Wagner Creek: A Pastor’s Burdens

About 65 years ago, I married Ken and Merle Victorson at First Baptist Church in Iron River, Michigan. Last Friday, on Ken’s 90th birthday, their son Gordy and wife Mary Kay brought them to Woodland Garden for a nostalgic visit. John Hedberg, Gordy’s childhood kin and friend came along. For an hour we relished memories in my apartment then headed to 313 to enjoy coffee and snacks prepared by Noma, where memory-sharing continued, focusing on Oscar, Ken’s father and my beloved fishing partner during Iron River years.

Gordy and John produced maps and asked me to mark spots. They are planning a pilgrimage to fish Grandpa Oscar’s trout streams. The maps triggered more stories.

Oscar earned his living painting houses. When rain threatened, I could count on his Terraplane pulling up to the parsonage. Oscar would call, Mattson, you got worms?  I got worms, Oscar.  OK, let’s go fishing. Feeling it my pastoral duty, I would gathered my gear and we’d head for Wagner Creek.

But sometimes, Oscar fished alone. One night, his wife Nannie phoned. Oscar’s not back from fishing. I’m so worried!  I picked up deacon Arnold Sjodin and we drove to the Wagner Creek area to look for Oscar’s car. No luck.  We roamed back roads, checking other fishing access points. Still no luck. About midnight we returned to the Victorson home and found Oscars car in the yard. Through the kitchen window we saw Oscar clad in long johns with Nannie chewing him out to a fair thee well. Oscar was glad to see us. While Nannie made coffee, Oscar told his story.

He had fished too long and got lost seeking the trail to his car. Stumbling about the dark woods, he found himself back at Wagner Creek with no choice but to wade down the beaver-pocked stream to a low bridge. He was soon soaked to the skin. Reaching the bridge, Oscar walked the narrow dirt road some distance to his car.

Many are the burdens pastors carry as they tend their parishioners.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

 

Life in the Garden: The Mahjong Mafia

Earlier this week, the Woodland Garden Mahjong Mafia met for breakfast at Big Daddy’s Burgers, the Girl from 313 among them. Curious to learn about mafia goings on, and having been banned from their regular Wednesday gatherings, and I contrived a way to gain to attend the breakfast with the Sage of Juniata Street as my wheels and bodyguard. You can’t be too careful when dealing with the mafia. They wear identifying sox and recite a pledge: what comes up in Mahjong, stays in Mahjong. One wrong step and I could wind up the duck pond as muskrat fodder.

The breakfast went really fine. The food was great. Lively conversation flowed, interrupted only by occasional outbursts from three tables down, where eight men rattled dice. Sage Clyde regaled the ladies with stories, leaving scant space for my wisdom.

Well over an hour passed. I made mental notes, like the power structure and secret eye exchanges. Then, as if on cue, the girls gathered their purses, thanked me and the Sage profusely, and marched out, right past the cash register. The waitress handed me the tab. I made another mental note. I’ll keep you posted.

Older but Wiser Grandpa Lloyd

 

Goodbye Sandy

We gathered in the Woodland Garden community room last Wednesday to farewell our manager, Sandy. Mike Edmunds, facility owner, popped for pizza and cake. He, his family, and the maintenance staff served.

To me, Woodland Garden feels more like a college dorm than a HUD Section 8 seniors’ residence, home for 64 souls—9 men and 55 women, most of them well seasoned. Sometimes Woodland Garden feels like a squirrely Cub Scout pack. I dubbed Sandy den mother.

She guided us for three years, fielding complaints, solving problems, reminding us of rules, and selling laundry quarters. Sandy hosted monthly birthday socials, seasonal celebrations, and frequent music entertainments, always with flair. Each spring, she labored through resident recertification—60 interviews, reams of government paper.

We shared Sandy’s tears as she said goodbye. She and her husband will move to Wyoming to be near family and explore new jobs. Thank you, dear Sandy. You have become a special friend.

Now we must break in Ann, Poor girl.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

Text Abuse?

The May 16 Hole News drew healthy responses reflecting varying viewpoints. Whenever we tackle divisive social and political issues, two Bible texts are tossed in the mix. I think we abuse both:

Romans 13:1 tells us “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (KJV) 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NIV)

When Paul wrote those words, the infamous Nero ruled Rome. Do you imagine God hand-picked this evil man for the job? Wikipedia will tell you the political process of the time.

