Black November

It’s almost Thanksgiving, though it’s hard to tell. I heard an interview of a graduate of Butterball Turkey University encouraging me to call with my questions about how much to buy and recipes to impress my guests. But that was on National Public Radio so I may have been one of relatively few listeners. I’ve heard not a word about Pilgrims or Plymouth Rock or friendly Indians. The rest of the media attention is on how Black Friday has morphed into Black November.

Since before Halloween my email inbox has been jammed with messages from the half dozen retailers I haven’t blocked shouting, “Don’t wait for Black Friday!” You can tell they are shouting by the huge bold fonts they use. We’ve given up on gift giving as the reason for our buying frenzy. Just let me at that 84 inch HDTV. I’m fed up with the dinky 72 inch one I got last year. Uncle Charley will love the argyle sox (compares at $49) I found for him at TJ Maxx for $7.99.

Amid all this I am wondering what happened to Thanksgiving. I pine for the good old days when some fretted that Thanksgiving was only a day to watch football, dinner coincided with halftime, and women complained the only time they saw their men was when they called for more Doritos and cold beverages. That’s got to be better than hurrying through my third helping of turkey and stuffing to be first in line at Walmart when they open at 6 PM on Black Friday Eve.

Young Grandpa Keith

Sir Saguaro: A Quiet Witness

Every day I hear from one or more Hole News readers with kudos, questions, or comments. Duluth friend Bob Gilmore, currently wintering in Mesa, Arizona, brightened my morning. Here’s what he wrote:

Thanks, Lloyd, for forwarding your latest book (the Tooth). It is a good read and I have been through it several times. It is on the little table beside my chair where it is available for quick reviews.

Today I used your story of the trombone and harmonica and not being called by Nashville or Carnegie Hall.  I told the story to our 60 member choir whose members have also have not been called by Nashville or Carnegie Hall. But I reminded them that we have been called by our Lord to be in this place at this time, Sunday morning worship, to praise Him and perhaps make possible a glimpse of God through the beauty of the sound we make as a choir. Maybe the sound of individual voices is reminiscent of harmonicas, but together as a choir we have a beautiful sound.  And we have been called, not by Nashville or Carnegie Hall, but by Him.

On a different note: I look out to the desert which is filled with life.  There are trees, flowers, succulents, large and tiny critters, and all those humans who zip along on I-10 and Hwy 60. Everyone and everything is energized with life given only by the Creator.  Not one smidgen of life—l large, small, or fast, has been created by man. Life is a thing of the Creator and it is a mystery. Do we ever argue about that?

I have taken young people to hiking the Rocky Mountains where at above 10,000 feet they always become silent.  There they sense the presence of God. I have never seen those young people quiet in the same way in church or with Scripture.

Scripture is the one thing where the hand of man has been involved, and we are always arguing about it. Limiting God to the theology of the “tribal stamp” is another mystery, a discomforting one for me.

Now I think I will go out and consult with a great saguaro. He is a quiet fellow; it is easy for me to hear the voice of God when I am around him.

Peace and Grace to you my friend.

Thank you, Bob.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

What You See Is What You Get?

What you see is what you get? Not necessarily. When I was born (1923), most people, including astronomers, thought the Milky Way was it—the only galaxy in the heavens. This morning’s Writer’s Almanac blew that out of the water: “It was 90 years ago today, in 1924, that astronomer Edwin Hubble announced his discovery of the first galaxy outside our Milky Way.”

Since then, astrophysicists have identified a jillion galaxies in the expanding universe, each with uncounted millions of stars and their planets. Fittingly, when NASA sent its orbiting telescope aloft 25 years ago, they name it the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s still working, joined by still more sophisticated space-probes.

That led me to friend McGoogle to review the scope of outer space. The Milky Way and our Sun are barely specs; Mother Earth hardly bears mention. Zoom in on Earth, and you can locate your town and your home with your car in the drive. A song from childhood came to mind: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I grabbed onto me.

I believe the Bible as God gave it. But just as my childhood view of the skies has grown with new information, so has my view of the Bible. In childhood I filtered all views through the tribal telescope—teachings of my home and church. Then new tools expanded my vision and deepened my love for scripture.

Yet, according to one pastor, I no longer believe the Bible. I believe the universe is infinitely vaster and older than my childhood vision allowed. I considered the heavens, the work of God’s hands, and I asked, What is mankind, who am I, that God should take notice?

Just as space holds mysteries beyond the ken of science, God’s ways outstrip my wildest imaginings. Thus, mystery heads my creed with utter dependence on God’s grace close behind. Then, incarnation: God became man to teach me all I can know about his love and grace. All the rest is up for grabs—mystery.

