The Real Jesus: Take Your Pick

The December National Geographic features an extended piece on Jesus, a mixture of fact and fancy. An opening foldout displays 61 portraits of Jesus painted from ancient times to the present, each different from the others.

No one knows what Jesus looked like. He was a middle-east Jew—died at 33. Sallman’s familiar painting is way off—soft flowing brown hair, neatly trimmed beard, North European facial features. Artists, like theologians, lean on personal perception.

Luther,  ZwingliCalvin, Arminius and other reformers took issue with Rome’s well defined teachings, but their ideas on what the Bible taught varied. Theologians have produced multiplied hundreds of variations since.  Who determines who is right?

I happily discuss theology, but I quit debating. We are all products of teachers, notably childhood teachers. We didn’t shape our beliefs out of thin air. We don’t even agree on the nature of the Bible, a collection of ancient writings. Check out the bare-knuckle fights over which writings belonged in the cannon in Adam Nicholson’s God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible.

I like my three-point creed: Mystery—metaphysical stuff my mind can’t wrap around; Sovereign Grace—everything we gain from God is an undeserved gift; Incarnation—Jesus, one with the Father and Holy Spirit (Mystery), creator and sustainer of the Universe.

Don’t hassle me with doctrinal particulars. I’m a simple Jesus follower. I don’t know the what, how, or when of Jesus’ present work. To me, following Jesus means meeting everyday needs of others around me as best I can.

I’m fully content to be a tiny tile in the grand mosaic of providence. Come walk with me.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Philosophy for Today: Make Your Bed

I recently caught a multi-starred General on Public Radio. His commencement speech began with three words: make your bed.

The General talked 20 minutes on the value of tending to life’s essentials in timely manner to gain focus and find inner peace. It sent me on a guilt trip. My bed can go unmade for days. I just shut the bedroom door. When sleep time comes, I crawl in, scrunch around for flat space, roll and thrash, and maybe sleep briefly. Then the inevitable hole in the night steals in.

I took the General’s advice and began tidying up my bed first thing in the morning. That shortened evening scrunch time, I slept longer, and my mood improved for the hole in the night.

Dirty dishes always cluttered my sink, with dishpan and drying rack crowding my limited work space. Then I began cleaning up after each meal, air drying the few dishes on a towel.  Goodbye dishpan and rack.

My messy desk was next. I repeatedly searched for the oft-used phone numbers list. Then I got the good sense to tape it to the desk.  I replaced endless scraps of paper with scribbled notes I could never find with Computer Sticky Notes and even began carrying out kitchen waste and recyclables before they overflowed.

Remarkable how all this stilled my soul for afternoon naps.

Thank you, General.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

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Mysterious Ways

Mysterious Ways

God moves in a mysterious ways; His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.  Old hymn

My writing career began in 1962 through a remarkable chain of events, beginning with a three-hour stint one night in Alaska. It followed a winding path, heeded by a select few. I could not have dreamed in ’62 how one day technology would broaden my connections. It seems I may have some distance yet to go.

Poet Longfellow set forth my writing philosophy from the first published piece to the words I write now:

I shot an arrow into the air, it fell to earth, I knew not where; / For, so swiftly it flew, the sight could not follow it in its flight.  /  I breathed a song into the air, it fell to earth, I knew not where; /  For who has sight so keen and strong, that it can follow the flight of song? /  Long, long afterward, in an oak I found the arrow, still unbroke; /  And the song, from beginning to end, I found again in the heart of a friend.

In 1986, Elsie and I took early retirement to pursue a dream: to tell the stories of quiet servants of the faith we met in our wanderings. We put together the Wordshed Mission to achieve that goal. We’d give half the books to those we wrote about, the other half to friends and relatives. We’d lean on interim-pastor income to fund each project.

Mysterious Ways tracks that mission from its first days to now.  You can follow the story at www.lloydsstorytree.com.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Village Vigilantes, Part 2

A blessed Thanksgiving!

Here’s part 2 of the Valley Vigilantes. For Part 1, go to the November 19 post.

Geoffrey stared at the headline: Valley Vigilantes Formed. A file photo of the elders around their table at Ma’s followed. Far as Geoffrey could see, the story was what he had submitted to Byron Wilson, publisher and editor of the Voice. Geoffrey looked up at Miss Beth: What? Exasperated, Miss Beth snatched up the paper and headed for the  Voice office, leaving a bewildered Geoffrey.

Crime was rare in Vintage Valley; the County Sheriff and State Police provided protection; so when word circulated that a travelling insurance agent had scammed Widow Morrison out of a thousand bucks, anger ran high. Miss Beth convened the elders.

We must be more vigilant! she said. Poor Mrs. Morrison! That was her life savings. Vigilant, yes, echoed Betsy, Lem Johnson’s wife. Amen, murmured Pastor Wells, retired minister. I move we organize. How about the Vintage Valley Vigilants? Geoffrey Strom seconded the motion, and the elders’ first-ever motion passed unanimously. Geoffrey offered to write a piece for the Voice.

