More Small World

The June 19 Small World Hole News stirred a lot of interest. Responses continue to come. This today from Bob Kobielush, a cherished friend of many years:

My, what memories!  As you know, my aunt Hilda Ljungquist pastored Spirit Baptist Church for 18 years, and I claim it as my boyhood church.  Loren was my Sunday school teacher for high school years (covering grades 7-12.)  What a faithful servant!  Tillie and Dan would often have us over for Sunday dinner…quite a commitment!  It was my aunt Hilda, Aunt Ellen, Mom and five boys.  If it wasn’t for that invitation, we would have to endure the windy ride on Hwy 86 from Spirit to Ogema, then south to Westboro on empty stomachs…often sick from lack of food and the roller coaster ride.

Oh yes: the two back rooms you lived in.  It was there I knelt to receive Christ after being scared into the Kingdom by a traveling evangelist by the name of Russell Kingsley.  With Hilda by my side, I prayed “Lord I’ve been a bad boy (for all nine years of my life) and I want you to come into my heart”.  (I later learned the right words and what happened when I went to seminary.)

As a remembrance of those hallowed rooms, I have the old white kitchen cabinet in my garage and use it for a work bench…I’m sure there is a sermon in that thought.  Perhaps you will remember: the cabinet stands 7-8 foot high, glass doors on sides, a work area, and a few drawers below, now filled with tools and gadgets.

It is fun to grow older…memories the young ones can’t even imagine. Thanks for your faithfulness, friend!

Through the centuries, small places have spawned great leaders. I first met Bob when he directed Trout Lake Camp in Minnesota. He then served Christian Camping International as president or many years. He is winding up his career as a camp and conference consultant.

Friends like Bob Kobielush opened many opportunities for my ragged career.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Life Support

You look so good!  I hear that all the time, always salted with surprise. So I turn 94 in August. Big deal. Centenarians are popping up all over. Old ain’t what it used to be.

Check grave markers in any 1800’s cemetery. Life expectancy keeps increasing. A world of potential spreads before today’s elderly and I’m grabbing as much as I can hold.

I have my theology down pat: Mystery, Sovereign Grace, and Incarnation. That’s it. Hang the details. If your favorite doctrine hides in my Mystery bin, so be it. My genetic mix along with medical advances have spared me the debilitating woes so evident in many my age.

Over the years I beat an out-of-sync heart, colon cancer, blurry eyes, mumbling friends (I got hearing aids), a life-threatening stone, and wobbling of brain and spirit. All my spare parts work. What more could one ask?

Once I aspired to write The Seven Days of Man. The book would assign life qualities to seven periods from cradle to grave.Then I learned Solomon and Shakespeare beat me to it.  According to my book, I’m at Friday evening–still vita but fading. Practicing three principles helps slow the fade: honest acceptance, responsible expectations, and perpetual gratitude.

Old is for real. Platitudes can’t change that. I’m on life support, sustained by a pacemaker, belly bag, eye-implants, hearing aids, fake hips, cane and walker with a wheelchair on standby. But my brain and spirit still fly!

I have never been more content, happy, and fulfilled in my long years. No geezer on earth has it better. Thank you family and beloved friends. You keep me perking along.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Small World!

Pat Sirois lives in apartment 201 at Woodland Garden. I don’t recall how Spirit, Wisconsin entered our conversation. It was one of those small-world moments.

My life of church-related work began the summer of 1945 as student pastor at Spirit Baptist, a small, white church surrounded by fields. Dan and Tillie Nelson and their young children lived on the farm adjacent to the church. Their oldest son was Loren.  Turned out, Dan Nelson was Pat’s cousin! Tillie was the faithful church pianist. She didn’t much like me, and for good reason.

When Pat learned of my Spirit connections, she invited me to a cousins’ reunion held last Thursday at a restaurant near Pike Lake. She seated me across from Loren Nelson and his wife Lois. Now 79, Loren was too young in 1945 to remember me, but we filled two hours talking about people we both knew. I turned 22 that summer.

Memories flooded in. I told Loren about the Green Lantern episode that stirred Tillie’s ire. I also told him about a near-tragedy when four young men took their novice pastor shining deer.

I recall the drive to Spirit the first Saturday of June, 1945, I hooked up a rented trailer and pointed my ’31 Chevy for Spirit 200 miles away. Aboard were my family (Sally was not quite three) and two college-age VBS teachers.  I planned to preach on Sunday. We reached Spirit Monday, dead broke from three flat tires and two nights in rustic accommodations.

Our family moved into two small rooms in the back of the church, no running water. As summer progressed, the church invited me to continue with them through Christmas. Without a reliable car, I would commute from seminary on the Soo Line, then a steam train, departing Saturday afternoon and arriving at Prentice, 13 miles from Spirit, about two Sunday morning. The return left Prentice at 1:00 A.M. Monday, reaching St. Paul about 8:00 A.M. Clergy fare: $13 round trip. The church paid $25 per week.

