Have a Jolly, Jolly Christmas

Who came up with the idea that being holy demands dour piety?  Yesterday, Emmanuel Baptist threw its annual Christmas party. If loving is giving, we hit a ten: two solid hours of giving and receiving joy.

I wore a white shirt and tie—first time in memory. And I brought the prettiest date in the place, the girl from 313. The Sage from Juniata Street provided wheels and wisdom. We found the fellowship hall sparkling with Christmassy décor as the pile of white elephant exchange gifts grew. Tempting smells hinted at catered gluttony to come, a forgivable sin.

Joining us were friends from the Landing, a start-up church where our recent interim pastor Brent Nelson now serves. His devotional warmed our hearts. Carols, Christmas readings, conversation, laughter—all precious in the eyes of the Lord.

The Scriptures are rich with thoughts of joy. Jesus began his ministry by contributing fine wine to a party, and don’t tell me it was Welch’s. God will wrap up human history with the greatest party of all, the wedding supper of the Lamb. We’re all invited.

This Christmas, throw a party. Share the joy.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Life is Good!

To kith, kin, and Hole News friends:

Here’s where I find myself these days: Son Kevin and Tena have completed their move to Viroqua in Southwest Wisconsin, Tena’s home area. Sale of their Duluth home has been completed.  Kevin is recovering well from his recent triple bypass surgery.

Their move changes the dynamic for me. Kevin was my go-to guy, first responder in emergencies. Norma Leskela, the Girl from 313, willingly moved into that role. How I appreciate her! She has family contacts. Feel free to call her for whatever: 218-724-4896. Her address is the same as mine, except for room number.

I’m doing great, fully functional save for balance, a need met by my four wheeled walker. Housekeeping help comes every-other-week. I wear a call button for in-apartment emergencies.  Social Security and pension comfortably cover my needs. I humbly accept the vicissitudes 94 years bring.

I am fully content in my Woodland Garden home, well able to handle the independent living requirement. We have chosen Saint Anne’s Assisted Living for my next care level. Life is good.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

A Comfortable, Pleasant Lunch

This week I enjoyed Wednesday lunch with Tom Asbury, senior pastor at East Ridge Community Church, a growing fellowship a half mile or so from beloved Emmanuel.  East Ridge is an outgrowth of Duluth’s old Bethel Baptist, my childhood fellowship.

We talked about church life today. Old-line congregations merging or dying; startup churches thriving. Why?  How do you keep a thriving church on track? We agreed no congregation can be all things to all people.  A church must find its niche and fill it well.

We pondered the divine continuum that guides churches and pastors. Tom told of growing up in a poverty-ridden, dysfunctional home, of parents’ early deaths. Of youth years as an imagined atheist and how the  Spirit of God intervened to guide him to faith and ministry. What a contrast with my story!

Our churches contrast too. East Ridge serves mostly young families; Emmanuel, mostly older folks, a bunch of whom will occasion memorial services in the next ten years.

That thought reminded me of a concern held by girl from 313. She feels Emmanuel is too small for the crowd that will gather to celebrate my passing. She wonders if East Ridge would consider opening its doors. Tom thought that could be arranged. I assured him I sensed no immediate need.

A comfortable, pleasant lunch: a young guy discovering the joys and challenges of ministry;a geezer preacher limping his way out. He expects to limp a while yet.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

A Ratty Backpack and Two Fading IDs.

This old dude leads a rich, satisfying life. Each morning I worship at the altar of recollection. Today, I came upon three antiques that set my remembering back and forth like the steel marble in a pinball machine.

In the back closet I came across the backpack from my Boy Scout days, now faded and stained. It has followed me around over 80 years. Father bought it for my first campout with Troop 18. I was 12. Who could imagine that those early campouts would lead to canoe, horseback, and backpack treks in wilderness from Maine to Alaska with men and boys tagging along. Check out www.lloydsstorytree.org.

The other antiques showed up in a neglected file folder: my original Social Security card—signature still legible–and a plastic-coated security ID—fingerprint on the back, photo on the front. My job on the bull gang at Zenith Dredge required it–we were building Coast Guard ships. Date on the card: December 3, 1942, two weeks after Elsie and I married.

The strategy that led us to marry failed (the Military turned me down) but the lessons learned those first years together set us up for 66 years of adventure-filled ministry.

The pack is too ugly for my living room, but the IDs add depth and texture to my remember shelves, providing me with endless ponder fodder.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

A Hug, a Fistpump, a Pat on the Back

This morning I sat alone in Emmanuel Baptist foyer with Matilda my horse close by. Norma, the Girl from 313, was off with a busload of girls to Ikea, the house of horrors. Hell may be a never-ending shopping spree. No place like home.

Friends paused to give me a hug, a fist pump, or a pat on the back. The auditorium began to fill. Fifteen years ago, 25 was a good crowd. Emmanuel is a story, and so is old Grandpa Lloyd. Check Epilogue page 2: Frustrated in Tucson. www.lloydsstorytree.com.

The story took twist last week. Norma’s granddaughter Liisa Jean Jacobson announced her engagement to Jake Jehlicka of Ogilvie, Minnesota—wedding next summer. Two weddings in one summer!  Anne Kangas, Norma’s eldest granddaughter, will marry Ph. D. candidate Samuel Rothstein in August. Nor sure Gram’ma Norma can handle the excitement. I feel it too: I promised to dance with Gram’ma —first-ever dance.

Darkness has fallen. I’m on my own for supper; I’ll thaw something while I ponder Psalm 16. My boundary lines indeed have fallen in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Best of all, I don’t have to wait to collect.

A hug, a fistpump, a pat on the back.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

Worth the Price of the Ticket

This morning I phoned my first real sweetheart; we talk about once a month. I met Marguerite in high school geometry. Learning we lived just ten blocks apart, I began riding her bus after school, gallantly carrying her books. The next three years gave us many good things to remember.

In the fall of 1941, Bethel College and Seminary took to me to St. Paul and I lost track of Marguerite. I learned she married high school classmate Palmer Harbeson. Seventy three years later, during pre-church chitchat, I heard casual mention of Palmer. I jumped on it, discovering Palmer had died some years before and Marguerite lived somewhere in the Twin Cities. At home, I booted up White Pages on my computer and there she was: name, address, and phone.

Marguerite’s macular degeneration and my fake hips keep us at home, limiting contacts to the phone, though we did enjoy one brief face to face when the tall ships brought her family to Duluth.

Novelist Ruskin Bond wrote, “The past is always with us, for it feeds the present.” Marguerite and I laugh at our youthful foibles. She now worships in the Episcopal Church; I remain Baptist but without the trappings. She loved to dance; Baptists did not allow such worldly pursuits; a pity. I promised to dance with the girl from 313 at her oldest granddaughter’s wedding. Observing that, I guarantee, will be worth the price of the ticket.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

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