The Essentials

Emmanuel Baptist is seeking a new pastor. We wore out Pastor Dave after 14 years and he up and retired. Brent Nelson keeps us banging away as interim pastor. Great preacher! I learn something new every week. He and his wife Kathy were part of my North Shore youth group 35 years ago.

The pastor search committee sent each member a questionnaire. I filled out mine with a smile, remembering when I was on the other end of the search. My prayer: Lord, send us the person we need for unknowables to come.

We’re a geezer church–Q-Tips, the girl from 313 calls us. Ten years from now, probably half today’s congregation will be belting it out in the heavenly choir. I’ll bring my harmonica. Change is inevitable, and proper. I like our traditional worship: organ, piano, hymnbooks and Bibles; no handwriting on the wall, no boom- boom. We happily allow accordions and Mike Nelson’s sweet fiddle. But tomorrow?

Acts 2:42 gives us the biblical essentials, modeled by the first Christians after Pentecost. They “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. However tomorrow’s Emmanuel chooses to live out its life and worship, I pray those essentials will never be lost: Apostles teaching—a living, loving, present Christ; the fellowship—caring for one another; breaking of bread—remembering the cross; and prayer—sharing needs near and far before the Throne.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Chuck Those Shades

Bob Snyder cited Isaiah 43:18-19 in yesterday’s In the Journey. His provocative writing always stimulates me, but this piece grabbed me by the throat.

Bob quoted ESPN sports personality Ron Jaworski: “We have too many historians and not enough pioneers. Critiquing the past without investing work and creativity into future solutions is harmful.” Bob commented: Today’s world is filled with people who critique past events with gusto and confidence, but few who courageously tackle problem-solving.  Obviously, understanding history and learning from my mistakes is important. It is also important to remember that God is in my future.

Mia culpa. I often gab about the ills of today’s church leaders and politicians, generating a lot of smoke but no light. The big world doesn’t give a hoot what I think, but maybe a few in my small circle do. Consider Isaiah’s words: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

God remains in full control. Nothing is new in our messy world; Church leaders and politicians have always squabbled, for the Church and politics are sheer sociology–the alpha wolf thing. Leaders rise and fall; empires come and go; signs of the times repeat over and over; all the while God’s plan continues unabated.Our task is to live out the Christ life day by day, loving each other and serving needs around us, reveling in the the Spirit’s constant Presence.

I can’t do a thing about Congress except vote and complain. I can do something for the curly-headed black lad who came with foster Grandma this morning to deliver Meals on Wheels. We stood together by the fish tank watching colorful critters swim about. We especially liked the ugly brown one vacuuming the gravelly bottom. We fist bumped.

If the light dancing in a child’s eyes doesn’t dispel the gloom from your day, chuck those shades.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

I Love You Truly

I love you: sweetest words human lips can can utter; one notch above Let’s eat. I whisper those words daily to the girl from 313, not necessarily in that order. What a priceless gift, to have someone to love.
 
Sadly, we throw love around so recklessly the word has lost much of its richness. Three words in the Greek are translated love: agape, phileo, and eros (erotic). Eros never appears in scripture. Some theologians would rank agape above phileo, but some Bible passages use them interchangeably.  I prefer simple Christian love.
 
Love is the essence of following Jesus. Scripture says a person who claims to love God and does not love others is a liar. Christian love renders Christ-like treatment to all without regard to feelings, and that is the only way we can serve God.
 
Of course we enjoy some some people more than others, and properly so, but when we practice Christian love aside from feelings, good feelings often follow.
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd

Of Typewriters and Harmonicas

In 1937, I made an impulsive decision that haunts me every time I type a sentence. And all because a girl cried.
 
The fall semester at East Junior High had just begun. I was majoring in shop and signed up for Typing. I found I was the only boy in the class. On the first day, I stared at my typewriter. Blank keys! QWERTY said a sign above the blackboard.
 
A flustered girl rushed in, two minutes late. I’m sorry, said the teacher, but all the typewriters are taken. The girl burst into tears. Oh, give her mine, I said, and hunted out Printing.
 
Had I known what my life held in store, I might not has been so hasty. I learned to hand-set type in a stick from a California case and run a snapper press, but I lived out my years a modified hunt-and-peck typists.
 
That bugged me until I visited the Robert Louis Stevenson museum in Scotland and saw his writing tools and manuscripts. Stevenson did fairly well, as you recall, without a typewriter.
 
Another comeuppance hit me recently. I got talking harmonicas on Facebook with a music friend, Abe Thomas. In response to my comment on the limitations of the ten-hole diatonic, Abe posted a clip of a harmonica artist from India that blew my mind. Convinced he had a special harp, I asked Abe the brand. I ordered one–90 bucks–and learned right off: The music isn’t in the instrument, it’s in the musician.
 
Such matters no longer bug me. Maybe the Lord assigned me to hold that typewriter for a special purpose in the crying girl’s life. I’ve managed to hunt and peck through a couple dozen books and thousands of stories and articles. And I parlayed that fifty-cent, tobacco-flavored Marine Band of my childhood into hours of pleasure and into the hands of over 500 kids.
 
