Uncharted Territory

I’ve lived my life mostly indifferent to medical care. I’ve had an occasional physical exam, consulted the doctor for bothersome symptoms, and generally taken the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to my health. That sufficed for most of my 70 years.

Several years ago I was interrupted by a ruptured appendix and I had my first hospitalization in more than 40 years with an extended recovery time because of the major incision. Last year I discovered I had Type 2 Diabetes. Now I monitor my blood sugar, swallow two inexpensive pills twice a day, and I see my doctor at least every three months.

A few days ago I reported to the hospital at 7:45 AM to receive 2 units of blood to raise my dangerously low iron level. For several weeks I stumbled painfully around in a fog without knowing why. The transfusions worked and now I’m pain free with the same rosy pink complexion as before instead of the yellow/white pallor my new Florida doctor noticed the moment he walked into the examination room and met me for the first time.

I’m not looking for sympathy, and I hope I’m not becoming obsessed with medical issues to bore everybody with. I am in uncharted less comfortable territory. I suppose it will normalize and I will carry on keeping my pill organizer handy and taking dietary restrictions and other limitations in stride. Like many others, I’m less the master of my fate than I used to be.

So, if you’ve noticed the decline in my Hole News participation recently, now you know why.

Young Grandpa Keith

It’s Your Move

On March 21 I’m scheduled for surgery to repair the colostomy occasioned by my 2010 cancer surgery. That adds up to six surgeries in six years, with number seven on the horizon—hip replacement. Sure doesn’t pay to grow old; your parts wear out.

At half past 92, another surgery gives you pause. How much time remains? I happily leave that with the Lord and live with joy and gratitude, closing each day with the same prayer: Dear Lord, If you don’t mind, please let me die before my brain does.

I don’t fear dying, for little will change except the body and geography. Scripture says little about either, but that doesn’t hinder us from speculating. We form guesses based on who knows what then search out Bible texts to prop them up.

I don’t give a hoot when I die. Change will be nothing new. I hopscotched through my adult life: 11 major moves; many minor ones. All the major moves happened apart from my initiative and I enjoyed each new home.

As my final move approached, I took charge. I located the perfect place. For three months I imagined, manipulated, and maneuvered. Nothing happened. Where are you Lord? He said hush and put me in Woodland Garden, a place I had never heard of. Turned out to be the best move of my life.

These next weeks, if you’re of a mind, you might mention me to the Lord. I’m having so much fun, I’d like to hang around awhile. .

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Let Me be Perfectly Clear

Whenever you read that, you can sure something obscure is on the way. Such is the case now. My three-point creed hoists many an eyebrow, raising questions. What about this or that?

I pack my faith in three bins: Mystery, Grace, and Incarnation. Am I dead-on certain my view is right? No, but it suits me. Uncertainties I store in the mystery bin.

There’s lots of stuff we can’t wrap our minds around: deity being a big one. I can’t “prove” God. You say God must exist: look at the universe; nothing can come from nothing. Well how about God? Where did he/she come from? In his agnostic days, friend Bill summed it up: “If there is a God, he will be God, with or without me.”  Clear enough.

Sovereign grace assumes a God who cares for his creation, who freely gives everything we possess. Religion puts a price on God’s favor, but religion is only someone’s guess. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

Creed bin three, Incarnation, was God’s escape from mystery. He became human to teach mortals all our limited minds can grasp of his person. I follow that Word become flesh as best I can, letting let him set the rules and guide my limping steps.

Do I make myself clear?

Old Grandpa Lloyd

My Friend the King

I quote Susan Kline frequently because her Fresh Start devotionals so often nail a subject that has been preying on my mind. In recent days, I have pondered my perception of Jesus.

This morning, Susan drew on Psalm 24: 8:  “Who is this king of glory? The Lord strong and mighty…”  Her piece sent me to a YouTube clip from a sermon by master preacher C.M. Lockridge. I joined in with three hallelujahs and half a dozen fist pumps. Next time you need to refuel, google YouTube: That’s My King.