2 Chronicles 7:14 spoke to rebellious Israel, reinforcing earlier promises. Can 21st century America claim it? To me sure, Hebrew/Christian principles played a big role in our national beginnings, but history  quickly dispels the myth that America was distinctly Christian. Some of the Fathers owned slaves, claiming economic necessity.

It has been said, God established only two institutions: the family and human government. Other social entities were mankind’s doing. We note that family and government bob and weave through history. Old Testament saints practiced polygamy; government moved from tribal chief to parliament and congress. I doubt the Lord maintains a management bureau to oversee the details.

Prayer, however earnest, will not heal our fractured political system. Somehow, we’ll muddle through. Meanwhile, we are called to live within the law as good citizens, doing what we can.

While I can’t do much about Washington, but I can be useful at Woodland Garden. Let’s stand and sing Brighten the Corner Where You Are. All verses.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Woe Is Us?

 

 

This morning on Facebook, philosopher friend Joe Grove referenced William Goldberg’s Lord of Flies. I read the novel in 1954, the year it was published. The story concerns a plane crash on an uninhabited Pacific island that kills all the adults, stranding a group of young British boys. Their disastrous attempt to govern themselves unfolds through the chapters.

Joe discussed prescient authors of the past, suggesting that Lord of the Flies speaks to our current political plight, the peril of inexperienced, immature leadership.

I try to keep the Hole News apolitical, but events of recent days make that all but impossible. The flurry of partisan responses I expect will follow this post will prove my point. America has never been so divided. Something deadly is happening, with symptoms multiplying. You make your own list.

I know God remains on the throne, but history affirms the rise and fall of empires. I see our nation stumbling. No, I don’t know how to fix it, nor will I lean on cliché texts, applying as a general principle promises God made to Israel. But this I know: whatever the next years bring, God will sustain his followers. I refuse to spend myself with woe is us hand-wringing.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Connect the Dots

I love my life at Woodland Garden; the setting, the ambiance, my fellow residents (56 women, 8 men), the girl from 313.  I even love the sleepless hours when my cogitator kicks in.  I often ponder the process that continually sweetens my life, in spite of gathering years.  Take this sequence:

About 25 years ago, Abe Thomas contacted me for permission to reprint a for-fun piece I had written for a harmonica newsletter. Abe hosted a large online group of Suzuki QChord players. I had written about jilting sweetheart Omni for her younger sister, Suzy Q.

I learned about the Omnichord and QChord from son Joel, who used them in his Songs and Legends of Alaska show in Fairbanks. He gave me his back-up Omnichord, and I found it worked really well with my harmonica. Soon after, the QChord upgrade came out, which occasioned the newsletter piece.

Abe Thomas held the online sales franchise for the instruments, and I joined his QChord group. There I met Jackie McBride, a gifted blind woman who had created a QChord manual for the sight-impaired.   I wrote her up in the Hole News, then a daily group email with 250 readers. Jackie said, Lloyd, you’re wearing yourself out. Let me set up a Hole News website. I didn’t know she was a webmaster pro.

All this came to mind recently when Abe showed up on my Facebook page.  Connect the dots: Joel, Abe, Jackie. No wonder life gets better and better for this harmonica-honking geezer, who lives at Woodland Garden.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Secondhand Faith

Two times two is four. Gravity is real. Nobody doubts. Lay out four apples by twos and count. Roll one off the table and it hits the floor, every time.  You need not know Calculus or the science of gravity to prove simple math and physics.

But how about beliefs, concepts we hold true? Here’s a parable from my youth:

I was a Boy Scout fresh from a fieldtrip to learn about poison ivy. We examined several growths and our Scoutmaster pointed out of the identifying marks. I knew poison ivy.  One day our family visited my aunt’s small farm. When we arrived, she warned us to stay away from a bushy vine climbing a fence near the driveway–poison ivy, she said. I took one look then ripped an armful off the fence. Alarmed, Aunty ordered me to the bathroom to wash with Fels-Naptha soap, a household poison ivy remedy. My protests did no good. Someone told Aunty the vine was poison ivy and she believed him.