My view of the Bible will not satisfy the accusing pastor, but that’s his problem.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Failed Brakes and God

Some months ago I got an email from my friend George. I call him Toivo. Toivo in Finnish means hope.  Failed brakes, an unwelcome expense, had bruised his spirit. Was God mad at him?  Seems someone had suggested adversity is punishment for failure. I sent Toivo this note, somewhat edited:

We live in an imperfect, unequal, unjust world, Toivo. There’s a better day coming, a new heaven and earth ruled by justice and fail-proof brakes. We can only speculate when it will come or what it will be like. Until then, we slog on, trusting the Lord.

How easily we forget the cross, the ultimate injustice. Jesus owed nothing, but suffered to pay off our debt and free us from guilt. We should live in constant gratitude, knowing we are complete in him, fully forgiven. God does not slap our wrist for failures.

But sin comes with built-in punishment. Take my favorite sin, gluttony. Overeating hurts me, fat ain’t fun, but who’s to blame?  Slam your fist through the wall in a fit of temper and you bleed. God’s punishment? Look how some TV preachers seem to prosper while indulging hidden sin. They never repent until they get caught; then they’re sorry all over the place, hoping their followers will forgive them. Breaking God’s laws brings consequences.

Adversities like failed brakes are not God’s spanking, any more than good brakes are God’s blessing.  Brakes fail for the just and the unjust. Failed anything does not betoken God’s displeasure. Some of his greatest servants suffered all their lives, and we complain about failed brakes?

God’s grace abides even when we fail. Jesus loved Peter when he took those few steps on the water; and he loved him just as much when he sank. He gave him a hand. God’s hand is always there.

Be at peace, Toivo. And pick your mentors with care. A loud mouth does not guarantee truth.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Lens Lust

I have tried to cultivate interests in photo subjects other than birds so when they are scarce I can go walking with my camera and take satisfying pictures of other things. I admire the work of other photographers, but as hard as I try I find I have neither interest nor eye for much else. Butterflies, flowers, dragonflies, and such are usually the results of a slow bird day, a less satisfying alternative to my first love.

I have the bird shooter’s perennial problem; how to get close enough for good results. Large water birds are the easiest. They stand still and pose. They move about and fly slowly making them easy targets. They also let me up close compared to smaller birds, allowing the use of telephoto lenses of modest reach that don’t require a second mortgage to acquire.

I have some pretty good glass (that’s camera guy talk) for close encounters with big birds, but my long lens, my Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm is a budget lens, and sharp focus on a songbird at maximum reach is more an accident than a capability of the lens. Unfortunately the next step up is a big one costing from 4 to 9 or 10  times as much depending on just how much reach I settle for.

I guess I’m destined to keep on pining for a Rolls Royce on a Nissan Sentra budget.

Young Grandpa Keith

Who Needs Nashville?

All my life I’ve have been waiting to be discovered. I was a fair small-time preacher, a journeyman writer, and a versatile front porch harmonica player. But I got little notice. I was never a Who’s Who, ever a Who’s He?

Currently, I’m pushing the harmonica, working up routines that might catch someone’s notice. I have Irish, Country Western, Golden Oldies, Stephan Foster, Skip-to My Lou, and Gospel, my specialty. Two catchy tunes capture my faith: Count Your Blessings, and Brighten the Corner Where You Are.

There are people who lump the harmonica with the banjo, accordion, and bagpipes as lesser instruments, but that’s their problem. I play for common folks, and I play really cheap, for an obvious reasons. I warned my agent not to quit her day job.

The older I get, the simpler my faith becomes. I once knew almost everything about theology. Now I know next to nothing. Mystery heads my creed, with God’s Sovereign Grace next. Then, Incarnation. I believe Jesus was who he said he was—still is. His kingdom embraces every facet of human experience. I call it the Whatsoever Gospel.

Every day I count my blessings, more than mind can conjure. And I seek to brighten my small corner of the world. Once I flew often and far to do what I did in the kingdom. Then time clipped my wings. Do I lament my confined world? Not in the least.

I’ll never make it to Nashville, but a harmonica is just right for a corner.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Cabin

Every day is fine at Woodland Garden, though some days are finer than others. Take yesterday:

Barb and Bob Lundberg hauled me and Norma to the Sunshine Café for breakfast.  We both split Everything Omelets. Eating a whole one would be a mortal sin. Young A, café owner, kept our coffee cups full. She follows the Hole News. I ascribed a Tooth book to her. We enjoy Bob and Barb’s company.

Kathy Gustafson, also a Hole News friend, stopped by in the afternoon with goodies fresh-baked from her backyard apples. Norma put the coffee on and we visited for two hours. Kathy lives on a piece of ground hallowed to my memory: the Scout Cabin once stood there. The cabin is long gone but the lightning-scarred, landmark, white pine remains, along with memories reaching back 79 years. By the Campfire’s Ruddy Glow will recall them.

