Why do I believe what I believe?

One morning long ago, my father and took our family to visit an aunt’s small, new farm. I was 12, a gung-ho Boy Scout.  Auntie met us in the yard and immediately warned me to stay away from a bushy vine climbing a nearby fence.   Poison ivy, she said. It happened our Scout troop had just studied the noxious plant in the wild. One glance told me Auntie’s vine was harmless, though it resembled poison ivy. I walked over, grabbed an armload, and ripped it from the fence. Auntie went ballistic. “Go wash! There’s Fels Naphtha in the bathroom. And get out of that shirt!” No amount of explaining would dissuade her.

The man who sold her the farm had said the vine was poison ivy and certainly he would know. Auntie believed what she had been taught by a person she trusted, and that’s why be believe what we believe.

I spent my early years dead sure we Baptists had the Bible right: verbally inspired and inerrant. We read the King James’ version viewed through the lens of the Scofield reference version. Any other view was just plain wrong. Science and evolution were out to destroy the true faith.

As my world began to broaden, certain questions troubled me. But our gurus always came up with an answer, plausible or not. My uncertainties persisted.

Then, one sentence in respected theologian’s lecture, and a seminary professor’s doctoral dissertation set me free.

So, am I dead certain today I finally have everything right? By no means! But I’ll gladly tell you what I believe and why I believe it. Being right not all that important. God isn’t waiting on our understanding to fulfill his purposes.

Old Grandpa Lloyd


It is Palm Sunday, a day vital to the Easter story. Here is a devotional called Scapegoat by Richard Rohr, A world-renowned Franciscan priest whose writings I pursue. His views parallel my non-scholarly thoughts in so many ways:

The ingenious Hebrew ritual from which the word “scapegoat” originated is described in Leviticus 16. On the Day of Atonement, a priest laid hands on an “escaping” goat, placing all the sins of the Jewish people from the previous year onto the animal. The goat was then beaten with reeds and thorns and driven out into the desert. It was a vividly symbolic act that helped to unite and free people in the short term. Instead of owning their sins, this ritual allows people to export them elsewhere—in this case onto an innocent animal.

French philosopher and historian René Girard (1923–2015) recognized this highly effective ritual across cultures and saw the scapegoat mechanism as a foundational principle for most social groups. The image of the scapegoat powerfully mirrors and reveals the universal, but largely unconscious, human need to transfer our guilt onto something or someone else by singling that other out for unmerited negative treatment. This pattern is seen in many facets of our society and our private, inner lives—so much so that we could almost name it “the sin of the world” (note that “sin” is singular in John 1:29). The biblical account, however, seems to recognize that only a “lamb of a God” can both reveal and resolve that sin in one nonviolent act.

We seldom consciously know that we are scapegoating or projecting. As Jesus said, people literally “do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). In fact, the effectiveness of this mechanism depends on not seeing it! It’s automatic, ingrained, and unconscious. “She made me do it.” “He is guilty.” “He deserves it.” “They are the problem.” “They are evil.” We should recognize our own negativity and sinfulness, but instead we largely hate or blame almost anything else. Sadly, we often find the best cover for that projection in religion. God has been used to justify violence and hide from the parts of ourselves and our religions that we’d rather ignore. As Jesus said, “When anyone kills you, they will think they are doing a holy duty for God” (John 16:2).

Unless scapegoating can be consciously seen and named through concrete rituals, owned mistakes, shadow work, or “repentance,” the pattern will usually remain unconscious and unchallenged. The Scriptures rightly call such ignorant hatred and killing “sin,” and Jesus came precisely to “take away” (John 1:29) our capacity to commit it—by exposing the lie for all to see. Jesus stood as the fully innocent one who was condemned by the highest authorities of both “church and state” (Jerusalem and Rome), an act that should create healthy suspicion about how wrong even the highest powers can be. “He will show the world how wrong it was about sin, about who was really in the right, and about true judgment” (John 16:8).

This is what Jesus is exposing and defeating on the cross. He did not come to change God’s mind about us. It did not need changing. Jesus came to change our minds about God—and about ourselves—and about where goodness and evil really lie.

Thank you Sir.

Old Grandpa Lloyd



Fighting the Two Big B’s

This note to Emmanuel Church friends brings you up to date on my current status. Those who say ageing is only in the head have never been there. Balance and bathroom are my major challenges.


Dear Emmanuel friends,

Thank you for so many kindnesses over the years. I regret that age-related factors now keep me from regular attendance. I follow church life on the website.

My 95 years are showing. My goal is to so order my life that I can remain at Woodland Garden, an independent living facility. I get out occasionally under guarded circumstances.  Long trips are no more.

I maintain the Hole News blog and visit often with Facebook friends. You can subscribe to receive each Hole News by email. Epilogue details my decade since Elsie’s homegoing. Remarkable story. www.lloydsstorytree.com.

I keep Emanuel and Pastor John in my prayers. I enjoy e-notes and visitors.

Old Grandpa Lloyd



The Life of the Party

Last Hole News told about the time I got drunk, inadvertently. Too much over-ripe apple cider. There was one other occasion when I became impaired. I suppose you could call it drunk. This time, the culprit was cough medicine.