It’s time we cease thinking of Jesus as a wise good buddy and see him as  very God, Lord of Lords, the King of kings.

Some time ago, I forsook the cock-sure dogmas of my tribe in favor of a three-point creed: mystery, sovereign grace, and Incarnation. I became a  follower of King Jesus. In olden times, kings held absolute power. To claim to believe in the king then go about doing your own thing could cost you your head. Believing equals obeying; it can’t be otherwise.

Through my early years I followed tribal rules, looking askance at other tribes. Then I found that forgetting rules and walking quietly with Jesus led to the best life I could possibly have. So I no longer worry about controlling mortals; I chuck heavy theological stuff in my mystery bin; and  I let each day happen, fuelling up Sunday by Sunday at my beloved church.

Once my territory stretched from coast to coast. Now I wander about  Woodland Garden and frosty Duluth being the best neighbor I can. It’s a rare day I don’t come across someone in need of a smile, a touch, or an encouraging word. And often, very often we chat about King and the kingdom.

How great to know the King as a friend.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Heaven: Mystery and Myth

You asked for my take on heaven, Joe. I’ll try to give it without preacherly jargon.

You are right. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about heaven. Our concepts come from artists, poets, and theological imaginings. It seems almost unkind to explode them.

My folk heaven tunes everything to my tastes. (I take no stock whatever in near-death visions found in popular books.) Do we really want our departed babies and aged parents to go through eternity in diapers? How do we envision your Julie and my Elsie? Elsie wasted down to 60 pounds.

I hope to see you in heaven, Joe, though I’m not sure, remembering that cruel morning on a creek when you laughed like a fool because I stepped in over my hip boots. You are 90 and I am 92; we’re both wobbly afoot. I want to walk the streets of gold with a steady pace and join you at the crystal stream, fly rod in hand.

Scripture gives us some hints of heaven: The Transfiguration tells us the dead retain their identity. The repentant thief on the cross learned of heaven’s immediacy. Jesus taught that earthly relationships will change:  “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels…” We have no hint if we will remember from our days on earth. Many things I’d like to forget. We must not build our image of heaven on Jesus’ story of beggar Lazarus and the rich man; certainly not on the witch of Endor.

Maybe we try too hard to solve the mystery of heaven. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 that he was “caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.”

Heaven will remain a mystery until we get there; but whatever the details, heaven will be far better than our best moments on earth. Julie and Elsie are “away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Revelation 21 places heaven on our planet, a new heaven and earth. That heaven will come when Creator God completes what he had in mind when he lit the big bang.

Meanwhile, I leave it to theologians (professional guessers) to mutter about heaven. For you and me, Joe, where Jesus is, ‘tis heaven there. Sing it with me.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Joe and the Gypsy Fortuneteller

Through the years, the Lord has blessed me with special friends. Among them, Joe Burkhardt, a fishing buddy. Joe, now 90, lives in California. Two years ago, his Julie died and he emailed, asking my thoughts about heaven.  While I work on that, I’ll tell you my favorite Joe story. It runs long, so if you’re busy, pick it up another time:

Revisiting the past is a preoccupation common to us old guys. Sometimes we look back and wonder how we could have been so stupid. I seem to have more than my share of such memories. Among them was that evening at Center Lake Camp, the year Joe Burkhart served as director.

The summer of 1953 our family moved to Muskegon, Michigan to serve Wayside Baptist Church. Two years later, Joe came to teach science at Lincoln School across from our church. He and his family joined the church.

Joe and I both had Scouting in our backgrounds, and since the community had no organized youth activity, we explored starting a troop at Lincoln School. We contacted the Scout office, put out feelers for committee members, and the idea caught on. Joe became Scoutmaster; I volunteered to be chaplain. Within a year, Troop 58 had 60 kids.

