Epilogue Part Two: I’ll Tell You When to Quit

The next mysterious encounter came in October, 2010. I sat with son Kevin in a recovery room waiting on the results of my colonoscopy. The doctor’s demeanor spoke before he did: “I’m sorry, but you have rectal cancer.” I replied, “OK. First we run tests. If the cancer has spread, I’ll do nothing.  My faith is intact.”

Ingrid Nisswandt, my primary care doctor, set up blood work, x-rays, scans—the works. No hint of cancer elsewhere. In early November, surgeon Melissa Najarian whacked a foot off my intestine and hung a bag on my belly. After four hospital days, they hauled me to rehab, though I felt lousy and had  zero appetite.

The second evening at rehab, a nurse, insisting I eat to gain strength, spooned soup in my mouth. My belly exploded. Black gunk flew out. “Feces” said the nurse and summoned an ambulance.

The  night was bone cold. They laid a warm blanket over me and wheeled me to the unheated ambulance, leaving me untended while the crew completed paperwork. The blanket soon lost its warmth and I grew colder and sicker than I had ever been. I cried in despair, “I’ve had it, Lord, I quit!”

From somewhere came the reply: “Quit what? You never started anything. I’ll tell you when to quit.” Peace flooded in. The ambulance crew soon returned and we rattled over frozen streets to St. Mary’s where a kind medic poked a tube down my nose into my belly and hooked me to a pump. Blessed sleep came, warmed by word from heaven: “I’ll tell you when to quit.”

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Old Timer Alert

Over the last months, my Facebook friends’ list has grown, including people from other countries looking for help with worthy causes. Old-timers’ can do something else as I repeat earlier posts. Time just doesn’t allow dialog with scores of individuals covering the same questions.

I’m old (95) and cash poor, living in Woodland Garden a rent-assisted seniors’ facility. Everything I own is in my apartment. I live comfortably, enjoy companionship with the girl from 313, and support my church and a few charitable causes. I cannot take on more.

I hold theological views that alarm some friends from my historic tribe. I state what I believe and why; I will not debate.  I am a Jesus’ follower in fellowship with all who seek His way. I am committed to serving Jesus in my small niche in the world.

Soon it will be ten years since Elsie left for home. She was my bride of 66 years and mother of my five children. I tell about my life since Elsie in Epilogue, available at www.lloydstorytree.com. I will post it in segments in the Hole News and on FB over the next days, beginning today:

The Angel of Second Avenue West

It was a raw morning.  I leaned into the wind, hurrying to the Social Security office to tend to business related to Elsie’s death. Suddenly I was falling, tripped up by an errant sidewalk brick. I rolled to protect my face and lay stunned, assessing the damage. Nothing broken, but I could not get to my feet, and not soul was in sight.

As I scrunched toward the building hoping for a handhold, a man rounded the corner from Michigan Street. He hurried toward me, gathering my hat and glasses. Determining I was OK, he helped me up. “You look familiar,” he said. I gave him my name.  “Oh, you just lost your wife. I’m so sorry.” Then he added, “I sure enjoy your books.” He guided me to the door I was seeking and walked on. I have no idea who he was.

This was the first of a string or remarkable encounters over the next years that brought me to where I am.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

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The Abominable Christian

My GPS for everyday living is Matthew 16:24-27. It whispers recalculate whenever I stray. Read Matthew 16:13-27 to get the picture.

Peter was a devoted disciple—he knew who Jesus was. But he failed to grasp what being a Jesus’ disciple meant. Just as Jesus had to die to provide salvation, so we must die to make salvation work in everyday life. “Whoever wants to be (live as) my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

This is a blatant example of translator becoming interpreter. Soul in verse 27 is the same Greek word as life in verse 26. To gain the Jesus life, we must yield self-life. It’s a process: we take up our death instrument (cross) and carry it. God gives us salvation (heaven); how we live out salvation determines rewards, whatever they are.

I’ve known this passage since childhood but it took many years to understand it. Gospel rituals—devotions, baptism, communion, tithing, witnessing, etc.—do not polish our image before God. How we treat people is everything, whether or not we’re talking gospel.