My crippled Chevy waited at a garage near the depot to transport me along a winding country road to Spirit. When freeze-up came, adventures began. I abandoned the car on the church drive. Lloyd Nelson gave me ten dollars for it.

The Spirit congregation will celebrate its 125th anniversary in October. I’d love to attend, but I’ll settle for written greetings and reflections. I’ll not mention the Green Lantern.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Wounded in Woodland Garden

Now I’m an easygoing guy, not given to complaining. But I’ve had it with Facebook. I refer to a film link daughter-in-law Lila sent to her daughter Kat. It depicted a skinny, scantily-clad German woman showing off on parallel bars. Kat was a gymnast in younger years. Her father Dave, my #3 son, was a scholarship gymnast with the Indiana Hoosiers. Kat responded to the woman’s performance (she was 91): “I wish I could do that now!”

It wasn’t the attire that troubled me but the putting down of normal geezers like me with meat on our bones. In spite  of that, I responded with gentle humor: “Big deal! Yesterday I took three steps without my walker!”  “Stud muffin!” replied Kat. Sensing something, I commented: “Check with the Girl from 313. She’s just two years older than my daughter Sally.”

I have a notion to write Facebook about allowing stuff that hurts a whole generation of citizens. Everyone knows skinny is not good. As you age, you need reserve in case of a medical emergency. Gamboling on gym equipment? Downright dangerous! Why stir unrealistic comparisons? Wounding loving grandparents is downright immoral.

l dearly love my five children, 14 grandchildren, and great-grands without number. I do the best I can. I’ll guess I’ll just let it go.

Old Grandpa Lloyd


Iron Sharpens Iron

I got thinking on that in the dark of the night.You recall Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.  I had just been sharpened.

On Wednesday I enjoyed a four-hour gabfest with Bob Gilmore and Clyde Rogers at Sarah’s Table. Our conversation wandered all over the map—personal stories, theology, philosophy, history.   Bob had to leave in midstream, but Clyde and I hung on.

Hole News regulars know Clyde, the Sage of Juniata Street. A while back, I told Bob Gilmore’s remarkable story from his Thailand days. Getting together with those guys lit a fire and I’ve been aglow ever since.

Bob and wife Gayle are long-time Emmanuel Baptist friends.  Clyde will be installed as a member this Sunday. We talked about our beloved church and the search for a new pastor, but mostly we talked about everyday stuff, ranging from childhood to old age, from ancient times to our troubled present. We talked about different approaches to practicing religion.

We all agreed: For us, there is no sacred/secular divide; whether we play or pray, every moment is equally spiritual, We spread the gospel by being Christ-like with frequent opportunities to talk about our faith. 1 Peter 3:15 comes to mind. There’s a part of that verse many readers miss.

Clyde, Bob, Grandpa Lloyd: three ordinary guys filling different niches in Creator God’s plan. It’s strengthening to learn how God is at work through friends.  Iron sharpens iron.

Old Grandpa Lloyd






Wagner Creek: A Pastor’s Burdens

About 65 years ago, I married Ken and Merle Victorson at First Baptist Church in Iron River, Michigan. Last Friday, on Ken’s 90th birthday, their son Gordy and wife Mary Kay brought them to Woodland Garden for a nostalgic visit. John Hedberg, Gordy’s childhood kin and friend came along. For an hour we relished memories in my apartment then headed to 313 to enjoy coffee and snacks prepared by Noma, where memory-sharing continued, focusing on Oscar, Ken’s father and my beloved fishing partner during Iron River years.

Gordy and John produced maps and asked me to mark spots. They are planning a pilgrimage to fish Grandpa Oscar’s trout streams. The maps triggered more stories.

Oscar earned his living painting houses. When rain threatened, I could count on his Terraplane pulling up to the parsonage. Oscar would call, Mattson, you got worms?  I got worms, Oscar.  OK, let’s go fishing. Feeling it my pastoral duty, I would gathered my gear and we’d head for Wagner Creek.

But sometimes, Oscar fished alone. One night, his wife Nannie phoned. Oscar’s not back from fishing. I’m so worried!  I picked up deacon Arnold Sjodin and we drove to the Wagner Creek area to look for Oscar’s car. No luck.  We roamed back roads, checking other fishing access points. Still no luck. About midnight we returned to the Victorson home and found Oscars car in the yard. Through the kitchen window we saw Oscar clad in long johns with Nannie chewing him out to a fair thee well. Oscar was glad to see us. While Nannie made coffee, Oscar told his story.

He had fished too long and got lost seeking the trail to his car. Stumbling about the dark woods, he found himself back at Wagner Creek with no choice but to wade down the beaver-pocked stream to a low bridge. He was soon soaked to the skin. Reaching the bridge, Oscar walked the narrow dirt road some distance to his car.

Many are the burdens pastors carry as they tend their parishioners.

Old Grandpa Lloyd




Life in the Garden: The Mahjong Mafia

Earlier this week, the Woodland Garden Mahjong Mafia met for breakfast at Big Daddy’s Burgers, the Girl from 313 among them. Curious to learn about mafia goings on, and having been banned from their regular Wednesday gatherings, and I contrived a way to gain to attend the breakfast with the Sage of Juniata Street as my wheels and bodyguard. You can’t be too careful when dealing with the mafia. They wear identifying sox and recite a pledge: what comes up in Mahjong, stays in Mahjong. One wrong step and I could wind up the duck pond as muskrat fodder.

The breakfast went really fine. The food was great. Lively conversation flowed, interrupted only by occasional outbursts from three tables down, where eight men rattled dice. Sage Clyde regaled the ladies with stories, leaving scant space for my wisdom.

Well over an hour passed. I made mental notes, like the power structure and secret eye exchanges. Then, as if on cue, the girls gathered their purses, thanked me and the Sage profusely, and marched out, right past the cash register. The waitress handed me the tab. I made another mental note. I’ll keep you posted.

Older but Wiser Grandpa Lloyd


Goodbye Sandy

We gathered in the Woodland Garden community room last Wednesday to farewell our manager, Sandy. Mike Edmunds, facility owner, popped for pizza and cake. He, his family, and the maintenance staff served.

To me, Woodland Garden feels more like a college dorm than a HUD Section 8 seniors’ residence, home for 64 souls—9 men and 55 women, most of them well seasoned. Sometimes Woodland Garden feels like a squirrely Cub Scout pack. I dubbed Sandy den mother.

She guided us for three years, fielding complaints, solving problems, reminding us of rules, and selling laundry quarters. Sandy hosted monthly birthday socials, seasonal celebrations, and frequent music entertainments, always with flair. Each spring, she labored through resident recertification—60 interviews, reams of government paper.

We shared Sandy’s tears as she said goodbye. She and her husband will move to Wyoming to be near family and explore new jobs. Thank you, dear Sandy. You have become a special friend.

Now we must break in Ann, Poor girl.

Old Grandpa Lloyd



Text Abuse?

The May 16 Hole News drew healthy responses reflecting varying viewpoints. Whenever we tackle divisive social and political issues, two Bible texts are tossed in the mix. I think we abuse both:

Romans 13:1 tells us “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (KJV) 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NIV)

When Paul wrote those words, the infamous Nero ruled Rome. Do you imagine God hand-picked this evil man for the job? Wikipedia will tell you the political process of the time.

2 Chronicles 7:14 spoke to rebellious Israel, reinforcing earlier promises. Can 21st century America claim it? To me sure, Hebrew/Christian principles played a big role in our national beginnings, but history  quickly dispels the myth that America was distinctly Christian. Some of the Fathers owned slaves, claiming economic necessity.

It has been said, God established only two institutions: the family and human government. Other social entities were mankind’s doing. We note that family and government bob and weave through history. Old Testament saints practiced polygamy; government moved from tribal chief to parliament and congress. I doubt the Lord maintains a management bureau to oversee the details.

Prayer, however earnest, will not heal our fractured political system. Somehow, we’ll muddle through. Meanwhile, we are called to live within the law as good citizens, doing what we can.

While I can’t do much about Washington, but I can be useful at Woodland Garden. Let’s stand and sing Brighten the Corner Where You Are. All verses.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Woe Is Us?



This morning on Facebook, philosopher friend Joe Grove referenced William Goldberg’s Lord of Flies. I read the novel in 1954, the year it was published. The story concerns a plane crash on an uninhabited Pacific island that kills all the adults, stranding a group of young British boys. Their disastrous attempt to govern themselves unfolds through the chapters.

Joe discussed prescient authors of the past, suggesting that Lord of the Flies speaks to our current political plight, the peril of inexperienced, immature leadership.

I try to keep the Hole News apolitical, but events of recent days make that all but impossible. The flurry of partisan responses I expect will follow this post will prove my point. America has never been so divided. Something deadly is happening, with symptoms multiplying. You make your own list.

I know God remains on the throne, but history affirms the rise and fall of empires. I see our nation stumbling. No, I don’t know how to fix it, nor will I lean on cliché texts, applying as a general principle promises God made to Israel. But this I know: whatever the next years bring, God will sustain his followers. I refuse to spend myself with woe is us hand-wringing.

Old Grandpa Lloyd