The Tide of Providence

The heart of the gospel is meeting ordinary needs around us. That’s all Jesus requires. I hear, Yes, buts. Let them go. You never lack opportunity to talk about Jesus when you live like him.  We’re swept along on tide of providence, equipped for whatever God assigns. 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”  Note that last phrase.

Thirty years ago I met Amy Van Ooyen, a retired Dutch immigrant struggling with her writing. She had great stories on paper, but what next? I came along with 35 years of writing, editing, and publishing and time on my hands.

Amy was drawn to the folksy stories written by University of Michigan professor Dr. Charles Gage Van Riper (Cully Cage). She had the nerve to contact him and he helped her in many ways. Amy shared Cully Gage’s books  with me and I devoured them.

The Ironwood, Michigan church I came to serve as interim had a broadcast problem, and I had the know-how and equipment to handle it. The  30-minute Coffee in the Kitchen drew favorable notice.

I spent evening hours reading Cully Gage stories. One called the Perfect Outhouse sparked an idea. I put together a Coffee in the Parsonage called The Theology of Cully Gage (he was not noted for piety). I blended old gospel songs with snatches from Gage’s writings and sent him the tape. That launched a warm, extended correspondence.

Amy’s stories needed fine-tuning, and I worked many hours doing what editors do. I gave guidance about how to turn stories into  a book. When Amy kept insisting she pay me, I suggested Claude carve something. I gave him my letterhead with its rustic logo. Months later, Claude unveiled the 18 by 30, intricately-detailed hard-maple carving that graces my living room.

So you have a hack preacher, a church with a problem, a remarkable immigrant woman with stories and her wood-carving husband. Toss in a world-renowned university professor-writer. Any way you look at it, life is a marvelous adventure.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Perfect Outhouse

How dear when old friends stop by! Sometimes the friends are only memories; sometimes books.

The hand-carved Wordshed logo that hangs on my living room wall triggers memories of Claude and Amy Van Ooyen and the books they led me to. I met the Wan Ooyens in 1986 at their home in the deep woods near Ironwood, Michigan. Claude was a skilled wood carver, an artist. Amy kept bees, sold clover honey, and aspired to be a writer.

How Amy led me to Cully Gage (Professor Charles Gage Van Riper) and his folksy Northwoods Readers is a story in itself, a prime example of the mosaic of providence. That is for another time.

Two years after first meeting the Van Ooyens, I began an extended interim pastorate in the Ironwood church the Van Ooyens sometimes attended, and we renewed our friendship. I was housed in a quaint 100-year-old home used only as a summer respite for the out-of town owners. With time on my hands, I tackled a problem.

The congregation broadcast its morning service live, and I found it appalling, due mainly to placing of microphones. Lacking funds to fix the problem, the church allowed me to change the format.  Leaning on years of experience, I cobbled together a ragtag studio in the kitchen where I lived. Three tape recorders, a mixer, headphones, and Shure microphone. I created Coffee at the Parsonage: sprightly recorded music, anecdotes about community personalities, thought for the day, a prayer. I wound up the chatty 30 minutes with a tag line: Thanks for joining me for coffee! Let’s mosey on over to the church and see what’s going on.

Our engineer at the church would air the tape while I led worship wearing a pocket radio and ear bud turned low. Just before the sermon, I gathered the kids on the platform for a story, listening for my recorded cue. At the right moment, the engineer switched my mic me to broadcast mode. I welcomed kitchen listeners, finished the kids’ story, and segued into my sermon, my eye on the clock. I wrapped up the preaching and benediction in time for the organist to bridge us off the air. The format worked great.

One week, an idea struck. Cully Gage’s Northwoods Readers were popular in the area, so I built Coffee at the Parsonage around The theology of Cully Gage. His stories needled the deacons. I drew anecdotes from his books, including the Perfect Outhouse. That fun segment ultimately connected me with the author, and the wood carving in my Woodland Garden living room.

How could that happen?  Stay tuned.

Old Grandpa Lloyd



Oliver Osprey

I paid my first visit to Sarasota’s Ken Thompson Park of this Florida stay. On the observation deck overlooking the estuary I came upon an Osprey resting on the railing and doing some people watching. He hailed me asked to have his picture taken. We entered into negotiations.

His name was Oliver. He claimed to be the patriarch of the Ospreys who hang out around the mangroves in the park. We agreed on a price and he gave me a full on pose and a look at his best side. Pending his approval of the proofs I will collect a fee for this shoot.