A mean Christian is an abomination. Know any?

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

The Man with a Bottle

I stood by the open casket and the dead man’s friend told me he always said he wanted to be buried with a bottle at his head and a bottle at his feet. He got half his wish.

The phone call came from a tiny Wisconsin just south of Iron River, Michigan where I was pastor. Would I do a funeral in a bar? Sure, I said. Tell me where and when. I asked why they picked me—I knew not a soul in the area. The caller told me each Saturday night at 8:00 the bartender tuned the radio to Melodies of Life from the new station in Iron River and everyone paused to listen.

In a moment of insanity I launched Melodies of Life on the new station; thirty minutes of music and unscripted talk. Between songs, a poem, snatch of scripture, prayer, and stores. I looked for upbeat, easy-listening songs, like Stubby and the Buccaneers doing The Gentle Carpenter of Galilee. That one drew fire from a deacon because of its worldly beat. Many listeners tuned in.

The funeral was held on a warm fall Saturday. Women in print dresses and men, a few with white shirts and ties, chatted in small groups. In the tavern, I stooped to comb my hair. The mirror asked, What’ll you have?

The casket was positioned with its foot toward the bar, short rows of chairs on either side. A sheet covered the bottle display. There was no evident grief, no family of the deceased. The bartender nodded at me. I spoke with my back to the bar, reading from John 14 about the way, the truth, and the life. I told of Jesus’ love and grace for everyone, even a lonely man with a bottle.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Jesus Work

Last evening brought another example of our no-sweat-just-serve role in life.

I loaded my horse Matilda with supper makings stored in my fridge and headed for 313, a mite early. I live in 301 next to the library and elevator. As I eased out my door, I heard the elevator close. It was my neighbor from down the hall; small, old, and fragile lady. “Something’s gone wrong,” she said, obviously hurting. I offered to get the wheelchair stored in my closet but she thought she could make it. I walked alongside, inching toward her door.

It was obvious she couldn’t open it. I parked Matilda, opened the door and stepped inside to hold it. My neighbor struggled in. I followed far as handholds allowed. Football blared from her TV. She crept toward her couch and call phone. I held my breath as she turned to sit. Her trembling fingers finally punched out a number. “Could you come—now?”

I waited until her friend from  down the hall arrived then retrieved Matilda and  pushed my load to 313 and supper, grateful I could do some Jesus work. No singing or praying  or Bible spouting; just meeting a need.

Ever notice how many People Jesus helped on his way somewhere else?

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Credo Three: Incarnation

I believe Jesus was who he said he was: one with the Father, holder of all authority, Creator God, the source of life and light. Jesus was God teaching humans about Himself, living among them as a man. “No man has known God, no one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him know” (John 1:18 NIV).

The Trinity is mystery far beyond our limited minds. To me, the Father is God transcendent; the Son, God among us; the Holy Spirit, God within us.  Paul declared, Jesus emptied himself and  laid aside divine prerogatives to experience birth, life, and death as man. At the resurrection, though still a man, he resumed his divinity, walked 40 days among his followers and then returned to the Father. One day he will return to usher in the new heaven and earth.

Most of what we visualize as the second coming is pure guesswork, mythology. Read the Scriptures carefully in the light of the times in which they were written. Jesus will be no greater when he returns than he is today. We sing, Where Jesus is, ‘tis heaven there. He invites us to follow him day by day.

Follow closely and turn thought life into prayer. Get to church when you can.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Credo Two: Sovereign Grace

 

Mystery is Part One of my personal creed is Mystery—things I can’t know. Part Two is Sovereign Grace—something I can know. Whatever God’s plan for his Universe, he freely gives mankind knowledge and hope. Everything God grants is unmerited.

His giving embraces the whole of Creation. John wrote, God so loved the world. We derive cosmos from John’s word for world.

Paul wrote we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves. Salvation and faith are grace gifts. Yet, in another place, he urged us to work out our salvation—put it to work. How do we do that?

For ten years I moved among churches of our denomination, often to talk to the teens. I developed a formula. I asked the kids to list things that pleased God. They always named prayer, Bible reading, tithing, witnessing, church attendance, etc. Then we measured the time a super Christian devoted to those actions each week. Barely ten percent!