Each summer, Joe planned a troop camping trip. The 1956 plan was to circle Lake Michigan. The Troop committee bought and refurbished a used school bus and in early June we headed for Imp Lake in the Ottawa National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Following five days at Imp Lake, we drove south through Wisconsin for an overnight at Wisconsin Dells. There we found a Gypsy fortune teller among the attractions. I sensed a story in that mysterious lady with her cards and red kerchief.

The following summer, Joe hired on as summer director for Center Lake Bible Camp near Cadillac, Michigan. I signed up for young teen week, with evening campfires among my duties. As I pondered the first campfire, The Gypsy fortune teller came to mind. I plotted with Joe.

A waning moon lit the sky as campers and staff gathered on the grassy hill overlooking the lake. Campers and younger staff circled the fire. Folding chairs accommodated older staff and visitors; among them, a white-haired grandmother. Joe stood just outside of the camper circle, the fire between him and me. After campfire songs, I launched the story.

I told about our Imp Lake trip and overnight at the Dells. Then truth drifted off. I pictured me and Joe mingling with tourists at the fortune teller’s booth, not hiding our skepticism. The Gypsy grew growing increasingly irritated. Suddenly, she ripped a page from her notepad, scrawled hasty words, strode into the crowd and confronted me. “You shall see! You shall see!” She thrust the crumpled note into my hand. I paused and fished out my wallet, extracting a wrinkled paper and said, “Come to think about it, that was just a year ago today.”

I smoothed the paper.  “Don’t know why I kept it this. I don’t believe in fortune tellers.” I paused and pretended to study it by firelight. From the circle: “What did she write?” “Ridiculous!” I said, “Joe and I are best of friends.” I read slowly: “On this day another summer, one of you will slay the other.” That was Joe’s cue. With a bloodcurdling yell he leaped campers and fire, heading for me. I hurled myself down the hill into the darkness, Joe close behind. We lay in the tall grass stifling laughter. That was one campfire the kids would remember! Little did we know.

At the fire circle, panic. Campers cried. The grandmother came close to a heart attack. Adult staffers grew angry. When Joe and I appeared, expecting applause for a masterful performance, our laughter turned to chagrin. Said one stern soul, “How could you!” Good question.

Monarchs and Bluebirds

From earliest memory, the world of nature has gripped me. Fields and forests, flowers, birds, and butterflies. Recently, a link from a friend set my soul to singing. I scrolled through an array of butterflies; their beauty and diversity spoke a parable to my heart.

I’m told there are nearly 20,000 butterfly/moth species around the world; all are alike in some respects, different in others. Each specie fills a niche in nature’s scheme. That being so, should I wonder at humanities’ diversity, or my role in life? We are different colors, sizes, shapes, aptitudes, and skills; yet all people are alike in heart, mind, and soul, all of us filling a niche in God’s grand scheme, however small.

I am old and growing older. Though I still function reasonably well, I often  wonder why God keeps me around in this flawed carcass. How do I relate to his grand purpose? That is none of my concern. I’m not where I am by chance; I have my assigned niche. All God asks is that I fill it. I’m content with that.

A Dusty Millar Moth need not envy a Monarch, or a wren a bluebird.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

I’m No Mountain Man

Once in my 40’s I was hiking up a mountainside in Kentucky. I huffed and puffed my way to a resting place. Other hikers had steadily gained on me and caught me while I was catching my breath. They paused to talk. They hailed not far from my Michigan home. They were mostly in their 20’s I guessed, except for their grandfather/guide who lived near the mountain. He was 80 and a mountain man if there ever was one.

I deferred to their youth allowing them to go ahead up the steep trail, grandpa in the lead. He used a walking stick as tall as he and strode up the path as if he was sauntering down his rural driveway to the mailbox. His grandchildren strained to keep up. I don’t know if the walking stick was an accommodation to age or a common sense adjunct to mountain hiking. Soon they were out of sight.

After two hours I reached the top, a flat ridge that had been home to America’s last pioneer settlement. I found the speedier hikers by a bulletin board on which visitors had left comments. They were laughing at one: “I’d kill for a Cracker Barrel.” They had finished their exploration of the old settlement and headed back.

At only seventy about the steepest hill I tackle anymore is the thirteen-step climb to my room in my daughter’s home. I like my trails flat, preferably with bird habitat offering excuses to pause and snap pictures. That way I get to rest, indulge my hobby, and nobody considers me a wuss. Now you know why I post no pictures of mountain birds.

There will, however, be more Florida water birds. None of them live uphill from me.

Young Grandpa Keith

Geezer Treasures

They say heaven will be far better than life on earth. Maybe so, but that will take some doing. I had a taste of heaven this bone-chilling January day.

After early breakfast (about 4:00), I took to my lounge chair to read The Trouble with Islam, by Irshad Manji. Great book. An author who doesn’t make you pause to think now and then is hardly worth reading. I paused. It’s almost scary to note how Manji’s search for spiritual wholeness paralleled mine. Christians don’t behead their foes, but character assassination is common. I tapped into the perfect peace Jesus promised, leaned back, and took a nap.

A rap on the door woke me. Norma entered for our morning briefing. You can’t beat that for a day starter. Just after she left, the Sage of Juniata Street phoned. Time for coffee? There’s always time for coffee. He picked me at 10:00. We took a table by the fireplace at Dunn Bros and didn’t come up for air until close to 2:00. How about Perkin’s for lunch?  Soup, salad, and well-seasoned philosophy occupied us until after 3:00. A sweetheart and coffee buddy are among life’s choicest geezer pleasures.

Back at the apartment, I fired up the computer. A dozen emails (mostly routine) and a raft of Facebook likes. Two new Hole News subscribers—Ireland and U.S. An e-note from Inga Donaldson in Swaziland (See Jan 13 Bingo blog). Then Norma stopped by to remind me of the spare ribs/sauerkraut community supper at 5:00.

We shared a table with two special friends. I scanned the room. About 40 residents enjoying Cliff’s culinary art to the background music of friends having fun.  Something heavenly about that. Not religious; heavenly.

I no longer fracture life into sacred and secular moments. Where Jesus is, ‘tis heaven there.  I like that song.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Heading South, Slightly

Last Friday, with sub-zero threatening, Norma and I headed south for North Oaks, Minnesota to spend the weekend with Norma’s son David, his wife Kristi, and Nicolle, age eight. The family moved to Minnesota from Charlotte, South Carolina just before Christmas. Kristi had accepted a position with Land O’ Lakes. David manages the household and looks after Nicolle, a delightful third-grader.

Sunday afternoon, we enjoyed a violin recital presented by Nicolle and 12 other student musicians. They played selections ranging from Bessie Cow to Manuntelel (Quick Dance). I voted Nicolle #1 for poise, attack, and intonation. Foster-grandfatherly pride?

Our trip began with a small-world encounter. I had requested the front seat in the van to accommodate my gimpy right hip. As the driver assisted me he said, “I read Lloyd Mattson on the passenger list and wondered if he is the man I knew 40 years ago.” Indeed he is. I pastored North shore Baptist; driver Mark Steen served at Twin Ports Bible. We reminisced our way from Duluth to Forest Lake, our destination.

David, Kristi, and Nicolle will find Minnesota winters challenging. For evidence, visit Kristi Kangas’ Facebook page. See what happens when you toss boiling water into  sub-zero air. You will find additional photos of our visit.

The days were full. We visited, watched football, and played a table game (I lost). Nicolle and I drew pictures together. Grandma Norma and Nicolle spent hours together.  At mealtime, Nicolle donned an apron, took our orders on a restaurant pad, and gracefully served our food.

I look forward to her company in July, when the family visits Duluth’s annual airshow.

Our return to Duluth Monday came with entertainment. A voluble passenger bent the driver’s ear with story after story of personal exploits in many parts of the world.

We thank daughter Sally and Dale for transporting us to and from the shuttle.

We always find breaks from Woodland Garden routine refreshing, but it’s so good to get home.

I appreciate Norma’s extended family. They all treat me kindly.

Old Grandpa Lloyd