That’s how we build our faith, beginning in childhood. We believe people we trust and generally live among people who believe like us. But what if the people we trusted were wrong?

Too few of seriously consider the source of our faith. We live with secondhand beliefs.Encounters during seminary years (’44-’47) led me to question aspects of my faith. That questioning continues. I want to own my faith, to know why I believe what I believe. I’m still learning, but now the faith I draw on day by day is mine.

Could I be wrong? Sure. But I have a reason for the hope that is in me.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

Watch Your Tongue #2

It’s a Fact: you can’t translate Language A into Language B without understanding how A’s first readers understood the message. Simply finding equivalent words won’t do, as “Tongue” in today’s title illustrates. Tongue has many definitions.  A thousand years from now, how would a translator deal with “watch your tongue?”

The manager of a small commercial airport received an FAA directive to fence off the runway. He sent a note to his maintenance man and left on vacation. On his return, the manager found not the six-foot chain link barrier he had pictured, but lovely white picket fence with geranium beds.

I studied Hebrew and Greek in seminary. Hebrew barely took, but I gained a fair grasp of Greek syntax and grammar, enough to use the study tools. I soon learned English has no one-word equivalent of the subtleties of Greek tenses and prepositions. Hebrew’s sparse vocabulary encumbers many words with multiple meanings, depending on the setting. Greek’s has a vast vocabulary, contributing many words to English.

A preacher friend latched onto “power” in Romans 1:16: “the power of God unto salvation.” We borrowed that power to name dynamite. Declared my friend repeatedly, God’s word is an explosive force! That’s Bible abuse.

Languages change over time. Consider what happened to English since Shakespeare. What language did Moses employ to record his early history of the Hebrews? What language did the Hebrews speak through their 400 years in Egypt and 400 years under the Judges? They still lived as independent tribes.

Scripture writers followed literary rules of their time, employing normal literary devices, including non-literal figures of speech. Then came layer after layer of human copying and editing before finally reaching us. The Bible is an anthology. The 66 segments were never designed to form one book.

The Old Testament promised a Redeemer; the New Testament recorded the fulfilment of that promise. We worship the Living Word, not the written word.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Watch Your Tongue #1 Revisiting Charlie Amorphous

Yesterday, National Public Radio aired an hour-long discussion that set me to thinking. The gist: Every language reflects its culture, and you can’t translate from one language to another apart from the cultural setting. That has enormous implications for how we view the Bible.

Later in the day, an old Charlie Amorphous Hole News showed up on Facebook. It dealt with Bible inerrancy. I took that as an omen.  Here’s an edited repeat of that post. We’ll see where it leads:

Hey Charlie, what’s up? Oh, Molly’s raggin’ me again, and it’s your fault. You wrote about inheritancy. Now Molly claims you don’t believe the Bible. You sure that wasn’t inerrancy, Charlie?  I believe the Bible means what it meant to its first readers, and we don’t know a whole lot about how those readers viewed their world.

The Bible began in the late Bronze Age and continued for about 1600 years. Forty more authors, writing in Hebrew, Aramaic, and some Greek, put their words on long leather scrolls or papyrus, paper made from an Egyptian reed. Scribes hand-copied these writings over and over. Scholars eventually gathered the writings together, but the first single-volume Bible waited for  Johannes Gutenberg to invent moveable type;mid-1400s A.D. First major book off Gutenberg’s press was a huge, fancy Latin Bible.

A lot of stuff happened to the Bible’s original words before they reached you and me. Claiming inerrancy is a stretch. Translating requires more than matching words; some words have no precise match in other languages. We have over 100 English versions, all a tad different. Bible teachers tell us what they think the Bible means, each with a different slant.

Toss in figures of speech, a literary device in all languages. Jesus taught in parables; so did Old Testament writers. Inerrant truth taught through non-literal language.

Hold on, said Charlie, you lost me. Soon as Molly cools down, I’ll bring her over to talk with you.

I’ll pick up on the theme next time.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

The Golden Crown

On a lonely night, the old man turned
To the shelf that held his treasure;
Wonders, tears, friends of past years,
And one gift of worth beyond measure:
A crown come late, a source of joy
Lit the shelf with a golden sheen,
The old man’s glowing, growing love
For the girl from 313.

Happy, happy birthday, dear Norma.

Old Grandpa Lloyd