Miss Beth found Editor Wilson at his desk. Miss B! How nice to see you. Don’t nice me, Byron Wilson. You had to know I would never allow Vigilantes. Wilson fished in his center drawer and shoved a handwritten note to Miss Beth. The heading read, Vintage Valley Vigilantes Formed. Miss Beth’s voice was cold: You know full well Geoffrey can’t spell; you’ve been repairing his writing for years.

I thought Valley Vigilantes had a nice ring, said Wilson. Our town needs a watchdog, and who better than retired seniors, who know the community and its people so well? Be assured: you can count on the Voice for full support.

This was not Miss Beth’s first go-around  with the Byron. As the  staunchly conservative town clerk, there were several brush-ups with the younger, liberal editor at Township Board meetings.  Sometimes she suspected he was teasing her.

This time, she knew she had lost. Valley Vigilantes would endure. Seeking consolation, she headed for Mike’s Hardware to seek consolation from old friend Mike Turner. Entering briskly, she ran smack into a tall stranger who was exiting. The man grabbed Beth to stabilize her.  A thousand pardons!

Mike hurried over. Miss Beth, meet Hap McPhee.  He just leased Jack Steven’s old place! Miss Beth could not know she was shaking the hand of the Vigilante’s first challenge; or that she would be the victim.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

To Late Smart

A blessed Thanksgiving to Hole News and Facebook friends. We’ll return soon to Vintage Valley and see how Geoffrey Strom survived Miss Beth.
 
Meanwhile, my Wednesday needs reporting. I went shopping! Really: serious shopping. Through the canny maneuvering of the girl from 313 and our driver, Eileen Hagen, I came away with $304 in merchandise for $104.
 
I returned home pooped and aglow, glad to have that over with for another year. I put my feet up to ponder how incredibly blest I find myself. Then, as happens so often, memory interrupted, carrying me back, ticking off the years. I recalled friends who blessed me, my heritage, my career. Then the ghosts: people I failed.
 
A dozen faces popped up, young and old. Some had come to me voluntarily, some I hunted out. All were in trouble, one way or another. Being incredibly smart back then, I scolded and told them exactly what to do. Rarely did they do it. Refusing my vast authority, I wrote them off. They had done bad things, and I lost them.
 
I cried; not the first time. They needed an ear, not a scolding; a friend, not an authoritarian pastor or camp leader. They needed love, the greatest persuader there is. Love may not have worked immediately, but we would have parted friends.
 
The older ones are likely dead now; the younger ones–how do they remember me? But they had done bad things! Yes, and so had I.
 
You understand my tears. Too soon old; too late smart.
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Muse of Winter

The Muse of winter has stirred me to impose a new set of stories on Hole News and Facebook friends with nothing better to do. We’ll visit Vintage Valley, Wisconsin and meet thinly-disguised folks from my past. The stories also have a trace of truth.

How long we’ll stay in Vintage Valley remains to be seen, for Johnson Junction beckons. You can’t resist a Swede Muse forever.

Ma’s Kaffe Stuga

A battered, gallon-size blue coffee pot rested on the stove at Ma Olson’s Kaffe Stuga in Vintage Valley, right where it had rested for nearly 50 years.  Ma’s egg coffee and home-style donuts were legendary, making the Kaffe Stuga a ritual stop on the main road north out of Milwaukee. A traveler’s mantra: Meet you a Ma’s.

That changed with the completion of the new Interstate just up the road. Traffic through town drastically dwindled; the Mobile and Standard stations moved to the exchange. The town’s only restaurant bought into an interchange franchise. Families moved and school was consolidated with the next town. The post office, Mike’s Hardware, a few small touristy shops, and two churches remained. The Valley Voice cut back to eight pages. Ma’s Kaffe Stuga became the only place in town to get a cup of coffee.

The Stuga had a six-stool counter, four small oilcloth-covered tables, and an antique oak table with two leaves in the far corner, where the elders met Thursday mornings, the town’s self-appointed watchdogs. They were drifting in now, led by Geoffrey Strom, recently widowed.

Last to enter: Miss Beth, retired sixth grade teacher and town clerk. Always prim, she wore a matching wool jacket and skirt, knee-length gray sox, and low-heeled black shoes. She carried the Valley Voice, hot off the press.

With fire in her eyes, she marched directly to Geoffrey Strom, opened the Voice to page one,  slapped it on the table and said, How could you!

 

 

My Jesus I Love Thee

When detractors asked Jesus to name God’s greatest command, he gave a simple answer: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12: 30-31). That sounds like two commands, but it’s one, and a tough one.

Being spiritual means loving people.  Bear in mind:  Bible love is not a mushy feeling; it’s treating people in a Christ-like manner no matter how you feel toward them. Jesus was not gentle with everyone. He did not tolerate hypocrisy or knuckle under to pretentious leaders. He turned over crooks’ tables in church and called some leaders sons of snakes.

