Book Feast

Two books lie on the table by my lounge chair. Son Joel sent the one with a fading jacket for Father’s Day. The other book is brand spanking new. It came from Uncle Amazon Prime

Joel’s gift is Alaska Sourdough by Richard Morenus. It’s the story of Slim Williams (copyright 1956). The Amazon book, The Tale Teller, is by Anne Hillerman, daughter of Tony Hillerman, who died a while back. Anne has picked up her father’ stories about Sergeant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police.

I’ll feast on these books awhile, along with Crazy White Man, also by Morenus. It is also set in the Arctic bush.  I read Crazy White Man when it came out it in the 50s.

I have been in love with books since grade three, when a circus elephant gave me glasses and I discovered Lester Park Public Library. I recall lying on the Davenport in our small Duluth home writing stories for boys in my head. During travelling years, I always carried an adventure novel to read at idle moments.

Expect to hear more about story books. Enough with theology and philosophy.

Old Grandpa Lloyd



Dear Dad



Last Tuesday, Norma and I rode STRIDE (Senior Transport) to St. Mary’s for my annual pacemaker check.   The middle-aged driver recognized my name and asked if I knew Officer Dave Mattson, longtime director of Duluth’s school-crossing guards, a post he held from 1935 to his retirement in 1960. I confessed he was my father. At age 12 I was among his first school cops, badge and all. Turned out, the driver had also been a crossing guard! Officer Mattson stories flowed, many about the lavish thank-you picnics Dad held for the kids at each school year’s close.

Another STIDE driver took us home in a small rig with one seat across the rear. We crowded in next to an oldish woman. Chitchat led to another blast from the past. The woman remembered my father from his school visits to give safety talks. Kids loved his stories and magic tricks–he could pluck a quarter from behind a kid’s ear. Furthermore, the woman grew up in Baptist churches and with people I knew well.

During my nightly awake time, I reflected on the heritage my policeman father left me and on adventures we shared. My memory treasury grew.

Dad was no Bible thumper; he was a Bible practicer. When it comes to spreading the gospel, one kind deed beats ten thousand thumps.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Lloyd and the Midnight Callers

They knocked on my door close to midnight. They wore dark suits and carried ominous-looking bags. But his was no holdup; it was a help-up. One sturdy gloved hand got me up off the couch where I had flopped when I fell.

I was watching the NBA playoff game, sitting on Old Red my walker, and the transition from sit to walk went badly. Fortunately, the couch was behind me. I sweat a half hour trying to find leverage to get up, but the sofa was too low. Blessedly, I was wearing my in-apartment fall call button. A lady in Cleveland inquired about my well-being. I told her I was just sitting around and couldn’t get up. She summoned the Fire Department. Flashing red lights at midnight stirs curiosity among the hoi polloi, so at mail time I had to confess my guilt.

The Good Book says pride goeth before destruction and a hasty spirit before a fall. I got hasty. That other good verse kicked in: in all things God is working good. The night’s adventure goes hand in hand with my recent decision to quit chasing every interest that comes down the pike, particularly in my reading. I have stashed philosophy, theology, and ancient history books my first love: poetry and a good story. If that troubles you young guys, remember this: I haven’t been young for quite a while. I am reading Mary Oliver’s Devotions—a big book—page by page—and friend Gary Magnuson’s poems, pungent and rich.

Should you come upon me drifting back to my old stodgy ways, please whack me upside the head.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Mother-Father God

We lean on Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation again for thoughts on a challenging point: gender identity. Rohr writes:

I know I am taking some risks writing about Feminine Incarnation. There are certainly limitations to the construct of binary genders. God and Christ are beyond gender, and all humans are a blend of masculine and feminine traits. But because Western Christianity and culture have primarily worshipped male images, I believe it’s important to reclaim and honor female wisdom. Whether you identify as a cisgender man or woman, are trans or non-binary, I hope this week’s reflections will help you see aspects of yourself that may have been ignored or suppressed.

I draw from my own encounters with God, my mother, sisters, and many women friends and colleagues over the years. And I’ll share insights from several women I deeply respect. I hope these perspectives invite you to trust your own experiences with the divine feminine. For many, it is an utterly new opening, since most Christians falsely assumed that God is strictly masculine even though there are numerous descriptions of a mothering, feminine God throughout the Bible.

In spite of patriarchy’s attempt to marginalize women, the feminine incarnation continues to appear in innumerable ways. This week we’ll focus especially on Mary, the mother of Jesus. Whenever I go to Europe, I am struck by how many churches are dedicated to Mary. Here in New Mexico and throughout Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe is found everywhere: in tattoos, murals, bathtubs converted to garden shrines, and gilt statues. Why did the first fourteen hundred years of Christianity, in both the Eastern and Western churches, fall head over heels in love with this seemingly quite ordinary woman? After all, the New Testament speaks very little of Mary.

We are clearly dealing with not just a single woman here but a foundational symbol—or, to borrow the language of Carl Jung (1875–1961), an “archetype”—an image that constellates a whole host of meanings that cannot be communicated logically but is grounded in our collective human unconscious.