Some strive to make their lives a symphony. I’m fully content, as evening comes on, to be a front-porch harmonica guy.
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd

Smiles and Tears

Haircutter Connie showed Wednesday to trim the edges for another month. Then the Sage of Juniata Street came and we headed for Dunn Brothers. Life’s richest treasure is a friend, and I am wealthy. Clyde Rogers and I share wide-ranging interests and enjoy one another’s company.
 
Two hours into our conversation, Clyde’s phone jingled. Pauline? what’s up? Pause. I’m at Dunn’s straightening out Lloyd Mattson. Come join us. Pauline is part of Clyde’s book club. She has been a mutual friend since house church years. She came limping in, recovering from a broken leg suffered when a horse fell on it. Pauline runs a hardscrabble horse farm. We talked for an hour and Clyde and I returned to theology, philosophy, and books for another hour.
 
Back to the apartment, I took to the lounge chair to chew my cud. You non-farmers can look that up. Pauline stirred bitter-sweet memories: the sad death of North Shore Church; the birth of the house church. I take my place at the wall near the center of the living room. Clyde to my left. He leads worship when I can’t. Pauline sits off to my right with her young niece.
 
We sing He is Lord; I present a short devotional. Elsie occupies a lounge chair across from me. At share time, she recalls walking across the Northwestern Bible School campus arm in arm with Billy Graham. We have coffee and goodies.
 
As drive homeward. I caution Elsie, Watch your stories, Honey. You know that Billy Graham tale is not true. She replies, You need therapy! You’re forgetting things.
 
Smiles and tears–both part of life.
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd

Onward to #95

A really good birthday. Woodland Garden seems more like a college dorm than a seniors’ apartment. Greeting cards by the dozen taped to the door; more cards in the mail. A hundred plus Facebook greetings. Guess I’ll hang around a while.
 
Darrin Carlson from St. Louis County Public Health & Human Services kicked off the day. He came for the annual checkup to see if I my poverty persists. I sent him home with books. Not sure I could I could stay at the Garden without County help. Pushing a vacuum while waltzing Matilda (my walker) doesn’t jive. I’m grateful for Dawn’s regular visits to launder, dust, clean bathroom and kitchen, and vacuum.
 
Phone greetings from family and friends through the day. Kindly words in the halls. Birthdays are big at Woodland Garden. If I’m still around, I’ll throw another party at Woodland Garden to celebrate #95.
 
We rounded out the day at Valentini’s Italian Restaurant. Daughter Sally and Dale and son Kevin and Tena joined me and Norma. We also celebrated Tena’s new job, soon to begin. She and Kevin will move to Viroqua, Wisconsin, taking Tena home and near her grandkids. We’ll miss them!
 
Happy, grateful, and humbled.
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd

God’s Math Book: Part Two

Part Two: Are solar eclipses proof of God? By Eric Metaxas. Published August 20, 2017 Fox News. To read Part one, go to www.holenews.org.

Of course, what this all meant was simply that these immemorially ancient and vast objects (sun and moon), though as different in size as a single BB and a super gigantic beach ball – one that was over six feet in diameter – would from our perspective here on Earth seem almost precisely the same size.  So if they ever just happened to align in the sky, they would match up perfectly. Not almost perfectly. But perfectly, and bizarrely so.

What might be the odds of this just happening randomly? Almost all the planets in our solar system have no moons or many moons (Jupiter has 60) of incredibly varying sizes. So this sort of thing doesn’t happen anywhere else in our solar system. But our planet has just one moon that happens to be just the right size and just the right distance from Earth.

I found the precision necessary for all of this unbelievable. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that there was no way this could be a mere coincidence. It seemed almost planned. In fact, it seemed utterly planned, as all things of such precision must be.

To bring this closer to home, imagine holding a BB twelve inches from our face and then asking a friend to carry the six-foot diameter beach ball as far down the beach as necessary – until it appeared precisely the same size from our perspective as the tiny BB. Keep in mind our beach ball is six-feet in diameter while a normal large beach ball is less than two feet in diameter. Our friend would have to hike 400 feet before the giant beach ball and the tiny BB matched up in size. That’s about the distance from home plate to the centerfield fence in most major league baseball stadiums.

So can the sun’s and moon’s diameters – and distances from Earth – be merely coincidentally matched up this perfectly? Everything about it makes that seem ridiculous. But of course you can decide for yourself.

Three thousand years ago a man in Israel wrote:  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” That man didn’t have a telescope or a Brittanica, but he saw something many of us today still do not see. He saw a God behind it all. It may be true that seeing a Grand Designer behind these breath-taking events requires what we call a leap of faith; but it may also be true that seeing mere coincidence behind them requires an even greater leap of faith. In my mind, much greater. But…you may be the judge.

