Journey to the Inner Self

Fasten your seatbelts. We’re going philosophiz about the inner self. There’s more to it than you think.

First off, when you stop learning, you start dying. Ideas nourish the soul and without a fresh supply, the soul withers and dies. The body may wander about for a time, but by and by it also dies.

The ideas need not be profound. Yesterday I learned why dark meat is more moist and tender than white meat. I forgot the scientific explanation, but I remember a parable that came to mind: If you want a tender soul, walk and flap your wings. White meat just comes along for the ride. No wonder it’s dry.

Our brain processes ideas which we stack on the inner shelf. They say meditation puts us in touch with the inner self, but mine isn’t always good company. I like something to chew on:  a poem, a song, a snatch of scripture. Maybe an old fishing hole.

Folks tell me I should fill my mind with spiritual thoughts, meaning religious stuff. Well, after some 60 years as a church professional, I can tell you not everything religious is spiritual. Eden had no cathedral, but God walked there in the cool of the evening to seek out his creatures hiding in the brush.

I dearly love my church. I also love trees and hills and water books. Brook-side prayers reach heaven at the same speed as church prayers. And please don’t tell me that’s nature worship; it’s Creator worship.

Jesus created all that is. Check it out with John, his fisherman friend.

Old Grandpa Lloyd


Fundamentalist Me

Through my early years I was a staunch fundamentalist. I was certain my tribe’s viewpoint was dead-on right. I saw little value in dialogue with those who thought otherwise except to convert them.  I learned asking the right questions can plant uncertainties in the minds of doubters, softening them for future discussion.

I trusted my mentors, never imaging they could be wrong. I hobnobbed with people who agreed with me and read stuff supporting my position, ignoring stuff that didn’t. I worked to slip my viewpoint into every conversation. If debate ensued, I would outtalk my opponents, knowing they would thank me when they saw the light.

I was rabid–a trout-stream fly-fishing fundamentalist. Our tribe accepted divisions. I was a Pre: feed ‘em what they prefer–I kept a few worms handy. Mids waited until the midge and mosquito season ended. Posts postponed fishing until the low waters of late summer.   Compromise, however, was not tolerated. Fly fishing for crappies or bluegills was taboo;bass was worse.

We based our faith solidly on scripture. One-third of Jesus’ apostles were fisherman (they used nets because fly rods hadn’t been invented). Twice Jesus helped them after they got skunked. Our creed: fly fishing for trout is superior to all other forms of recreation.

My fundamentalism held up until one summer evening at Snail Lake Camp.  A young lady who worked with me at the Mission told me she had never fished bullheads. The moon was high with a warm breeze so I grabbed a pail and fishing rod and rowed her across the lake to a secluded cove–an educational mission. I tied on a bobber, wormed a #6 hook, and tossed them out.  Plop! Those blamed bullheads hit one after another until the pail was full.

I learned three things that night: bullheads bite really well by moonlight; fish slime does not enhance romance; and fundamentalism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Old Grandpa Lloyd



Thankful Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Eve is a time to forget what ails our world and work on my thank bank, where I store blessings to draw on when I feel sorry for myself. I thank God for health, joy, and friends; especially friends.

Last Monday I enjoyed a three-hour coffee with Clyde Rogers, the Sage of Juniata Street. We talked long about unplanned circumstances that led us through our careers. Clyde is just a kid—barely 80—but he’s beginning to gain the wisdom of an elder.  We agreed on one point: the present years are among the richest, most rewarding of our lives.

As we talked, young friend of Clyde, Luke Olson, stopped by our table. For several years Luke has coordinated Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Soon he will move to Milwaukee as Intervarsity Regional Coordinator. I thought back 60 years, sped-reading my life. No way could I have planned the moves I made, or schemed so rewarding a conclusion to life.

Shortly after Luke left, a slim, erect young man stopped by. He greeted Clyde warmly and they visited. When the man left to pick up his coffee, Clyde told me he had lived at the Duluth Bethel, a rehab center Clyde directed over 25 years. He came trapped in alcohol and drugs. Today he is an energetic, creative businessman, a trophy of a ministry Clyde literally fell into.

Now we’re geezers, mostly retired. Once we showed up at an office to plan our work; now we sit around and let it happen. No hustle, no agenda. Yet, people with needs of one kind or another constantly cross our paths. Coincidence?  Norma calls it the Plan, I call it the Mosaic of Providence–I get paid by the word.

We sipped coffee and swapped stories; lives touched for God’s kingdom–cup of cold water stuff. Our strategy: listen and love.  Our pay: Better than gold; and Uncle Sam can’t touch it.

Have a thankful Thanksgiving.

