About grandpalloyd

Somewhat retired and approaching old age; as content and fulfilled as ever I have been in my 92 years.

The Poor in Spirit: An anniversary greeting

My pastoral life began the summer of 1945 at Spirit Baptist Church. Given my ignorance and poverty, Spirit was a dumb decision; but I wouldn’t trade the few weeks there for all the gold in Alaska.

My Spirit adventures began the first week of June. A 200 mile drive across U.S. 2 lay ahead of us. My 1931 Chevy door pulled a rag-tag trailer loaded with baggage for me, Elsie, our toddler Sally, and two volunteer VBS teachers. We drove out of St. Paul early Saturday, aiming to preach at Spirit Baptist Sunday morning. Three flat tires and two overnights later, we reached Spirit, dead broke; a condition that persisted all summer.

The VBS teachers went off to assignment in Prentice and Ogema, and Elsie and I settled into our summer abode: the church kitchen and classroom converted into a bedroom. My first glimpse of country life church began. I have relived the adventures over and over. The congregation gave me far more than I gave. In late summer, the congregation asked me to continue with them through Christmas, commuting from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul.

Spirit stories have found their way into many of my writings, stories like The Deer Shining, a night with terrifying potential.  The Green Lantern Episode, when dear Tillie declared I had all but ruined the church. Sunday potlucks, the clank of horseshoes; fishing trips to the river with the Antone Nelsons; Pearson Lake crappies in a purloined boat with shovel paddle; the tragic tractor roll that took the life of the Blomberg patriarch from Ogema.

I guess I preached acceptably. I spent time with church kids. We were treated to farm-home dinner feasts. I collected my $25 weekly stipend in coins and bills meted out from the treasurer’s cigar-box bank. Times with church guys while the ladies did their thing. Snippets of memory from those days keep returning.

At summer’s end, church friend helped our family back to St. Paul—the trailer was long gone—and my weekend commute began.

That uncorks another set of adventures. It soon became evident the Chevy wasn’t up to the 400-mile round trip, so I turned to the Soo Line steam train—12 bucks round trip, clergy rate. I reached Prentice after midnight and found the Chevy waiting in an auto repair garage near the depot. That worked fine until the freeze-up.

One weekend reality set in. I got off the train to be greeted by one lonely street light two blocks away. I wore a suit, overcoat, hat and no gloves.  The Chevy starter only grunted in protest.  By moonlight, I scrounged an old oil pan and stack of oily rags. By some miracle, I had book matches. Setting the rags afire, I shoved the pan under the engine and watched flames lick up around the engine. I tried the starter again, and there arose the sweetest sound this side of heaven. I dove off for Spirit, leaving the oil pan ablaze. That night, the radiator froze.

For the remaining weeks, kind church folks ferried me back and forth from Prentice. The Antone Nelsons provided a bed in their warm home. The Sunday after Christmas, I said goodbye to Spirit, leaving the Chevy buried in snow next to the church. A thoughtful soul gave me ten bucks for it.

On October 19 through 21, Spirit Baptist celebrates 125 years of ministry.  The congregation has touched thousands in their corner of rural Wisconsin and around the world through its sons and daughters. I send greetings, and deep gratitude for enduring and launching me on the path of ministry that continues today.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

A Sad, Sad Day

It’s a sad, sad day when family turns on a feeble old man, calling attention to his faulty memory and failure to attribute a source. I know Robert Frost wrote a road less travelled. He should have used taken–more poetic–so I did it for him.
 
Out of mercy, I will not name that cruel son-in-law, nor refer to his irregularities. He ran marathons, over hill and Dale! He once biked from Arizona to Minnesota–in the summer! No person possessed of sound reason would do that.
 
You would think, having attained 75–or thereabout–he would pity his elders. But I’m a reasonable man. I will not cut him out of my will. I will, however, reduce his share by half: four harmonicas down to two, both D Flat.

A Road Less Taken

Recently, a Facebooker ticked off a list of the bad stuff going on around us: wars, floods, hurricanes, fires, mass shootings, Washington shenanigans, threats overseas. Things are so bad, Facebooker concluded, Jesus must return soon.

I smiled. That’s what some New Testament folks said, and doomsayers have been repeating it ever since. What arrogance causes some mortals to think God sets his clock by their annoyance or fear? Things have always been bad somewhere; sometimes bad bunches up.

Though writing in another vein, I like Neil deGrasse Tyson’s thoughts quoted in yesterday’s Writer’s Almanac. I paraphrase: The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you…humans want to think that they’re the center of the world, that events happening locally in their lifetimes are significant in a way that is out of proportion with reality. (Humans) are part of all of life on Earth, part of all the planets that exist in the galaxy, part of an entire system of the universe. End quote.

Earthly wisdom gives us no simple answer to natural disasters or human perversity. Nature and humanity are incredibly complex. Stalins and Hitlers outnumber Mother Teresas in the headlines and on a tribal level. Put three people together, and the alpha wolf syndrome sets in, often subtly. That’s basic sociology. Ever run afoul a noisy religious leader?

Was a day I had answers to questions not yet asked; answers from my tribe. Then I found a more comfortable road. Can I prove I’m right? No. But I’m not obligated to heed every voice raised against me. My guidance comes from the One who claimed all authority on heaven and earth. I simply follow him.

What if I’m wrong? I’ll take my chances. And please don’t throw the Bible at me; I know the book fairly well, where it came from and how we got it. Should it turn out I took the wrong road, I sure enjoy the scenery.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

North Winds Will Blow

It’s close to midnight. Coyotes are yipping nearby. I’m piling kindling to warm heart and mind when Minnesota does what it does come autumn. I added three new books to the pile.

