The Plan

Old Grandpa Lloyd with VBF Norma

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I’m possessed of a mind that compels me to ponder why things happen. Very best friend Norma calls it The Plan. I prefer mosaic of providence but I don’t argue. Norma regularly invites me for supper and I learned long ago to keep the cook happy.

The Plan came to mind Sunday as I sat in church watching widows—you do that when you’re 90. I once watched girls, but they are either dead or widows, who vastly outnumber widowers. How come I am still around?

Last week I found a hint. Son Keith drove me to Iron River, Michigan to meet a young widow named Debbie. She calls me Pastor Dad. We met online a year ago. Mike and Arlene Rucinski gave her Hole News posts and she liked what she read. Debbie was a new Christian with little background in the faith. She sought confidential conversation as she worked through the loss of her husband and issues common to all new believers. Our email exchange grew into warm friendship and I set up a time to meet her at Mike and Arlene’s Iron River home.

I first met Arlene and Mike in 1948 when I became their pastor at Iron River’s First Baptist Church. They were 15; I was 25. How they have aged! I married them in 1953.

Following an extended business career, they began and a long pastorate at Crystal Falls, Michigan and upon retirement retired to city and church of their youth. There, in the depth of distress, Debbie found Christ and supportive friends, including Mike and Arlene. We visited long and warmly in the Rucinski home.

As Keith and I drove homeward on U.S. 2, I remembered hitchhiking that route to Iron River 66 years before. I had no car or bus fare. First Baptist called me and we moved into the parsonage.

I remembered the youth group–best I ever had–Mike and Arlene among them. Five from the group subscribe to the Hole News.

I remembered the group email I sent to family as Elsie faded, never imagining it would grow into a blog with three hundred subscribers. By and by, the Hole News would move a hurting friend of Mike and Arlene to turn to me for comfort and counsel.

The mosaic of providence—better known as The Plan—is ever present.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

 

The Duck War

As a woodsy guy, I find Woodland Garden the ideal spot to live out my declining years. Declining I am; 91 will reach me in six weeks.

That’s fine with me. I’ve learned from many mountain trips the downhill hike gives the trail a whole new perspective.  I once heard a geezer say, “The trail is best discerned from the summit, looking back.”

Each morning I look out my third-floor living room window to feed my soul. To see what I see, click on www.lloydsstorytree.com. Browse the first story. It tells about climbing Mount Katahdin, the highest point in Maine.

Yesterday a fawn gamboled as the proud mama watched. In the evening, two mallard mamas led their troops to the pond; one with four ducklings, the other with seven. The mamas didn’t get along. Territorial domain, I suppose.

With acres of field, forest, and pond to explore, you would think the mamas would enjoy company. But the seven duck mama was mean to her neighbor. Maybe they are from different denominations. Sometimes wild critters are so like humans it’s scary.

I remember a pastors’ meeting when I was a kid preacher. Our district was discussing a new church for a community that promised growth as a copper mine reopened. The conservative men were nervous; church planting takes money. They suggested further study, a common foot-dragging ploy. The gung-ho guys said, “We must act now. If we don’t, that other bunch will move in.” The other bunch was another stripe of Baptist.

We sure didn’t have our ducks in a row.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

AWOL

For reasons unknown, a paragraph from yesterday’s Hole News went AWOL, obscuring my intent. I was discussing the difference between faith and belief, a difference is absent from the New Testament. The Greek word translated faith has both noun and verb forms, but not so in English, leading translators in need of a verb to employ believe.

But we properly distinguish between heart knowledge (faith) and head knowledge (belief). A historian may believe Jesus lived and was crucified yet have no understanding of the Lamb of God. The cabaret singer soulfully renders Amazing Grace but knows nothing about the song’s deeper meaning.

Spiritual truth is spiritually discerned. “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Faith is not an arbitrary option.   “…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Doctrine can only be theology’s best guess, hence the varying viewpoints among theologians. We give knowing truth our best shot then walk by faith, relying utterly on the sovereign grace of Creator God, yet we can claim assurance. Paul was persuaded, assured, of his eternal destiny (2 Timothy 1:2) and I am too. Twice I looked down the valley and knew peace.

How can we share our blessed hope? Listen to Peter: Always to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks…the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). Note everyone who asks.

Our job is to generate curiosity causing friends to wonder what gives us peace. Forget mass evangelism. Souls are born of the Spirit one at a time. Saving souls is God’s full-time business; we serve at his bidding.