The Cabin and the Methodist men who took me there shaped my life for more than the pious Baptists from my home church who prayed for my soul but spent nary a minute with me in the woods. The Ruddy Glow eBook will tell about that too.

We have dispersed about half the Tooth book’s thousand-copy press run.  Reader responses have been encouraging. Funding is falling in place.

If you find a corner in your payer closet for our Wordshed Mission, I’ll appreciate it. If you want a copy of How Do You Know That’s  a Tooth?, email me at Mattson.lloyd1 at gmail dot.com.

All is well.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Slow Start at the Rookery

The Audubon Rookery in Venice is coming alive slowly this season. I finally saw a single Great Blue, the first this winter, on the small island rookery. It was nestled too deeply into the foliage to get a picture. A small Green Heron played peek-a-boo with me while it fished along the edge of the pond. A female House Sparrow posed for me offering fore and aft views.

This Florida visit is winding down. I head for Ohio just after Thanksgiving. I doubt I’ll see any nesting at the rookery until I return in a few months, but I’ll keep checking right up until I leave.

Green Heron

House Sparrow

Green Heron

Young Grandpa Keith

The Tooth Book: On it’s Way

Sunday night at Emmanuel Church was an event to remember. The band and back-up singers were outstanding. They even let me play my harmonica. Kevin did his usual great job and Barb and Rosie lifted our spirits. The crowd sang their hearts out and gave the Wordshed Mission a healthy boost. Thank you Pastor Dave and Emmanuel Church for hosting my farewell-to-print-books party.

Here are the chapters:
Foreword: Bob Kelly
Prologue: Lloyd Mattson

Part One
Reflections, Speculations, Stories

Part Two
A Kid’s-Eye View of the Bible
The Story Tree
How the Pussy Willow Got Its Mittens
The Cat in the Manger
The Littlest Tree on the Mountain
The Song of a Man and a Land

Part Three
Bob Kelly’s Bits of Wisdom from Lloyd Mattson’s Hole News Blog

Epilogue
Paul Boskoffsky: The Rusty Hammer

Back cover blurb: The trail is best discerned from the summit, looking back. That insight came to me while resting on a boulder at Twisp Pass in the Washington Cascades, a story I tell in By the Campfire’s Ruddy Glow. Now I’ve reached another summit, and I find the view splendid.

You can’t see much while climbing, absorbed in the next step. Most of my life, the next moment blinded me to wonders all around. This book tells something of my life climb, but mostly how I view life and faith as I pause to catch my breath.

Some of my views will disturb. That’s good. We need to be disturbed. We live too long with secondhand faith inherited from family and mentors. We don’t own our faith until we test it.

I like what I see from the summit. I have ceased herding sacred cows to better serve the Good Shepherd.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Inexplicable!

My living room holds a clutter of cartons filled with books. Some will go to the post office Monday; some I’ll haul to Emmanuel Church tomorrow evening as friends gather to listen to country music and celebrate my final print book. I’ll tell the story of the title: How Do You Know That’s a Tooth? and give a copy to every family present.

I’m often asked, “How can you give books away?” I answer, “I get better circulation that way.” The real answer lies short history of the Wordshed Mission that follows:

In 1986 Elsie and I retired from pastoral life to pursue a dream. On our many Alaska visits we had met quiet servants of the faith whose stories cried to be told. We created the Wordshed Mission to tell those stories.

We had with one book in mind, an anthology. We planned to give half the pressrun to the people we wrote about and the other half to our friends. Should the book generate money, we’d plow it back into the Mission.

We soon learned one book wouldn’t begin to contain the stories. We settled on a pioneer missionary couple and a Native couple and published two books. They were well received and friends came alongside to kept us afloat.

Then the mission got out of hand. We broadened our vision, added three more titles,  then three titles from our memoir series. The count to date: eight books, 32,000 print books and 1,500 audio books. Over $100,000 has come from somewhere to pay production and shipping costs. Our retirement outreach far exceeded anything we imagined.

December, 2008 saw the beginning of another unlikely outreach. An injury had put Elsie in hospice. As she began to fade, I sent out nightly group emails to update family and close friends. After Elsie died, I continued the nightly emails as therapy, writing in the sleepless hole each night brought. Unknown to me, readers passed my thoughts on to their families and friends, who asked to be included on the e-list. As the list grew unwieldy, Jackie McBride, an online friend from Sun City, Arizona, came to the rescue. She set up www.holenews.org and my life as a blogger began.

Inexplicably, readership continues to grow. But the end is not yet: Jackie created www.lloydsstorytree.com to accommodate new books that came to mind with the possibility of an online eBook store someday.

My 28-year-old retirement mission has been quite a ride. What lies ahead? Only the Lord knows, and that’s good enough.

Old Grandpa Lloyd