Old Grandpa Lloyd



Country Roads

The sun was out but the wind was chill. Mild weather has lingered long in northern Ohio. Today’s abruptly nippy air froze out my intended walk. Instead I drove for an hour through farm country. The trees are naked but for a few modest ones still wearing leaves. Normally demure oaks have been undressed by the wind. Sometimes the road dips into low swampy land. If the coming week’s forecast is correct the standing water will take on a skim of ice the deer will have to break to drink.

At midday anyone with anywhere to go had already gone, so the road was mostly mine. I drove slowly and away from terrorist attacks, bloodthirsty presidential candidates vowing to bomb the Islamic State to smithereens, and my email inbox cluttered with reminders that if I am a good American I will go out and spend, spend, spend. After all, Christmas is coming and the economy is depending on me.

Bare farm fields skirted quiet roads. Hawks circled hunting for lunch. From above a combined cornfield one swooped and pounced and flew off with something squirming in its talons. Not all life has taken winter shelter yet.  Soon I’ll take mine in Florida. I fly there on December 12th.

Though I tried to avoid them, towns intruded on my reverie. Towns are OK, but I had to pick up my pace to appease following cars. They started honking at me. There were no more hawks. I headed home and turned on the radio to find out how many people have died violently since I last checked and which store has the lowest prices on 60 inch HD TV’s, apparently a matter of great importance.

Young Grandpa Keith

The Hole News: A New Dimension

I’m sitting in my Woodland Garden apartment watching winter’s first serious snow begin to fall, struck with wonder that my life continues to be so rewarding. The Hole News ranks high on the wonder list.

The blog came about eight years ago by spontaneous combustion and continues to gain readers. Now crossbreeding with Facebook has brought about a new dimension.  Friends occasionally publish a Hole News piece, connecting me with readers who do not know the context of my thinking and writing. They respond with alarm, fearing I’ve fled the faith.

A short response wont always do, so to keep Hole News and Facebook posts responsibly brief, I will  respond in a folder on the Story Tree called What I Believe, and Why. Watch for the first post.

Abraham and World War Three (November 15 Hole News) drew several responses. Who really understands the ancient, complex Middle East tensions? We do understand  their biblical history. For a deeper look into Islam and ISIS, google up the March, 2015 Atlantic Magazine. Read What ISIS Really Wants. It’s scary.

Christmas is coming and we have books to give away—wrapping up our Wordshed Mission. Email your address to mattson.lloyd1 at and I’ll send one or more copies of How Do You Know That’s a Tooth? and ALASKA: New Life for an Ancient People. No more print books. I’m about to get old.

A recent discussion with a friend made me appreciate this Inward/Outward devotional from Karen Armstrong: “If you slavishly follow somebody else’s ideas, you will be impoverished and impaired…. Blind obedience and unthinking acceptance of authority figures may make an institution work more smoothly, but the people who live under such a regime will remain in an infantile, dependent state. It is a great pity that religious institutions often insist on this type of conformity, which is far from the spirit of their founders, who all, in one way or another, rebelled against the status quo.”

A bunch of Amens, Karen.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

It’s All Spencer’s Fault

Three-year-old Spencer’s parents had enough money and influence to enroll him in the pre-kindergarten class a year early. He was immature and needed almost constant guidance. As the teacher’s assistant much of that task fell to me. We became a twosome.

Spencer and I played a little game at the lunchtime recess. While I ate with the adults he would sneak up behind and give me a swat on the back. I jumped up in sham anger, chased him across the playground, scooped him up and pretended to give him a spanking. After about the fourth or fifth time we no longer fooled anyone, but Spencer never tired of hitting me in the back.

One day Spencer’s father witnessed our little pretense. I worried what he might think. A few days later I was called to the office. Spencer’s dad was waiting to talk with me. The Headmaster and Spencer’s father were both there. They were smiling so I was relieved.

Spencer’s dad knew part of my job was to take pictures of school activities. He had seen me snapping away with my point and shoot camera. After some chitchat he handed me a bag containing, brand new in their boxes, a DSLR (That’s Digital Single Lens Reflex for you non-photographers.) camera and two lenses. All he asked in return were pictures of his son at school.

Until then I was content with my pretty good fixed lens camera, but one day with a DSLR and I was spoiled. Almost instantaneous focus, interchangeable lenses, and a multitude of adjustments for different light conditions, all were at my fingertips. I was in photography heaven.

I’ve upgraded cameras three times since then; added to my lens collection, and spent more thousands of dollars on my avocation than I will admit, and it’s all Spencer’s fault.

Young Grandpa Keith

Abraham and World War Three

Pope Francis, a man I admire, had a lot to say about the Paris tragedy. He suggested it could mark the beginning of World War Three. Maybe so, Mr. Pope, but the real beginning of today’s Middle East related tragedies looks back 4,000 years.

