make a donation to the military families.

I checked my wallet. I had four bills, one each of denominations up to 20 dollars. It was a while since my last impulse donation. I hoped I could get by with a smaller bill. But I had a mile and a quarter to walk yet. My legs weren’t enthused. Two five pound bags of groceries would be at least fifteen pounds apiece by half way home. Only a twenty would do.

I was abruptly downright jaunty. I took a different, uncertain route home; didn’t notice the dangling sacks of groceries; surpassed at least three other exercise walkers; and marveled again at how heavy a twenty dollar bill is.

Young Grandpa Keith


My Tucson winter is fading fast. In three weeks I’ll be home with my SAD Woodland Garden friends praying for spring.  March, sometimes April, in Minnesota occasion many such prayers.

Being old and infirm, I invited my editorial assistant to Tucson to help with my travel home. A geezer can get lost in a big airport and never be found. She will arrive February 23. Joel and Sue and Jeff and Karen have planned a full agenda of touristy stuff.

Noting my shaggy appearance, I asked Jeff to find me a barber.  He suggested Billy’s Barbershop, a relic from long ago. It’s rustic, stand-alone building accommodates three barbers and seats maybe ten customers. It has a worn pine floor, open-rafter ceiling, old-fashioned fluorescent lighting, and musty mule deer mounts. Two well-travelled guitar cases rest in a corner. Jeff suggested I bring a harmonica. He said guests and the barbers occasionally make music

Three aging, Hispanic barbers serve only men, though women are allowed to watch. The third barber chair was open when we walked in. I took it. Billy’s offers one style: short, medium, and long. Eleven bucks.  I settled for medium. Deft wielding of the clipper followed by lather and a razor trim produced a fine cut; 50s’ look.

Customers drifted in one by one, filling most of the chairs. Jeff settled into the middle barber chair for a trim below his fruitless plane. I suggested he deserved a discount.  “Did you bring your harmonica?” he asked.

I produced a Bushman diatonic and ripped off an old standard. Barber #3 laid down his clipper, abandoned his customer, picked up his guitar, and joined me. Play another, he said. I rendered Skip to My Lou, twice through. How about Darling Clementine? I obliged. He shook my hand and invited me back for a jam.

At last, I’ve been discovered. But I’ll keep my day job.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Getting it Right

My grumbling a few days ago about my tripod troubles raised more concern among Hole News readers than when I shared my recent diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. One well meaning reader chastened me for being so picky. Stick a forked branch in the ground or use a fence post or steady yourself against a tree, she said. She bet Ansel Adams would not have been so tripod dependent.

Ansel Adams Next to His Camera

Though it required three emails, I set her straight by bragging about my camera and long lens that weigh more than ten pounds, and that many of the birds I shoot are a couple of hundred feet away. There isn’t a photographer alive who could successfully hand hold my rig. As for Ansel Adams, he used large format cameras that dwarf my full frame DSLR, took long exposures, and used the sturdiest of tripods to accomplish what he did.

Nevertheless, giving my critic due deference, I went out of my way to shoot some birds sans tripod with my walk around lens and posted some. But I got something wrong. I was troubled by my Purple Gallinule photo. The patch of light color on its head is not white as it appears, but a beautiful shade of blue that was blown out when I raised the exposure in post processing to properly reveal the darker areas. So, here’s the Purple Gallinule with its lovely blue cap properly exposed.


Young Grandpa Keith

I’m Not a Purist

Nature purists frown on people feeding wild animals. One reason is the possibility of attracting undesirable or dangerous animals along with the cute creatures we like to watch. Also, we may make them dependent on our handouts and no longer able to fend for themselves. Prudence is called for whenever man intervenes in the wild animal world lest he do harm despite good intentions. I observe the rules of state and national parks where feeding the animals is expressly forbidden and approve of the stiff fines levied on violators.

In Duluth, MN were Old Grandpa Lloyd lives children as old as 90+ have been throwing popcorn sold by vendors in Canal Park to seagulls for the fun of it. Periodic efforts to ban the activity have been prudently resisted by lawmakers, so the fun goes on. There are risks, however. I watched a fellow put a Cheeto on his head and a gull swooped down and snatched it and a chunk of his scalp.

As a longtime backyard feeder of birds I stand with those who are glad there are places where people and wildlife congregate, where people feed the birds and animals for the fun of it. One such place is a city park on a manmade lake in Leesburg, Florida. Hole News readers Carole and her cousin Pat are mobbed by hundreds of birds for the bread they throw.

Feeding the Birds

Here are some of their customers.

White Ibis

White Ibis


Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Riing-billed Gulls

Ring-billed Gulls

Lots of Gulls

Lots of Gulls

Young Grandpa Keith

The Clinch Principle

Yesterday afternoon I mined gold in the coffee room. I joined three men a few rears shy of my vintage; strangers to me, and well-spoken.

Their conversation told me they had been military pilots during the Korean and Viet Nam wars. Another man joined us, also a pilot. He flew motorized gliders on photo reconnaissance.

Story after story. Training adventures and misadventures, a crash during combat; their jargon soared above me. They knew airplanes and war, worlds I never knew.

