Crane Kids

When I was young I never saw Sand Hill Cranes except in pictures. Now they seem to be everywhere. Some people find them noisy and annoying. Their cries can be heard a mile away. Years ago a nurse taking care of an ailing woman in the ground floor of the Florida condo below this one fed a pair of cranes for the amusement of her patient. After the woman died and the nurse moved on, the cranes continued to come expecting their twice daily cup of dried corn and other seed. My friend Carole took over and continues feeding them to this day.

When I arrived here in February only one of the pair came at a time, a sure sign of nesting. After two months of solo feeding the pair showed up this morning with two little ones. The chicks appear to be about a week old. They went through the motions of feeding but are too young for such roughage. They appeared to be along only for the walk. When they are older the parents will select appropriate bits and place it in their tiny beaks for them.Sand Hill Craines

The cranes I see up north are a rusty brown color because of the mud they rub into their feathers as part of the preening process. Northern mud contains iron accounting for the rusty color. Florida mud is mainly a dull gray, more like the natural color of the cranes’ feathers.Cranes

Young Grandpa Keith


The Gift of Intimacy

The Gift of Intimacy

Yesterday I sat for two hours with the Sage of Juniata Street nursing a Mountain Dew at Dunn Bros. Coffee. Clyde and I haven’t philosophized since my Tucson trip in January. We worked over world affairs, books, trivia, and personal matters, warmed by the ambiance of a well-filled coffee house.

Laptops flared. An older couple at the table next to ours played cribbage. No distracting music, just the quiet murmur of souls enjoying each other’s company.  Clyde and I entered our small, intimate world, knit together by friendship, trust, common interests, and mutual respect. Clyde is moving toward 80; I passed that mark a while back.

Like love, our sex-mad society has all but ruined the concept of intimacy. But intimacy is far more than body parts. Intimacy is the soul-to-soul embrace that relishes the company of another person, man or woman. Intimacy happily absorbs differences, listens, learns, and gives.

Clyde’s faith journey differed in some respects from mine but we arrived at same destination.  He maintains a unique mentoring ministry among young people he meets at Dunn Bros and elsewhere. I have a roving ministry, befriending strangers who cross my path and pounding my bully pulpit, the written word.

I ponder often the mysteries of love and intimacy, the closeness of spirit with another that seems just to happen. As years accumulate, you covet the gift of intimacy that binds your spirit with another, a closeness defying definition. That gift was the heart of my recent midnight renewal in ICU. I walked through Psalm 23 and my cup overflowed.

Have I become a sentimental old fool? Sentimental? Yes. Old? Indeed. If that makes me a fool, I’ll take it.  How long since you cried over six verses of scripture?

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Verbosity vs. Orthodoxy

As the Hole News moves through its fifth year, readers may wonder at my theological meandering. Some already  count me heretic and leave me to me fate. Others struggle to restore me to the truth. Still others remain friends and allow me to meander.

Theological squabbling is as old as scripture. Paul had a set-to with the Jerusalem council. On another occasion, he withstood Peter to his face. The epistles warn about false teaching.  Church Fathers wrestled to build the New Testament canon, a debate not yet fully resolved.

Every denomination is the long shadow of a leader with a theological axe to grind. Inevitably, denominations live in tension with opposing views. Then there are groups that declare, No creed but Christ, no authority but the Bible. Of course they mean their interpretation of Christ and the Bible, which becomes their creed.

My credo begins with mystery, a big bin that holds truths I accept intuitively but can’t fully grasp. I believe in the sovereign grace of Creator God, the Incarnation (Jesus, true God and true man), the cross and empty tomb. I believe in God’s kingdom on earth, which includes the church and more. I believe in creation ex nihilo and the consummation.I believe God lit the big bang and in his time will fulfill his purpose for the developing universe he has guided since “In the beginning God created.” The core of my credo is the daily walk with God Jesus.

Do I understand these beliefs? Certainly not. But I am content to live with mystery under the shadow of Creator God’s sovereign grace. I view divine truth in a smoky mirror and ponder. Beware the person who has everything figured out. Verbosity does not equal orthodoxy.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Home Sweet Home

Home sweet home, the place where friends and loved ones dwell. There’s no place on earth I’d rather live than Woodland Garden Apartments.

I’m home after a 12-day medical journey which included my first ICU stay. There, divine healing set in, administered by a bevy of angels: doctors, bedside caregivers, and wielders of brooms, mops, and clipboards. All healing is divine; some just takes a little longer.

The most interesting healing part was the wrap-up photo op: I swallowed a capsule that filmed my digestive tract from stem to stern, finding nothing amiss.

Shortly after I arrived in ICU, Chaplain Gary Meller came to pray with me. In early evening my very best friend and her daughter Betsy stopped by. We chatted for an hour. Then the angels tubed and wired me and left me to my thoughts. Alone in a strange room under strange circumstances, I walked through Psalm 23, pausing at vantage points to reflect.

Verse seven stopped me. My cup overflowed with joy, peace, and tears—one of those cherished moments when God’s Spirit comes close, a moment partly triggered by an event earlier in the evening.

A young nurse tending me caught snatches of the conversation with my best friend and her daughter. Pausing her work the nurse said, “Did you write a book?” I confessed to writing several. “I know you! I am Ben Hatfield’s wife!”