For several years each fall, a debilitating cough gripped me, making preaching all but impossible. Even conversation was difficult. My doctor prescribed cough medicine, warning me to use it carefully. It was laced with turpin hydrate/ codeine and probably alcohol.

When our church’s night at a downtown Chicago rescue mission rolled around, I was tapped to preach. Gathering my Bible and bottle, Elsie and I joined church friends at the mission. I nipped generously to get through the message.

After the service, I mingled with mission folks while our group served refreshments. Another nip enabled med to converse.

An after-service tradition took then church group from the mission to a cozy restaurant for fellowship. I felt the cough returning and nipped again. A warm feeling crept over me; my spirits rose; I became the life of the party. Elsie eyed me and took the car keys. By the time we our home in the north suburbs, I was just able to get inside and to bed. Weird dreams followed.

Thus ends my walk on the wild side.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Inadvertent Jag

I started early for the Men’s Retreat at Wood Lake Camp near Grantsburg, Wisconsin, about 300 miles away.  I picked my way north following country roads, enjoying a glorious October Friday. Ahead, I spotted a rustic display stand featuring apple cider.  I bought two gallons and stashed it in my trunk. At the camp, I parked in an open lot and unloaded my gear, leaving the cider for a second trip.

The retreat was well attended. Sessions were lively; I told stories at morning and evening chapels, and completely forgot the cider. Midway through the Saturday post-chapel social I remembered. I dashed to the car, retrieved the jugs, and hastily poured a tray of small throw-aways.  Though not cold, the cider tasted fine. It had a slight bite. But many of the men had left for their cabins, and loath to let the cider go to waste, I downed maybe a dozen.

My small cabin stood at the head of an irregular uphill climb with a crude pole rail. I felt unsteady. When I reached the cabin, I was downright wobbly and overheated. I thought I was getting sick. Then it dawned: I was drunk!

Who knows how long the jugs had sat in the sun at the farm?  Then Friday and Saturday in my trunk parked in full sun. My head finally spun me to sleep. Come morning, I didn’t want to get up, but recovered for my afternoon drive home.

I got drunk only one other time. That was the Chicago rescue mission cough medicine gig, fodder for another story.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Don’t Mix the Reds with the Whites

I lean on Susan Kline so often I should put her on salary. Her devotional fits my recent Facebook posts.

“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind” (Romans 14:5).

My daughter was visiting the other day and noticed piles of clothes on the floor waiting to be washed. A tiny pile of red items sat to the side. “You still do your reds separately?” she inquired. “Of course! Don’t you?” If you’ve washed a load of whites where a stray red t-shirt got mixed in, pink becomes the new white.

Everyone grows up with rules. Some rules carry into adult life; others we leave on the path behind to become guidelines, not absolute truths. Your rules are yours; mine are mine. We choose what works.

Some rules are absolutes, like government mandates. Many argue the Bible has absolutes, rules all must obey. But how do we know which rules are absolutes?

In “A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God,” Larry Osborne proposes that many spiritual disciplines in Scripture are “tools” rather than rules; guidelines to help us serve God better. The messy part comes when I take one tool as a rule—absolute—and expect you to see it the same way. I might view tithing as a rule; you may see it as a guideline.

We may want to help others by sharing our rules. If they work for us, why wouldn’t they work for others, right? Not necessarily. Most spiritual disciplines (rules) are actually tools. Others are free to see what works for them.

We must always remember: What works for me may not work for my neighbor. Perhaps you’re okay with pink.

Thanks Susan.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

A Man Walked into a Bar


Elsie and I sat in the big room off a bar with four men and two women around a table; some with liquor glasses. The chairman came out of the bar with his glass. He was a prominent business man bent on saving a decaying kids’ camp forested by magnificent pines from a developer.  He convened the meeting.

The camp was founded to honor the first Eagle Scout of the area to die in World War Two. It served the community for years then lagged. The American Sunday School missionary stepped in, giving the camp a Christian focus. When the missionary died and no successor stepped up, the camp languished and finally closed, its buildings decaying. The vacant property caught the eye of a developer and began the process of taking ownership.

Leaning of this, the businessman, with broad connections and a heart for the community, turned his lawyer loose, who dug out the legal papers. The businessman recruited a board and called an organizational meeting.

Knowing nothing about camping, he contacted Christian Camping International. Knowing Elsie and I lived in the area, they put the businessman in touch with us. We knew none of the people around the table but learned they represented different Catholic and Protestant churches. A stimulating discussion ranged from finance to volunteers to potential users.

We talked for an hour or more then the business man summarized and whisky glass in hand said: We can put together a fine, safe facility and fill the summer schedule, but ultimately we rely on the Holy Spirit to change the hearts of kids. The group adjourned: some to the bar, others outside for a smoke. The business man gave us a hundred bucks.

We drove home aglow, grateful to the Holy Spirit for giving us a small role in renewing another life-changing outdoor ministry, whisky and all.

Old Grandpa Lloyd





What a Month!