A few other cooperative water birds allowed photos; a Green Heron, a Little Blue, and a Snowy Egret. A solitary Great Blue flew in and posed against the Mangroves on the edge of the water.

Young Grandpa Keith

Third Cup of Coffee

In a little while the sun riding low in the winter sky will be so bright that the closed vertical blinds of my south facing window will fail to cut the glare enough for my comfort. I left them open until the sun appeared in the southeast just above the trees and shined directly in my light sensitive eyes. It could be cataracts that have lurked in my eyes for years may be advancing. My ophthalmologist will let me know. My annual exam is in a few weeks. I’m going to put on sunglasses and a cap and go for a walk.

I last night I sifted through photos from yesterday’s Rookery visit and found two more to post for the benefit of non-Facebook followers. The up close and personal shot of the Great Blue Heron was the first picture I took. It was fishing on the edge of the lake and concentrating on his prey oblivious to gawkers. I’m sure Great Egrets are good for more than just standing around being beautiful, bit if not I’ll settle for that.

Young Grandpa Keith

Same Old, Same Old

Some Hole News readers are not Facebook followers where these photos were first posted, so for their benefit here are the keepers from yesterday’s visit to the Venice Audubon Rookery. A most handsome Great Egret showing off for potential mates, and the proud parents with their Great Blue Heron triplets.

Young Grandpa Keith

Saturday at Sweet Margaret’s

It was a cozy five above when the Sage of Juniata Street loaded me and the girl from 313 into his white Caddy for a delightful morning at Sweet Margaret’s Pastries and Pasties. Great to find the Swamp Sisters’ old stomping ground back in business. So many good memories!  You will find it on country road 7 four miles west of Twig.

Sweet Margaret’s crew greeted us warmly: Judy and Gene Kovaks, Amy Dunaisky, helpers Amy and Suzy, and order-taker-server sixth-grader Grace. She served us graciously and kept our coffee cups filled. The food was fresh and delicious.

My only regret: I left my cane and walker in Sage Clyde’s car and hobbled in on Norma’s arm (the 313 girl). I was so anxious to reach a chair, I failed to pause and chat with Karen Broman and other Internet friends. Forgive me! Next time, I’ll reserve a table for the Hole News gang.  We can visit all morning.

We settled in and Gene joined us. He provided background on Sweet Margaret’s. He and Sage Clyde found many mutual interests, leading to extended conversation. I pretended I knew what they were talking about and Norma retreated to the front desk to visit with the ladies. After three or four cups of coffee, I hobbled toward the restroom.

Sweet Margaret’s will open mornings from 8:00 to 2:00 the first and third Saturdays January through March. Facebook @ Sweet Margaret’s will report the spring-summer schedule along with special events. We expect to be Sweet Margaret’s regulars. We love the home-cooking and back-home ambiance.

We carried home two frozen pasties for Sunday supper. Life is good!

Old Grandpa Lloyd

A Really Rich Old Man

Hey, Northlanders: Come Saturday morning, January 7, weather permitting, the Sage of Juniata Street will ferry me and the girl from 313 to Sweet Margaret’s Pastries and Pasties.  We plan to arrive about 10:00. Why not join us? I’ll buy coffee.

Sweet Margaret’s occupies the former Swamp Sisters place, our favorite country haunt. The Sisters got sort of old and leased out their quaint red barn. If you haven’t been there, here’s the scoop the folks at Margaret’s  emailed: “Our winter days/hours will begin Saturday January 7. We’ll open the first and third Saturdays in January and February from 8 to1. After that, we will reassess for spring.”

The address is 7249 Industrial Rd. in Saginaw. Drive four miles west of Twig on Industrial Road (County Road 7).Keep an eye out to the right. Enjoy the food. Check out local-made crafts for sale, and pick up a sack of goodies and pasties for the folks back home.

For the full story, Google Sweet Margaret’s Pastries and Pasties on Facebook.

Last Saturday, we kicked off our 2017 adventures in high style. I joined Matriarch Norma for her clan’s annual year-end gathering, this time at son David and Kristi’s spacious home in North Oaks. The whole clan turned out: sons Jim and David, daughters Betsy and Gloria, their spouses, and all the grandkids. Two older granddaughters brought their beaus.

We ate wickedly, triggering my allergy–when I eat, I swell up. We swapped Christmas-wrapped gift cards, stealing willy-nilly from one another. I wound up with two $25 Amazon cards, one from the drawing, the other from granddaughter Anne and Sam, Anne’s beloved Ph.D.student sweetheart. I suspect the cards will enrich our Woodland Garden library.