Someday I’ll tell you how Ben’s dad, Don, became my cherished friend during North Shore pastoring years. The story begins when a Swede butcher in Duluth’s Central Hillside invited Ben’s older brother Dan to Sunday school. It moves to a prayer time around a barrel stove on a bitter December camp workday, followed by Don’s baptism. I tucked Romans 8:28 under my ICU pillow and sought sleep.

The next three hospital days brought opportunity to speak words of hope, comfort, and maybe wisdom to a man needing counsel about serving God; to a frazzled woman caring for her elderly husband; and to Judy, a kindly night nurse my father aided many years earlier. Quite a tale. Welcome to the Hole News, Judy.

Old Grandpa Lloyd


How Do You Donate a View?

How Do You Donate a View?

The Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains take their name from the haze that most all of the time hangs over them. Clear panoramic views don’t come along all that often, and if you are a tourist and see them only once every couple of years it is a pleasant surprise to find them without the blue haze or low hanging clouds to obscure them.

Two years ago when I visited I came upon an especially nice vantage point offering an unobscured panoramic view of the mountains. I stopped and took some pictures and noticed a plaque below the road naming the location “Rhodes Big View.” The view, it claimed, was donated by the children of Robert and Antonia Rhodes a few years ago. It made me ask, how do you donate a view?


I submitted that question along with the photo I emailed to a bunch of friends and family and the consensus was that what they donated was the plaque. I accepted that answer but thought it rather self-serving of the Rhodes’ children to make such a big deal of their gift of a plaque.

Finally I looked into the matter and discovered that the parents had purchased the land at that spot along the road intending to make it into a home site. The land seemed to me to fall away nearly vertically from the road at that point, but you’d be amazed the lengths people have gone to carve out lots for their dream home in the mountains. Apparently the dream died with the parents and the children donated the land to the local land trust.

Here are two pictures taken from near the plaque, one in August of 2012, the other just last week.


Smoky Mountains

Young Grandpa Keith

Another Lloyd Update

Lloyd returned to the Hospital Tuesday to check out why he was passing more blood than his procedure should have caused. Appropriate tests, including a colonoscopy discovered nothing worrisome. He will return to rehab, perhaps Thursday. His condition will be monitored to see if further explorations are needed.

Lloyd’s Internet access at the rehab facility is limited so receiving and sending emails is a hit and miss proposition. He appreciates all you prayers and will eventually receive your messages and give his own updates. For now, rest assured that all is well.

Young Grandpa Keith

What a Difference a Dam Makes

The Fontana Dam was the tallest east of the Mississippi River when it was built during World War II. Though a few have exceeded it in size since, it is still impressive. I visited there yesterday. It’s still early spring in the Smoky Mountains. The large trees still lack leaves, but the Redbud is blooming.

Fontana Dam

Upriver the Little Tennessee River was transformed into a very large lake added to the attractions of the mountainous area. The water level is low, but it’s still impressive.

The view upriver

The view upriver

Downriver really is down. These two photos were both taken looking in opposite directions from atop the dam.

The View Downriver

The View Downriver

Young Grandpa Keith

The Long and the Narrow of It

I never lived in the mountains, so when I visit the Smoky Mountains where everything is either up, down, or around from where I am, I’m in awe, at least for awhile. The novelty wears off quickly when you find yourself stuck behind a truck doing 15 mph up mountain switchbacks.

All the flat spots were taken a long time ago by the earliest settlers. Latecomers have to carve their own from the sides of mountains or take leftovers from someone else’s project. Some enterprising Georgian squeezed his business onto the narrow strip of land between the road carved into the mountainside and the brim of the Tallulah River gorge. He had perhaps 30 feet to work with. He included a back porch to view the gorge. You don’t have to pay to look, but you have to walk through his store to get to it.

Long and Narrow

The fellow in the rocking chair was apparently supposed to provide information but had a few too many swigs from the jug in his lap. He didn’t so much as twitch when I asked him questions.

Information Desk

The gorge is indeed a deep hole. You have to look closely at the bottom middle of the photo to see the small stretch of river visible from the viewing porch.

Tallulah River Gorge

Young Grandpa Keith

Lloyd Update

If all goes as planned, and the latest Duluth snowstorm subsides, Lloyd will move from the hospital to a rehab facility today. He continues to recover from the repair work done by the surgeon without complications. He’ll have use of his computer soon and I expect will have his own version of how he’s doing soon to appear in the Hole News.

Young Grandpa Keith

Never Trust Reverse

The other day I ran once again into someone who is contemptuous of people working behind super market cash registers that aren’t cash registers at all but computers, who don’t know how to make change. I think they are worried about how they would get the correct amount back in case of a power failure. I added an equally contemptuous observation that they couldn’t hitch a horse to a wagon anymore either. I was worried how they would get home if they found their car out of gas.

The appropriate board met at my church to discuss the sad state of Sunday school attendance. There were mixed opinions as to why. One very earnest person said the reason is that we don’t give pins for perfect attendance anymore. She still had ten years’ worth of them at home among her childhood treasures. She must have been a record holder.

Looking backward for today’s solutions rarely leads to success because what we recall is not what really happened. We save the good feelings and the rosy glow and discard what detracts from them. If we could teleport the best of what we remember to the present we would, I fear, discover it to be less than we remember, like visiting our old neighborhood and noticing at how much it has shrunk.

My dad says he isn’t the man he used to be, and, in fact, he never was. The same is largely true of what we remember fondly, be it supermarkets or Sunday schools.

Young Grandpa Keith