Live Christ and you’ll never lack for opportunity to tell people what makes you tick.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Apples in a Seed

“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” Robert H. Schuler said that long after Charlie Ashmen titled his Camp Haluwasa book The Apples in a Seed. Let’s think about apples and seeds; belief and faith.

Blaise Pascal wrote, “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.”  New Testament translators use faith and belief interchangeably for one Greek word. Since faith lacks a verb form in English, they use believe. Yet English lends faith a nuance not fund in belief.

It takes no faith to believe one plus one equals two. Line up two apples and count them. It does take faith to plant an apple seed and expect fruit.  A lot can happen between a seed and a new tree. We sing blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. How can we be sure? We can’t put Jesus on display to weigh and listened to. We have the Bible, you say. The Bible proves nothing to persons holding to other religious books. Bible words are not magic.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us “…faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith persuades us but does nothing for people who don’t believe the Bible. Flashing John 3:16 between the goal posts does not convert anyone. Reciting Bible texts and creeds proves nothing. Our society does not lack information about Christianity.

Planting faith is God’s work, a gift of sovereign grace. The only evidence we can offer is the fruit of faith’s seed in our lives.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

A Memory with Smiles

In school I was a math/science avoider. I took only what was required as early on as possible and never looked back. My last math course was plane geometry in 10th grade. I completed High School without taking chemistry or physics, a benefit of switching schools relatively often, sometimes midyear. In college I escaped math altogether. But along with all other freshmen I was forced to take a year of biology, the botany portion of which was taught by Dr. Russ Johnson.

I remember little about the other professor, but Russ Johnson (his name is familiar to some Hole News readers), is unforgettable. He took more pleasure in peering through a microscope at the microbes swimming in a drop of pond water than I did in a free steak dinner. As a student “steak” and “free” were my two of my favorite words.

Like most of my peers I didn’t understand or appreciate Dr. Johnson’s enthusiasm and gentle ways. We made gentle fun him. Yet, after 45 years he shows up now and then to keep me company on walks in the woods. His Swedish tinged voice directs my attention the purple Lady Slipper growing under a tree. “Trees are wonderful,” Dr. Johnson says, “but don’t forget to look down. Not many flowers grow in the deep woods. You don’t want to miss any.” Indeed I don’t.

Young Grandpa Keith

In the Garden

July 7 marked the second anniversary of my move to Woodland Garden Apartments. Best friend Norma prepared a supper to honor the occasion. We lingered long, remembering and reflecting.  Sometimes reflection brought tears. I came to the Garden alone. I’m alone no longer.

Veteran Hole News readers may recall how hard I worked to nail down another apartment, and how I scolded God for moving so slowly. Sorry, God, but I’m no super-saint. You taught me I’m just one tile in the mosaic of providence that fits me you’re your big picture.

Life at the Garden is rich. A year ago it seemed my earthly tenure would end, but it was only a trial run.  Yesterday I hiked to the store; two years ago I could not hike across the street. The adventure of living in God’s kingdom continues.

If you go to www.lloydsstorytree.com, you will view the scene from my living room window. Scroll down and scan stories that will appear in By the Campfire’s Ruddy Glow. Today’s adventures may be less dramatic, but they are equally rewarding.

My Garden years brought several hard places, but the love of friends sustained me. My life has never been more fulfilling than it is today. I want for nothing.

Daughter Sally sent this from today’s Inward/Outward: “When Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, he was not prophesying about some easy, danger-free perfection that will someday appear. He was talking about a state of being, a way of living at ease among the joys and sorrows of our world…. This state of being is not something alien or mystical. We don’t need to earn it. It is already ours.” (Stephan Mitchell from The Gospel According to Jesus)

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Poets

It seems these days the only worthy use of an education is to get a job that pays well. After all, it takes money to be a consumer so that all the people making and selling stuff have customers who have the credit to buy it, the result of which is apparently the realization of life, liberty, and happiness.

The media abound in stories bad mouthing an educational system that doesn’t pump out graduates with the skills necessary to get high paying jobs. Colleges defend their cost with statistics showing graduates make more money over a lifetime than those without diplomas. I guess the way to pick a good college is to choose among those whose graduates have the best lifetime earnings record.

But, what of poets and other ponderers? We don’t matter in the capitalist scheme. There’s no money in reflecting on the beauty of lines just read, a painting just pondered, the butterfly that just flew past, the sound of a dragonfly’s wings, the drama of a heron closing in on an oblivious frog, the quiet wonder of ripples crystallizing the sky’s reflection as a breeze just barely brushes the pond.