You’ll find the story of Abraham and Hagar the slave girl in Genesis 16. Before you beat up on old Abraham, note that Hagar was Sarah’s idea, apparently a custom of the time. Note God’s promises concerning Ishmael–conflict assured. Islam traces its Abrahamic lineage through Ishmael, the Hebrews through Isaac.

We can only understand the Bible in its historical context. We must not project New Testament ideals into the Old Testament. The Hebrews practiced polygamy and slavery with no divine rebuke. Sordid deeds of war are sometimes attributed to God’s command.

Islam has proved merciless from its beginnings to Paris and 9/11, the event that drew us into the Iraq war, which solved nothing. Some think our Afghanistan adventure opened the door to ISIS. As a broader war with ISIS looms, don’t bet the farm that eradicating ISIS will bring peace to the Middle East.

So how can we deal with the ever-darkening clouds? We turn to the one who said I am the light of the world. While we wait for Creator God to usher in a new heaven and earth,  we draw on the peace Jesus offers, a peace we can share with those around us.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Great Commission for Geezers

The preacher was holding forth on Matthew’s great-commission. He zeroed in on Go: Billions are lost. Go! The man across the street is lost. Go!

That was a problem for me; my go is gone, stolen by accumulated years. But I’m still climbing, evidence I’m not yet over the hill.

Jesus did not command us to go; he commanded us to make disciples (learners), a process that includes baptism (identifying with Jesus) and teaching, both church functions. Our churches allow us to  share God’s love in ways we can’t individually.

How do we fit the great commission into non-church hours? Last Sunday afternoon, Carol Bacon, Norma, and I headed for Keystone Bluffs, a seniors’ assisted living facility. Our goal was to bring a hug from God to three residents.

Carol is a dear friend from my North Shore pastoring years. Two pastors after I retired, the church folded. Carol hosted a remnant of the attenders Sunday mornings. I joined them as teacher. Carol’s mom Aloha and my Elsie became buddies. We had so much fun.

A stroke put Norma’s older sister Ruth and her husband in Keystone, and My cousin Vi Hedval moved there when she turned 100. Last Sunday the great commission sent three of Jesus disciples on a mission.  It was great.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

He Called Me Doug

For some reason my oldest son at about age ten took to calling me Dudley. I think it was a variation of dad. A young boy in the neighborhood misheard him and thought he called me Doug. So that is what the little boy called me. He appeared whenever I came out of the parsonage. He talked to me as we walked across the street to the church and followed me into my study. I don’t remember his name and I never learned which nearby house was his. We both liked to talk so we got along well. Eventually he went back outside and I got to work.

On day as I climbed out of my car having returned from getting a haircut the boy hailed me with the usual “Hey Doug!” from half a block away. He ran up to me and stopped short staring in a funny way. He didn’t say anything for a few long moments. Then in disbelief he blurted, “I didn’t know you were old.”

I didn’t either. In those days my hair was still mostly dark brown. Longer hair was acceptable, and I economized by getting short haircuts and waited three months to get another. Gray hairs mingled unnoticeably among the dark brown when my hair was long, but after a fresh haircut the steadily increasing stubbly gray was obvious. In the boy’s scheme of things gray hair equaled old and I didn’t argue the matter. He walked a little slower as we crossed the street and ran ahead and opened the door for me.

I’ve enjoyed being old ever since.

Young Grandpa Keith

Key to the Kingdom

Spending 4 years assisting teachers working with young children was the appropriate way to end my working life. I was a pastor for a dozen years and I tended to be the one who ended up working with the kids while the grownups went about their affairs. I could have deferred to others. But, I can spend an hour or two in a room with a bunch of kids and come out unscathed. If I turned down the job I feared the kids would be saddled with someone who hated the job and both children and caregiver would suffer.

I generally found the programs planned exclusively for adults to be boring. Church was no exception. That may be why I lasted only a dozen years as pastor. I was always disappointed that just before my sermon all the children got up and left for their own age appropriate activity.

At school I was grandfather in residence surrounded by children all needing my help with something—tying a shoe, spelling a word, applying a Band-Aid, learning to read, breaking up a fight, getting the top off a yogurt container, and forever pushing swings. They ran me joyfully ragged and almost never said thank you. Nothing that I did for children, however, came close to what they did for me.

When Jesus explained how we can enter his kingdom it had nothing to do with theology or doctrine or long boring meetings. We must, he said, become like little children. I cannot tell you how to do this, but the children will show you if you stop banishing them to some place where they won’t be a bother.

Young Grandpa Keith