March: What a month! And it’s we’re not half way through. Here’s a summary of stuff you may or may not know:

The assisted living scoop: We know the where and a lot about options of Edgewood Vista.  We know nothing about when the move will occur. No time soon. The thought of living apart brought lots of tears in 301 and 313. I’ll stay at Woodland Garden as long as I can.

Norma is now my official go-to person. She has phone numbers in case of an emergency. I’ll not mess with the will. Kevin has power of attorney; Keith is executor. I’m cutting back: No more long trips.

Thanks to Cousin Patt Carlson and Clyde Rogers. They often transport us to appointments.  We use STRIDE whenever possible—cheap, reliable, walker-friendly.

Books: When move time comes, the Salvation Army will pick up surplus books. S.O. Norma (superior officer) will allow me one small bookcase for must-reads.

Pacemaker: It ticks happily away. The twofer wasn’t fun, but all is well now. A new home monitor checks it between annual office visits. Thanks for prayers and notes of concern.

Executive decision: No more birthday parties. Maybe we’ll put the coffee on for my 100th.  Mark your calendar.

Can’t do list: It grows as balance deteriorates. I have help: a health aid each Wednesday—two hours; a laundry-housekeeping woman every-other Thursday. The girl in 313 shops, cooks suppers, and reminds my forgetter.

Exercise: I exercise every night. I walk from the bed to the lounge chair to the computer and to the kitchen and bathroom. Evenings at Jeopardy and news follow Paul’s advice to Timothy (1 Tim 5:23) to head off stomach disorders.

Always love to hear from you. Visit when you can. Thank dear, patient Norma: 218-724-4896.

Grampa Lloyd





The Unintended Publisher

I was delighted when Grandma Jeanne posted the photo of my Door County sweetheart Alice enjoying a small book I sent her. Two Nisse in Santaland was the only Christmas book I ever published. Here’s how that came to pass:

For several years I wrote stuff for Pat Sherman’s Woman Today magazine, just getting underway. On one occasion, I was assigned the story of a grandmother who was completing a children’s book she started when her children were small. Fifty years later, she was finishing it for her grandchildren.

Winifred Stanley was a charming, articulate, long-retired college professor. The book told about the visit of two Nisse’ kids (Norway’s little people) as they visited Santa’s little people (elves). In the course of the interview, I asked Winifred about her publishing strategy. She named a high-priced firm in the East and showed me proposed illustrations. I was appalled:  comic strip stuff.

A Minneapolis publisher immediately came to mind. I suggested Winifred put her project on hold while I poked around. The Minneapolis firm was not accepting new projects so I turned to my Wordshed artist, Harvey Sandstrom, for advice. He knew publishers. Harvey scanned the story, reread it, and said, “That could be interesting!” Thus Wordshed Books became Winifred’s unintended publisher.

While Harvey worked on illustrations and design, I tackled editing. Winifred’s writing was grammatically meticulous but hardly kid friendly. My suggestions met cool resistance. I worked gingerly. Then Harvey to the rescue: his pages design called for small blocks of type matching illustrations. That called for text adjustments.

Page by page, a charming book came together. One page showed two dancing fairies that bore a striking resemblance to Winifred’s grandchildren. It was a fine book. Then, a goof: Winifred choice for a front cover was a mountain scene of the Norway coast. Harvey captured it wonderfully, but we had a kids’ book with an adult cover, dooming off-shelf marketing.

Ah the peril of too much zeal and too little knowledge.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

What a Week!

Monday morning, Dr. Nisswandt, primary care doc, gave me two thumbs up on the required post-op check-up. All systems go.

Tuesday’s six-month cleaning appointment saw dentist Tod Hansen and his crew hunting in vain for something to repair.Nothing but a glitch in the upper partial. Yea!

Wednesday found us at St. Mary’s where pacemaker techies found the new implant and leads functioning perfectly. The first pacemaker was installed 26 years ago in the same space. Two replacements followed. Thank God for his angels in white.

Thursday morning, 13 residents took Arrowhead Transit to Wally World to shop two hours. Norma shopped: I supervised and drank coffee. Bus fare: two bucks. I ride free because I am old.

About 1:00 Thursday my cleaning lady came for two hours. She does good work. At 4:00, the Sage of Juniata Street arrived to take us office-chair shopping. Finding one, we celebrated at a Perkins’ supper..

Friday mid-morning, Emmanuel friends Gerry Thilmany and Mike Nelson from Emmanuel came with accordion and fiddle. We visited briefly in my apartment then I dug out my harmonicas for a concert in the library. Standing ovation; both listeners. Norma served a nice snack in 313 and our guests departed.

Next, Son Kevin from Viroqua arrived. He camped in my office a couple hours.  He kindled my Kindle, fine-tuned my computer, and in late afternoon headed for Edgewood Vista to gather info against the day—hopefully long from now—when assisted living becomes necessary. A tall young man, Austin Lundeen, became our guide He showed us possible rooms and answered a bunch of questions.

The visit over, Kevin drove us home and headed south to Viroqua. Norma and I collapsed in 313.

What a week!

Old Grandpa Lloyd