When the group dispersed, I found a quiet place outdoors to reflect. So many worlds I do not know. My war story began and ended in 1943. First, the Army rejected my attempt to enlist; my vision tested below enlistment standards. They said I would be drafted for limited service. In August, my draft number came up and another rejection—hernia. I returned to college.

My life battles were with ladies aids, deacon boards, and friends who didn’t like my theology; all minor skirmishes. A lesson learned early on spared me blood: When fighting a heavyweight, clinch. They can’t slug you when you’re hugging them.

I quit fighting; too many unknown worlds. I state my position and smile. I tell why I believe what I believe and let it go.

You mean you let people push you me around? Why not? My foes get exercise, and a smile sure beats getting knocked flat. If my position is right, it will survive. Truth does not depend on my capacity to articulate or defend it.

I practice the clinch principle best I can.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

A Tale of Two Churches

Another great Sunday at Holy Way. From Doctor Astrid’s prelude to the triumphant Let there Be Peace on Earth, I reveled in being among God’s people. Several times I came close to a Baptist Amen! which would never do in a Presbyterian Church.

Pastor Ray’s sermon knit the hour together: Listen to Him. He echoed what I have been hammering on for years. With all respects to Moses and Elijah, God’s word to the world is Jesus. We get all knotted up over theological debate and turf-building , forgetting Christianity’s common denominator: Jesus.

Back home, I’m Baptist; in Tucson, I’m Presbyterian; in my heart, I’m a Jesus follower. And please don’t tell me how to that. My life and faith are uniquely mine, built around Mystery, Sovereign Grace, and Incarnation. Some consider that inadequate, but it’s mine.  I lived too long on a borrowed, tribal faith. I happily chuck inscrutables in the mystery bin.

Architecture identifies the different approaches to worship my two beloved churches follow. Baptists focus on the sermon (the Word of God, they say) hence the pulpit holds center stage. Presbyterians focus on the total worship experience, hence the divided chancel (two pulpits) with the altar (communion table) central.

In worship, there is no good, better, best. Worship flows from the heart, not the architecture, liturgy, or instrumentation.  Contemporary worship leads the new generation into worship. It leads me to turn off my hearing aids and yearn for the benediction.

Worship is a learned experience and in some settings, I’m a slow learner.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Photographer

For several years I’ve divided my time between Ohio and Florida. Both places accommodate bird photography. I drive forth and back because I hate airports, and because flying with my camera gear is difficult. A couple of near disasters driving home last time suggested I give up the tedious two day drive. I bought my first plane ticket in 9 years for this trip.

I shipped my Sigma “bigma” lens. My best camera and four smaller lenses, and my laptop, all fit in the camera bag I took as a carry-on. I left my tripod and ordered a second one shipped to Florida where it will reside permanently. I’m all set.

It was fun playing with the new tripod. It is amazingly light weight, and I got it for $130 below list, the last one of a discontinued model. I couldn’t wait for the rain to stop so I could try it out at the Venice Rookery. The tripod, however, has a problem. The appropriate knob when fully tightened allows the camera to rotate freely when it should render it immobile as a rock. I settled for the few shots I posted last time and left.

I can’t return the tripod to the retailer because I foolishly destroyed the packaging. They referred me to the stateside distributor, who, after several emails back and forth, let me ship it to them at my expense and in a mere 4-6 weeks will repair the tripod or replace it with a comparable model.

Don’t expect any more decent bird shots from me for a while. My dark mood doesn’t lend itself to other kinds of Hole News posts either. Grandpa Lloyd is on his own for now.

Young Grandpa Keith

Forgive us, Mr. Darwin

Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day in 1809. While we honor Lincoln, we give Darwin a really bad rap. He was not a fire-breathing atheist bent on destroying Christianity. Read the closing paragraphs of his Origin book.

But who reads Darwin? We read Darwin haters. I have yet to meet a Darwin hater who has read the man’s writings or even a responsible study of his life. Too often, Christians chant tribal mantras without checking history or even considering the remote possibility their tribe could be wrong.

Copernicus and Galileo fought the same battle as Darwin in another sphere. How dare mere laymen challenge the long established wisdom of the Fathers?  Joshua commanded the sun to stand still. If the sun was not moving, how could it stand still? Earth revolving around the sun? Ridiculous.

Show of hands: How many believe the sun orbits Planet Earth? Yet Galileo was consigned to house arrest through his last years because that’s what he taught

Darwin was one among many in his time who believed Planet Earth was ancient; and doubting that the millions of species that constitute life on Earth came into being in one six-day creative burst. Others were pondering a progressive creation—some form of evolution. Darwin would have gone bonkers had he even imagined DNA, the mysterious life markers common to all life from the microscopic to mankind to mastodons.

Darwin didn’t seek a fight. He delayed publishing his Origins book nearly 20 years, understanding full well the repercussions. Whatever we think of Darwin’s ideas, let’s not trash the man, or assign evil motives.

What if it turns out evolution is God creative method to carry out his eternal purpose?

Forgive us, Mr. Darwin.

Old Grandpa Lloyd