Tolerating bratty kids is not love; it’s stupid, harmful to the kids. Beating up on bratty kids is sin (sin is falling short of God’s expectation—there are no little sins). The Book tells us to speak the truth in love. Not easy.

Certain old saints spoke of a holy frame, a mythical state of mind that constantly contemplates God. One saint grieved because he allowed himself a moment of levity. Poor guy. No one can grunt, grit his teeth, and love God more and more.

Yes, loving God has an emotional dimension, a learned response. Music and ritual from our past can stir emotions, and that’s good, but my memories are not your memories. I never finger a rosary or recite a Hail Mary—Baptists don’t do that—but I respect those who do.

When I spot a half dozen unattached kids running the aisle of a plane bound for Anchorage, and corral them with stories and games for three hours, that’s loving God, though I never mentioned Jesus.

If I truly love God, I will treat people right. You can’t have one without the other.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Winter Tales 2 Jackie to the Rescue

As the Wordshed Mission began to run its course, a second and vastly broader outreach came along. In late 2008, as Elsie began to fade, I began a nightly group email to keep family and close friends informed. When she died (mid-February, 2009), I continued the emails as therapy, writing during the inevitable sleepless hole each night brought. Hence, Hole News.

Readers began sharing my notes with friends, who wanted on the list. Soon, I found myself wrestling with 250 names. Jackie McBride of Sun City, Arizona followed the Hole News. She was a webmaster. “Lloyd, you’re wearing yourself out,” she wrote, and set up www.holenews.org. The web server automatically emails posts to subscribers. Today, about 400 friends at home and abroad get the blog in their Inbox.

Then I discovered Facebook, exposing the Hole News to the world.

Awhile back, dear Jackie did me another favor. When I wanted to get out of book-printing, she created www.lloydsstorytree.com. My choicest adventures now hang on the Story Tree.   Soon Prologue will join them, and one day, all the Wordshed Mission books.

Technology turned publishing on its ear, but has content improved? History’s greatest literature was laboriously inscribed one letter at a time on long leather scrolls. Can you imagine Apostle tweeting the church at Rome?

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Winter Tales 1 The Wordshed Mission

Among Native Americans, winter is the time to tell stories. With winter at hand, and encouraged by positive responses to the Epilogue, I’ll spin a few more online tales from the last decade, best years of my life.

The Wordshed Mission

In 1986, Elsie and I took early retirement to pursue a dream. Our Alaska visits had acquainted us with quiet servants of the faith whose stories cried to be told. We put together the Wordshed Mission to achieve that goal. We would give half the books to those we wrote about, the other half to friends and relatives, leaning on interim-pastor income to fund printing and distribution.

We began our mission with one title, an anthology. But it soon became apparent one book would not begin to hold the stories we found. We settled on two small books: one about Don and Lorene Stump, pioneer Alaska missionaries; the other about Paul and Nattie Boskoffsky, a Native couple we had come to love.

The books were well received and we reprinted several times, distributing about 13,000 copies. Along the way, we turned Paul and Nattie’s story into a three-CD audio book.

Then we broadened the vision and added three more titles, then three from my memoir series. All told, the Wordshed Mission distributed 32,000 copies of eight titles, plus 1,500 audio books. From somewhere, over $100,000 came in to cover costs.

The Story Tree

Now my book-printing days have ended. From now on, I’ll hang writings I wish to preserve on my Story Tree–www.lloydsstorytree.com.

Our retirement dream outstripped anything Elsie and I could have imagined. But there’s more to tell. Stay tuned.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Field Trip

Woodland Garden residents are enjoying a new transportation opportunity. Tuesday and Thursday mornings, an Arrowhead Transit bus pulls into our parking lot, complete with lift ramp for us walker/wheelers. Our destination this morning: the new Aldi store.

Though I suffer classic shopping allergy (cold sweat), I signed on. Cost: one buck, November free. Over 90? it’s always free. The giggly, teasing spirit among this morning’s riders reminded me of field trips I led during school teaching days. I offered to get a rope residents could hang onto so they wouldn’t get lost.

We enjoyed nearly two hours of no-frills, bargain-price shopping (bag it yourself). I made one quick round with the girl from 313 then settled near the entrance with a book. Two little boys, racing the walkway along the long packing shelf, interrupted my reading. The smallest boy found my walker intriguing, but I wouldn’t let him race with it. Their mother stood nearby loading her bags. As we chatted, I learned her parents lived across the street from my old home on Glendale Street! Small world.

We made it back to Woodland Garden just in time for the monthly birthday celebration. Larry Rodgers, Arrowhead Transit marketing and public relations guy, showed up. He talked briefly about his company then gave each of us a fine coffee mug.

Larry cruised the crowd and stopped by Norma and me.I discovered he has written a book modeled after C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Tales. I look forward to the book and following Arrowhead Transit’s unique service.  www.arrowheadtransit.com.

Epilogue note: I have pulled together and edited the eight Hole News/Facebook posts to hang on my Story Tree. Look for it soon: www.lloydsstorytree.com.

Life is good!

Old Grandpa Lloyd