I asked, What about the 90 percent? We would discuss what I call the dreadful dichotomy, the sacred/secular divide. I suggested every moment is sacred. God cares as much about how we play as how we pray.

Reflecting on my long life, I have touched far more people playing with them than praying for them. That’s God’s grace putting salvation to work.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Top of Form

 

 

 

Credo Two: Mystery

Credo 2: Mystery

Life became a lot more comfortable when I came to accept my limitations, admitting there are concepts my mind is not equipped to grasp. Eternity, infinity, deity, Trinity, foreknowledge versus free will. The complexity and vastness of the universe are way beyond me, as are self, mind, soul, being.  Philosophers and theologians write big books guessing at explanations, but don’t come close.

I assume the mysteries are real, but assumption is not evidence. I accept them by faith, another mystery. Everything God gives us comes through faith. I know my faith (belief—same word) is real if it works.

I can’t explain magnetism, but I can demonstrate it. True faith always works. The life tells the story. Mean Christians scare me.

Check out James: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15-17 NIV). I stack the inexplicables in my mystery bin and plod happily on.  People who offer an answer for everything may be smarter than I am, but they are not happier.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Birthday Gift

Had I known growing old was so much fun, I would have started sooner.  Birthday greetings multiplied, many with kind words.  One greeter asked me to spell out what I believe—my simplistic three-point creed often raises questions. I’ll put together a birthday gift for friends who worry about my theology.

As nature abhors a vacuum, many readers abhor long posts. I’ll work up four discussion points and later pull them together as a single piece on the Story Tree. Titles: Background, Mystery, Sovereign Grace, and Incarnation.

Background: Troubling thoughts concerning my tribal (denominational) faith began early on but I dared not confess it. Our doctrinal views were set in concrete. Had my deacons known my ruminations, they likely would have fired me.

Problem areas: A literal, inerrant Bible.  Dispensationalism, including the Rapture. I was pretty sure Catholics and others could make it to heaven without joining our tribe. And I didn’t buy the idea that all scientists we bent on destroying Christianity. .

Over time, questions became convictions. I learned you can’t do theology apart from history. I’m not a scholar, but I read scholars, and I refuse to let tribal tradition trump common sense.

I love my Bible and my church and I am fully comfortable with my faith. I trimmed it to three essentials: Mystery—that which my mind is not equipped to grasp; Sovereign Grace—faith is a gift; and Incarnation—Jesus was who he said he was: one with the Father, possessor of all power, Creator God.

I am a Jesus follower. I walk happily with all who walk with him, no matter their tribe.

Next time we’ll look at Mystery

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

 

The Six Best Doctors

Facebook friend Hans Willer regularly emails me good stuff.  This is Steve Jobs’ final essay. He died a billionaire at age 56.

I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world.  In some others’ eyes, my life is the epitome of success.  However, aside from work, I have little joy.  In the end, my wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.  At this moment, lying on my bed and recalling my life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in have paled and become meaningless in the face of my death.

You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone bear your sickness for you.  Material things lost can be found or replaced.  But there is one thing that can never be found when it’s lost – Life.  Whichever stage in life you are in right now, with time, you will face the day when the curtain comes down.

Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends. Treat yourself well and cherish others.  As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we realize that a $300 or a $30 watch both tell the same time.  You will realize that your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world.  Whether you fly first class or economy, if the plane goes down – you go down with it.

Therefore, I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, sing songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth, that is true happiness!  Don’t educate your children to be rich.  Educate them to be happy.  So when they grow up they will know the value of things and not the price.  Eat your food as your medicine, otherwise you have to eat medicine as your food.

The One who loves you will never leave you for another because, even if there are 100 reasons to give up, he or she will find a reason to hold on. There is a big difference between a human being and being human.  Only a few really understand it.  You are loved when you are born.  You will be loved when you die.  In between, you have to manage!

The six best doctors in the world are sunlight, rest, exercise, diet, self-confidence and friends.  Maintain them in all stages and enjoy a healthy life.

Thanks, Hans.

Old Grandpa Lloyd