Book 1. Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall. Hole News today: Early pages spooked me–Hall seemed to be channeling my experience. The former Poet Laureate, a favored writer, provides a candid look at old age. I savor Hall’s prose, love his zingers. Though we’re far apart in lifestyle and philosophy, I always learn something useful from an honest writer.

Book 2: Losing My Mind, Thomas DeBaggio. DeBaggio gives us a first hand report on living with Alzheimer’s from diagnosis at 57 through slowly fading viability. Uniquely put together, the book will strengthen those who walk a friend or loved one through this dread disease.

Book 3: Didn’t See That Coming, by Roger James Kuhns. Dozens of stories drawn Kuhns’ geological assignments near and far. More as I get into the book. Also, Kuhns’ companion film: Escarpment, Adventures Along the Niagara Escarpment. A glimpse of how Creator God put this speck in the universe together.

Thanks for the book and film, Jeanne, dear keeper of Lost Moth Gallery.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Webmaster Jackie tells me security measures affected recent Hole News email posts. Be patient, good people run the website. They will work the problem.

Past, Present, Future–Reposted

Norma and I are catching up after visitor-filled weeks. Son Keith kicked off the parade in mid-August; son Joel wrapped it up yesterday, flying home to Everett, Washington with 44 pounds of Rogotzke sockeye fillets—community fish fry coming up.

Between son visits, cousin Len Mattson, age 87, spent four days with us. We talked into the night and prowled the Kelsey woods for the ancestral Mattson Kelsey farmstead. Finding the road overgrown, Len collected taconite pellets along the nearby railroad tracks and I gained a rusted slice of track for my souvenir shelf.

Joel’s visit kept us hopping. At my apartment, he tended tasks beyond my gimp. Ah the energy of youth! At 70, Joel is dead center in my brood: 74, 72, 70, 65, and 62. If Elsie had quit having all those kids, we wouldn’t have been so poor.  We shared a sibling dinner with Sally, husband Dale, and Kevin. Next day, we toured Saint Ann’s Assisted Living, my next way station, if I live that long. Noma, Joel, and I shared helpful conversation about the years ahead.

Other visitors included Veronica Gannucci Ciurle, founder/director of Duluth Harbor Mission. We had mutual friends in Cotton, Minnesota, my mother’s homestead country. A future post will tell more about Veronica and Harbor Mission.  www.duluthhm.org/ministries.

In mid-September, John Ashmen, President of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM) visited Duluth. He called on AGRM member Veronica then joined me and Clyde Rogers for lunch. Clyde, a member of the Minnesota State commission for addiction treatment, directed the Duluth Bethel or 27years, the second oldest rescue mission in America.  .

John’s visit loosed a flood of memories. He was a 15-year-old sax-playing, guitar-strumming teen at Camp Haluwasa in New Jersey when I met him in the late 60s.  His dad, Charlie Ashmen, was a colleague in the launching of Christian Camping International (CCI), now a worldwide movement.  I watched John move through camp leadership to CCI then to AGRM. Today he is a national spokesman for faith-based agencies reaching out to the poor and homeless, occasionally testifying before Congress.

The past is never far off, and I like what I see.

Old Grandpa Lloyd.

 

 

 

A Rosy-Blur Month

My recall processor crashed. Way too much input, beginning with son Keith’s mid-August visit. Family and friends from childhood days on kept trooping by, along with kith and kin of the girl from 313. All is a rosy blur. Maybe that’s what led me to check out Saint Ann’s (see son Joel’s post).
 
The stream of visitors caused me to neglect the stack of must-reads by my lounge chair. It keeps inching upward, and my growth retardant (keep a list; let the bookstore store them) utterly failed when Norma, visiting son Joel, and I visited Zeenith, Duluth’s new used and new bookstore.
 
Hog heaven! I told Norma, Woodland Garden librarian, to grab a book or two, should she come across something our readers might like. Her eyes glazed over and her her bag gained weight as she wandered among the shelves. Son Joel added two John Jakes titles to the stack by my lounge chair.
 
Bob Dobrow, Zeenith owner, restored a fading, eye-sore, liquor store magnificently, enhancing the community. Check it out at zenithbookstore.com. Northlanders, drop in: 318 N. Central Avenue in West Duluth. Bring books for credit. Browse, buy a book, then amble five blocks to the Sunshine Cafe. You may find me and the Sage of Juniata Street enjoying conversation in our favorite coffee haunt.
 
More rosy-blur news to come. Life gets better and better.
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd

Head Geezer

We said goodbye to Cousin Vi yesterday at First Baptist in Two Harbors. She was 102. Vi’s homegoing makes me the oldest living member on both sides of my family, a mere 94.
 
Sitting among Vi’s extended family, memories flooded in. The Mattson/Hill clan founded Larsmont on the North Shore, naming the village after Larsmo, Finland, their ancestral Swede-Finn Village. Charlie Hill, Vi’s father, built Larsmont’s iconic red schoolhouse the year she was born. Vi’s mother was my grandmother’s sister, who married boatbuilder Charlie Hill after her husband died.
 
The blended family grew to 12 kids, including a passel of girls, who plagued me on our occasional visits up the Shore. Legend has it I bit one girl on the leg. If that is so, you can be sure she needed biting.
 
Vi did two years in the Air Force during WWII, marrying Niels Hedval in 1950. They led a rich, productive life. In Vi’s latter years, niece June Hall led in her care. I enjoyed visits with Vi in her Graceland Plaza apartment overlooking the Duluth harbor. She was famed for Swedish gourmet baking, especially cookies.
 
The farewell gathering was warm. I met some kin for the first time and renewed fellowship with older, distant cousins. No one scolded me for biting Vi’s big sister. I take up my Head Geezer role with humble pride.
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd

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