Mammas, don’t encourage your babies in such things. There’s too little money to be made.

Young Grandpa Keith

Shoes Optional

Last Monday our Viroqua vacation took Norma and me to the Organic Valley home office where her son Jim works as a business analyst. We saw a notice: Shoes Optional. I thought that might be a touch of humor until we entered the elevator and came upon a mature, barefoot woman. Bright-red toenails smiled up at us.

Organic Valley is a different kind of business in many respects. Its sprawling, three-level corporate office reflects that difference. The employees’ values statement declares, “We have fun. We are not all work and no play. Celebration is essential to our success. Although our culture is casual, we honor our achievements with robust spirit.”

And the achievements are substantial. Organic Valley is among the nation’s biggest producers and distributors of organic produce, dairy, soy, and eggs. Beef, pork, turkey, and chicken products are distributed under the Organic Prairie brand. Marketing covers all 50 states, Canada, China and Japan. Total annual sales grew from $156 million in 2003 to $929 million in 2013. Sales this year will likely top one billion.

It all began in 1988 with a handful of Southwest Wisconsin farmers. Facing a business crisis, they formed a co-op. Twenty-five years later, membership stood at 1,834 representing 32 states and three Canadian provinces, making Organic Valley the world’s largest independent cooperative of organic family farmers.

Farmers make up the corporate board. The CEO is one of the founding members. Everything about Organic Valley breathes farm and home and care of the environment. It maintains its headquarters in the village of La Farge, population 754. The building is employee friendly including a fully-equipped fitness area, reflection rooms, quiet space for nursing mothers, and work clusters each with distinctive, symbolic, décor. At the press of a button, new work stations rise to standing position. You would never guess that just over a year ago, fire destroyed one-third of the building.

Click on www.organicvalley.coop to learn more about this fascinating family-friendly company.

If you visit, shoes are optional

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Day of the Dragonfly

After posting yesterday I headed out to see what was happening. In town the 4th was evidenced by yards bedecked in flags and tables moved outside for picnics. Some homes already had extra cars filling the driveways and lining the curb out front. The Mall and big box stores were busy with people scrambling for “up to 70% off” on holiday specials. Fast food restaurants were open but pretty much bereft of customers. Supermarkets appeared to be closed. If you were short of hotdogs you had to resort to convenience store prices.

The country was different. I drove perhaps 30 miles past dozens of farms and saw only one working a field with his tractor. Flags and balloons marked only three driveways to tell invited friends and family they had arrived. In those yards I could see tables shaded by trees waiting for guests. The rest I figured must be heading to town where it seemed every third house was expecting company.Caley on the 4th

I spent an hour at Caley Wildlife Refuge with insects and songbirds for company. I was stalking Dragonflies who were stalking tiny water bugs and watched a Red-winged Blackbird swoop down and strike at a dragonfly. He escaped this time. Dragonflies were the main attraction as indicated by the photos attached.Dragon Fly 1

Dragonfly 2

Dragonfly 3

 

Dragonflies 4 & 5

Young Grandpa Keith

238 Years Old and Counting

This morning appears to be the start of a weather-perfect 4th of July, at least where I am. It’s sunny with highs in the low 70’s. For beach bums that may be a tad cool, but for many of us it doesn’t get any better. The rest of my household is sleeping in. I’m watching my ground crew of pigeons, squirrels, and a few doves cleaning up the ground under my feeders. I was up before dawn in time to see the skunks doing the same ahead of everybody else. What’s missing is the sound of traffic. Holiday busyness hasn’t yet begun. Tonight the family will head for the park for music—a grandson is performing in an orchestra—and junk food, winding up with fireworks and no threatening weather to worry about.

I’m glad I don’t live on the Atlantic Coast that has been a bad weather magnet the last few years. I hope Hurricane Arthur stays mostly off shore and they are spared serious damage. But nothing can be done to make eating hamburgers and hotdogs indoors seem like a real picnic. Watching fireworks on TV is a poor substitute for the real thing. I have nothing to offer but sympathy.

However you are observing the day, do it enthusiastically. After all, The United States is 238 years old today, only a youth by historical measure, and despite our best efforts to screw things up, is still bumping along with its head above water, and still the world’s number one destination for those seeking a better life. Just try not to burn the meat, and keep the potato salad refrigerated.

Young Grandpa Keith