Following the meal, I sat back to watch. Love oozed out everywhere. Older grandkids clustered around a table, teasing and laughing.  Uncle Jim, wearing a pointed dancing musical hat, chased youngsters Nicole and Ethan about the house. The men included me in conversation and cheesecake.

Then everyone circled the table for a raucous game played with tiles, too complicated for me. It was a blessed day. As Packer-Viking time approached, we said goodbye.Thanks to Keith and Betsy for transportation. The weather and roads were ideal.

If you can measure an old guy’s wealth by the people he loves, the girl from 313 has made me incredibly rich.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Angel in the Dishpan

The girl from 313 came to my office yesterday to announce an epiphany. I always pay attention on such occasions–my supper may depend on it. She said an angel spoke to her while she was doing dishes. The angel said: “Let there be a Third Floor Walking Club. No dues, no rules, best view in the building.  Set your own pace, restroom available. Ten laps equal one mile.” Clearly, it was a message from above.

After informing me, she hunted down den mother Sandy to request space for the epiphany in the next Woodland Garden Grapevine. Many residents suffer advanced sedentaritus, along with the usual geezer ailments. A mile a day afoot would do wonders for their health and disposition.

Though I’m in fair shape, I determined to join the club. It’s been a long time since I herded my Minnesota Walker a mile in one day. My strategy: each time I leave my apartment to use the elevator, I will navigate the circuit. Squeezing time from my busy schedule will require steel discipline, but walking a mile a day my may help with the pants shrinkage I have experienced lately.

The girl in 313 is an angel in her own right. She runs the most orderly library I have ever seen in our kind of institution. Often she beautifies it with orchids and keeps the shelves fresh, shepherding well over 1,000 magazine and book titles. She groups books by favorite authors on top shelves. Some books she displays topically.

Best of all, she tends to my evening nutritional needs and lets me watch her TV (I don’t have one—on purpose). Each morning we meet to strategize the day and ponder what’s for supper. How lonely evenings would be without her.

I love my life at Woodland Garden, and sort of like the girl from 313.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Break Sweat for Jesus?

Growing old with wits somewhat intact is sort of fun. You can look back and note how segments of life come together to get you where you are.

Segment one came 70 years ago. Our Greek Exegesis class spent a full semester on Philippians 2:6-11—seven verses. We parsed every word, diagramed every sentence, and gave extra time to four words from verse 7: “he made himself nothing.” Literal translation: emptied himself—poured himself out. That will forever be a mystery, but Jesus was both God and man.

Segment two came years later. Troubled over my life as a Christian professional, I pondered Jesus’ words to Peter and the Twelve: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). What was that all about? The Greek Exegesis semester came to mind. In order to fulfil God’s  purpose, Jesus emptied himself, took up his cross, and died. That led to resurrection life. Bingo! Christians who finally dare to yield all rights (empty themselves) discover the wonders of resurrection life. They come to grasp Philippians 2:12-13. Life is not about us. God is at work in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

I wrote a parable a while back about a guy paddling his canoe in a luxury cruise ship swimming pool. With the canoe pressed hard against the pool’s forward wall, he paddles like mad, thinking he is moving the boat.

How about in 2017 we lay down our paddles. Scripture nowhere instructs us to break sweat for Jesus.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Still Beating the Alternative

The last time I served as pastor was as interim for two small United Methodist churches. One board member frequently lunched and coffee-ed me as he filled me in on rules, official and otherwise, I needed to follow to avoid stress. If we sat long enough a gimpy arthritic hip set to paining him and he had to walk and talk. Always he remarked that getting old is the pits, but it beats the alternative. I never hear or say that without thinking of him.

On this Tuesday, remarkable for being my 71st birthday, I am happy to say I am still beating the alternative with little reason to observe that getting old is the pits. My blood sugar number was a respectable 117, my blood pressure was 120/71 without benefit of drugs. All you like me who live by the numbers know what these mean. For those who don’t, these are good.

So, as I contentedly sip my third cup of coffee and let my breakfast sandwich (egg, bacon, and cheese on toasted multi-grain bread) settle, I feel pretty good for an old guy. I’ll go back to perusing the birthday wishes trickling in to my Facebook page. The first ones were there before I logged in shortly after 5:30 this morning.

Young Grandpa Keith

For non Facebook followers hear are pictures from my first visit to the Celery Fields wetland preserve this season. One Great Egret just because, and three shots of the first American Bittern I’ve seen not hiding in the grass refusing to pose. This one was most cooperative.