Thanks you, Eric Metaxas   http://ericmetaxas.com/

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

God’s Math Book

A two-parter on God’s other book:

Are solar eclipses proof of God? By Eric Metaxas 

Published August 20, 2017 Fox News

On Monday something will happen in the U.S. that should startle or at least perplex anyone who gives it any thought. I am referring to the full solar eclipse you may already be anticipating. To be clear, thinking about what is about to happen has little to do with the sheer visceral experience of being amazed by it, as we must be. Before thinking about it, we should perhaps first simply goggle at it, at the monumental majesty of these monstrously large heavenly orbs, both of which we typically take mostly for granted.

Is it not remarkable that these ever-present objects – though separated by nearly one hundred million miles – should once in a very great while perform this curiously perfect dance? But to what end?

So this sort of thing doesn’t happen anywhere else in our solar system. But our planet has just one moon that happens to be just the right size and just the right distance from Earth.

But what might make us start to think a bit about this event is that this celestial pas de deux is being performed only for us.  Anywhere but here on this planet on Monday, the view of these two objects is nothing special. It is only what we see from our terrestrial vantage point that is special. It’s almost as though what we will marvel at was artfully arranged specifically for our benefit. Which brings us to the curious and startling part of the story.

About fifteen years ago an odd idea popped into my head.  Google was just a gurgling infant. But I happened to have a sturdy Brittanica nearby and I pulled out a dusty volume and quickly discovered the diameter of the sun. It is precisely 864,576 miles. The diameter of the moon was listed at 2,159 miles. I then looked up the distance from Earth to the sun, which varies slightly, but is generally given as 93 million miles. And then I found the distance from Earth to the moon. That varies slightly too, so the average is given as 239,000 miles.

Armed with these four figures, I did some simple math. I divided the sun’s diameter (864,576) by the moon’s (2,159) and got 400.452. If my strange hunch was correct, dividing the distance from the Earth to the sun (93,000,000) by the distance from the Earth to the moon (239,000) should give me something similar. It certainly did. My calculations yielded 389.121. And there it was. I stared at the numbers, amazed. Was the correlation in these ratios mere coincidence?

To be continued.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Content!

Every now and then I take a lick about my theology. I love Jesus, my church, and the Scriptures. But a literal, inerrant Bible?

How about two-million souls wandering the barren Sinai desert with herds and flocks for 40 years. Or the Noah’s hand-made Ark sustaining a million pair of critters large and small, afloat for ten months.  Maybe the Bible is more complex than we think.

The Bible blends 66 ancient manuscripts written over 1600 years on cumbersome leather scrolls. Who recorded Israel’s story from Abraham to Moses? Not Moses. The account records his death. And who gathered 150 poems and songs from hundreds of years to give us our blessed Psalms?

No individual owned a Bible in ancient times; all teaching was oral. The single-volume Bible had to wait 1400 years for Johannes Guttenberg’s printing press. A fascinating, tangled history precedes today’s Bible, with many fingers in the pie; some unsanitary.

You can’t do theology apart from history. Do you imagine Isaiah or Malachi ever imagined their writings would one day be bunched together with others in a single book?

From the first to the last, writers of the Bible pointed toward a coming Redeemer. He came in the fullness of time, God’s Living Word. He claimed all authority, so following Jesus, I can’t go wrong.

When the Bible-versus-science argument thunders around me, I think of poor Copernicus and Galileo. How sure literalists were back then! Raise your hands, all you who believe the sun revolves around Planet Earth.

My creed is simple: Mystery, Sovereign Grace, Incarnation. I’m fully content.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

An Ancient Issue Revisited

Susan Kline’s recent Fresh Start Devotional addresses an issue as old as Job: Why do good people suffer bad things? She cites n Matthew 5:45: “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Here are Susan’s thoughts, lightly edited.
 
This is not a perfect world and never will be until the new heaven and new earth arrives. In a perfect world, little children wouldn’t get caught in the crossfire of feuding gang members; fathers wouldn’t be ripped from their families due to the ravages of war; people wouldn’t die of cancer; tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornadoes wouldn’t destroy homes, schools, and whole towns.
 
Once the world was perfect, but when sin became part of the equation, murder, disease, and all manner of bad things began to happen.
 
We are not immune to sin, and we are not immune to bad happenings. But what about good people who suffer bad things, not the consequence of sin? A child with a congenital defect; a mother and child killed in an accident. Scripture is full of such accounts.
 
In Ecclesiastes Solomon said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” “Whoever digs a pit may fall into it, and whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.” Joseph did nothing to deserve being sold by his brothers. He refused sin, yet Potiphar’s wife had him thrown in prison. One day, wise Joseph would acknowledge, what man meant for harm, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).
 
Psalm 119:68 declares God is good and what He does is good. Though we can’t always understand why, we can accept this truth: Even through hard-to-accept circumstances, God is good and does good .
 
Habakkuk questioned why God would tolerate wrongdoing and allow bad things to happen. God’s response: I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. God is good and he does good, even when we don’t understand.
 
Thanks, Susan. These confusing days cry for such reminders
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd