Through the open window of my country house room I heard wheels crunching gravel as Christopher drove off on his first solo run in the car. It was 6:40 AM and too dark to see anything but head- and taillights as he drove off. His brother Ephrem is with him, and by now, if they are on schedule, they should be just about to Ephrem’s middle school. His classes begin at 7:30. Chris will drive across town to the high school and park his shiny blue Subaru hoping lots of peers notice.
There were lots of stern warnings last night and this morning about observing the speed limit, not racing to beat yellow traffic lights, and buckling up. There really isn’t much to worry about in Christopher’s case. He takes life seriously. After all, he’s the one who in 6th grade said he was aiming for a football scholarship to a university with an excellent political science department.
On the other hand, how much confidence can you have in the word of a kid with this kind of look in his eye?
What might I do with this?
Young Grandpa Keith
(continued from the September 25 Hole News)
To say my nightly group email got out of hand is far too mild. The list took off—spontaneous combustion. I was flabbergasted. I just wrote about day by day happenings and nighttime ponderings, tossing in occasional theology. Soon there were 50 names, then 100. To ease management, I broke the list it into groups of 50, adopting Hole News as an identity–I wrote during the hole in the night.
The list kept growing, all by word of mouth. It reached 250 names, five groups. One group included QChord friend Jackie McBride. One day she emailed: Lloyd, you’re wearing yourself out. Let me set up a Hole News blog with automatic emails to subscribers. I didn’t know Jackie was a webmaster!
Bless dear Jackie. And bless that tobacco-flavored harmonica of my childhood, the first link in the unlikely chain of providence.
Then Facebook. Friends began posting Hole News editions on their home page, bringing comments and new readers. I finally got the hang of Facebook and began posting each Hole News. The subscriber list gained 100 new names. I’m still baffled.
It’s soon eight years since I stumbled onto the blogger trail. A while back, Son Keith came on board; his photos and philosophy adding color and wisdom. It seems we may have a few more miles to go. One day, the Hole News will expire, and so will I; but for now, we slog on, mothered by webmaster Jackie McBride. Check her out: https://profiles.wordpress.org/abletec.
Each night, when sleep flies off, I play old tunes on my fancy Suzuki harmonica in honor of that tobacco-flavored Marine Band that set me on the blogging trail over 85 years ago.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
It’s past midnight. I’ve posted the Hole News online and on Facebook. I sit back to ponder how a tech klutz like me ever got into blogging.
The trail began when I was five or six. While visiting Grandma Preston’s farm, I came across a Bull Durham-flavored Marine Band harmonica. I began to tootle and before long, Jesus Loves Me popped out! The harmonica became my sidekick from then on. That’s an unlikely starting point for blogging, but stay with me.
Fast forward 60 years. Elsie and I are I retired. We’re visiting son Joel in Fairbanks and take in his Songs and Legends of Alaska show. Joel played an Omnichord, a desk-top instrument made by Suzuki. I was impressed. He gave his backup Omni and I soon figure it out. I grabbed my harmonica and had me a band!
One day I stumbled on a homely harmonica newsletter and wrote a piece about the Omnichord/Harmonica combo. Then Suzuki upgraded the Omnichord to what they called a QChord. I gave it a try and wrote another newsletter piece about abandoning sweetheart Omni for Suzi Q. Abe Thomas, who held the Suzuki e-sales franchise, asked permission to run the piece on the QChord Group webpage.
That introduced me to stimulating association. I started posting and soon noticed sprightly input by Jackie McBride, also a harmonica player. We exchanged notes and I learned she had written a manual for blind Q-players. I had no idea Jackie was blind!
Retirement chores eventually crowded out the Q group, but I maintained ties with Jackie, who lived in Arizona. Then in early 2003, Elsie injured her spine. Our lives changed. I cared for her six years, at home and in Hospice. Late in 2008 Elsie began to fade and I started a group email to family and friends to keep them posted. Elsie died in February, 2009. We had been married 66 years.
Nights became lonesome and long. Connecting with family and friends brought comfort and I continued the group email. But after a few months, things began to get out of hand. We’ll pick up the trail next time.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
My six years at Lester Park Methodist were vital to the evolution of my faith. Troop 18, Historic Red Rock Camp Meeting, and Sunday morning services raised questions. How come Methodists could go to movies but Baptists couldn’t? Why did I occasionally see wine glasses in Methodist homes but never, never in Baptist? On winter nights at the Scout cabin, our leaders played cards. One smoked a cigar—Baptist no-nos. Red Rock introduced me to the eternal-security versus-losing-one’s-salvation debate. And Entire Sanctification–the possibility of total freedom from sin. I tried it, but it didn’t take.
Methodist Sunday mornings were as wearying as Baptist, but fellow Scouts and our leaders were in the pews and I wanted to be with them. I recall only one sermon: Dr. Bratton holding forth on apples: sweet, tart, and sour. The teaching value of preaching is way overrated but that’s OK. The heart of Christianity is love not doctrine. You can’t scare the hell out of sinners no matter how hard you try.
Do my theological views compromise the gospel? Some friends think so. I believe some gospel thinking needs compromise. I now own my faith; and I thank God for life circumstances that led me to think beyond tribal bounds.
Consider this quote from today’s News Tribune: “It takes little courage to have the courage of our convictions. All one has to do is to stop thinking. As Sydney Harris wrote, ‘Unless we understand the grounds for our own opinions; to comprehend why we believe tells us more about ourselves than what we believe.’”
Out tribal fathers may or may not speak truth. Whatever it true will survive scrutiny. My caveat: This is what I believe and why I believe it. Could I be wrong? Of course!
All authority rests in Creator God, who took the earthly name of Jesus. I try to follow him, and that puts me in good company.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
Reflection on my Baptist heritage leaves me both grateful and disturbed. Grateful for my lifelong view of Jesus as Creator God; disturbed by the smug self-assurance that refuses to consider other viewpoints. It took the Methodists to plant seeds that would free me.
When I was nine, family circumstances prevented attendance at Bethel Baptist, some distance from home. Sister Hazel and I were encouraged to walk to Lester Park Methodist. That troubled some Baptist friends who considered Methodists liberal. Lester Park introduced me to adults who gave themselves to kids. I joined Mrs. Smith’s boys’ choir. She gave us a nickel after each practice. At 14 I was teaching young boys in Sunday school. Lucy Watson hosted the Junior Oxford League and I became president; my first high office. Lucy hauled us to Red Rock Camp Meeting where Holiness Methodist bishops out-gospeled Baptist preachers hands down. But the most powerful influence by far was Boy Scout Troop 18.
Baptists in my childhood were were too busy serving God to take boys camping. I cared nothing about theology, but I cared mightily about woods and streams. Troop 18 leaders took us on hikes and to the rustic Scout cabin for overnights, outings sacred to memory.
Friend Kathy Gustafson now lives where the cabin stood. I visit her occasionally to share cabin lore and lean on the ancient white pine that guarded its door. Ah, the stories that pine could tell! I could not know it then, but Methodist men and women were preparing me for a life of ministry.
Paul wrote, “ For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Lester Park Church Church gave me the beginnings a new perspective on the gospel plus skills and experiences that would equip me for outdoor books I would write and treks by canoe, horseback, and backpack in wilderness areas from Maine to Alaska, serving hundreds of men and boys.
Thank God for John Wesley and his followers. Evolution: Part Three is coming.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
Hole News today: Evolution: Part One
Evolution is not an evil word. It simply means step-by-step growth.The next several posts will tell about the evolution of my faith.
From early years, my mind has refused to let well enough alone. I feel compelled to analyze. Take last night’s reflection: How did I get to Woodland Garden, a facility I had never heard of? The books near my elbow–how did my theology change so radically from childhood?
Those questions triggered a memory from 20 years back. A district preachers’ gathering was in progress at old Bethany Baptist in Duluth. I headed downstairs to the men’s room. Voices came through the door. Three men—my peers–were lamenting the sad state of the church. Young preachers were forsaking the ways of the Fathers; dooming tomorrow’s church. That struck me as humerus. I thought church trends looked uncommonly bright. The men stopped talking when I entered.
Those lamentors are dead now and the church is doing just fine. Instead of transplanting American-style churches, world mission leaders work together to plant indigenous congregations. At home, new congregations are sprouting almost everywhere you look. As for my faith at 93, I have never been so fulfilled.
My childhood faith was not happy. Our church was benignly fundamentalist—determined but not mean. We Baptists owned pure truth but gave space to a few others. The Scofield Bible was our authority. The calendar revolved around Sunday preaching. Evangelistic campaigns happened every year, along with prophecy conferences. The Lord could return at any moment.
Sunday school served everybody, but especially kids. As for me, only the Sunday school picnic and Vacation Bible School stirred enthusiasm. The rest of church life was an exercise in endurance.
But that all changed when I turned nine. Next time, I’ll tell you about Lester Park Methodist and the first seeds of my evolution.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
It’s about the place. Sandy Ridge still hosts Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons, but not for much longer. They’ll be joining most of the migratory songbirds that have already left. The swallows are all gone. There are walkers still, some complaining about how little there is to see. They thought I was joking when I pointed out the thousands of grasshoppers jumping about and the millions of yellow flowers swaying in the breeze. I doubt they’ve ever noticed that yellow is the first color of spring and the last color of summer.
If there is anything so rare as a day in June it must be a day in September, when summer has not quite ended and fall hasn’t yet begun. Today was that day, at least at Sandy Ridge. Here’s the pictures to prove it.
The marsh is dressed in yellow for its last hurrah of summer.
Thistles have almost all gone to seed by now.
This may be the final thistle blossom of the season.
It’s not easy being pink amid all that yellow.
I wasn’t lying about the grasshoppers
Young Grandpa Keith
I confess my recent four-day hospital respite brought moments of concern. Past cancer always stirs concern when symptoms reoccur. This time, diverticulitis is the culprit. I can live with that, especially when I learned diet is not an issue.
The respite powerfully affirmed my life philosophy: “…it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). I call it the Mosaic of Providence. I’m one small tile in Creator God’s big purpose. The Artist sees the big picture; individual tiles cannot. I can do little about the big world’s problems, but I can make a difference in my small world. Brighten the corner where you are, my theme song.
The respite built my list of friends, life’s only true value.I had refreshing conversations each day with God’s healing angels, from floor scrubbers to surgeons. One late night a young man stayed a long time to discuss matters of the soul.
Chaplain Sister Sue Fortier was the respite highlight. We visited over an hour. I hope we can visit again. She reminded me of a soulmate of the 80s, Benedictine Sister Naomi. We shared several adventures and had many long conversations. She visited our home; Elsie and I visited hers. Once at the close of an especially meaningful day, she hugged me and said, Lloyd, we meet at the cross.
The respite wasn’t always fun, but it was was fruitful.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
Give a boy a fish and he will have a meal, if he likes fish. Teach him to fish and he will have lots of fun whether he eats fish or not. Great Grandpa Lloyd has given two gifts to his King grandsons, a harmonica each and all the gear a beginner needs to go fishing. They have been pretty much on their own to master the harmonica, but he left nothing to chance when it came to fishing. On a sunny June day 9 years ago he taught them Fishing 101 and sent them home to Ohio with one of life’s necessities taken care of. I was there to record the class.
They dug for bait in Great Grandpa’s back yard, tried out their new rods and reels from the dock at Chub Lake, applied their new skills in Amity Creek, and smiled broadly at the end of they day high above Duluth on the Scenic Drive
Before you can play you have to work.
Wetting their lines for the first time.
Christopher knew instinctively that fishing is a contemplative activity
Ephrem knew instinctively which way a fisherman wears a baseball cap
Do you think they had fun?
Young Grandpa Keith