In some ways, many humans can identify with Mary more than they can with Jesus precisely because she was not God! The Gospels attribute no miraculous works or heroic acts to her, simply trust and pure being more than doing. From her first yes to the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:38), to Jesus’ birth itself (Luke 2:7), to her yes at the foot of the cross (John 19:25), and her presence at fiery, windy Pentecost (see Acts 1:14, where she is the only woman named at the first outpouring of the Spirit), Mary appears on cue at key moments of the Gospel narratives. She is Everywoman and Everyman, and that is why I call her the feminine symbol for the universal incarnation.



Neighborliness in Cantwell, by Sue Mattson.

Son Joel and wife Sue live in a seniors’ park in Olympia, Washington. Collecting residents’ stories of neighborliness is a park project .  Here’s Sue’s story, modified for space.

It was December. Fairbanks was cold, dark, and snowy. Joel and I had decided to take our three young kids to my parents’ home in Bellevue, Washington for our Christmas break. To save on airfare, we decided to drive the 350 miles to Anchorage, which meant driving back on our return.

When we returned to the long-term outdoor parking lot, the car started with no coaxing and we set out for home through heavy wet snow. No problem—we had studded tires. The van slogged along fine–until it didn’t. It went slower and slower and soon wouldn’t go at all. We made it to the side of the road just south of the town of Cantwell half-way home.  This was long before cell phones so there was nothing to do but flag down a passing motorist.

The first one stopped—a pickup. Lacking room for all of us, Joel rode to Cantwell to see if he could round up a tow-truck. I waited in the car with the kids. We had warm snow gear and plenty of gas to run the engine for heat.

Cantwell is a lodge, gas station, and bar; no tow truck. Joel went to the bar and announced that his wife and kids were stuck at the side of the road a few miles south. Would anyone drive him down to fetch them? The patrons looked at one another. A lady said, “None of us are in any shape to drive in this storm, but here are my keys. Go get them”

The story ends happily: The van fixed itself. Engine heat had melted the wet snow that had jammed the wheel wells, impacting the wheels. The lodge at Cantwell had room for us. We got a good night’s rest while the storm fizzled itself out. And the gas station garage had space for our car. It was cozy warm when we set out in the morning. We made in home with no further trouble.

I never learned the name of the strangers who drove Joel a ride to Cantwell or trusted Joel with her car, but I will certainly never forget them. They knew the meaning of neighborliness.


Don’t Thank Me

If you read one thing this Memorial Day, read this post by Major Jason C. Hohnberger from Converge, my denomination. Yes, it’s long; but so were days and nights for those in combat.

Don’t thank me for my service! At least, don’t thank me on Memorial Day. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but that phrase is just another misplaced platitude illustrating how much you don’t understand my pain.

I hesitated to write this because I’m scared to peel off the layers of polite camouflage I normally wear to reveal the irritated and emotionally wounded combat veteran who hides beneath the surface.

Eighteen years of war, three combat deployments and officiating more than 600 funerals have taken their toll on my mind, body and soul. Recently, I shared a particularly vulnerable and ugly side of myself to a civilian friend I’ve known for more than 20 years. I thought I was in a safe place, but I was wrong. He told me war had changed me so much that he no longer valued or wanted my friendship. I was no longer “happy-go-lucky” but “jaded, cynical and angry.”

His comments helped me understand why 22 veterans a day choose to put bullets in their heads as an alternative to living among civilians. Isolated, ostracized and misunderstood, veterans are told, “Thanks, but your services are no longer needed.” Now, they can be put out to the curb while the rest of the country celebrates the deaths of their brothers and sisters, while mindlessly munching on hot dogs during the long Memorial Day weekend.

In our divided and fractured nation, no culture gap is larger (or widening faster) than the gulf between civilians and veterans. More than ever, the United States needs the church. We need Converge to stand in the gap and share the burdens of combat and the love of Jesus to make us one nation (or, at least, one church) under God. As Memorial Day approaches, it’s important to know a few things about military culture:

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have given their lives in defense of our nation. Originally known as Decoration Day, it was intended to honor those lost in the Civil War. By the early 20th century the day had expanded to include all Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

For combat veterans and their families, this day is painful. It is not a day to celebrate but to reflect and mourn. It is a day where families gather at Section 60 in Arlington National Cemetery. Circling around a white headstone, they will have a picnic with an absent son, sister, father or friend.

In a similar ritual, combat vets will place a shot of Jack Daniel’s on graves in countless national cemeteries to toast the memory of a fallen friend. Each shot will bring the sweet memory of adventure in faraway lands and will burn with the survivor guilt we all carry.

These combat vets yearn for the church to mourn with them without judgmental attitudes. Leave your political opinions on war, theological stance about alcohol and sensitivity to foul language at home. Go with them to visit the graves of their friends. Learn their names: Eric, John, JB, Sammy and Roy… Listen. Remember. Pray.

Don’t be scared of a veteran’s pain, too often disguised as anger. Yes, the scary truth is violence is always an option for a combat veteran. But rest easy knowing that if they really wanted to hurt you — you’d already be dead.

Have the courage to walk with them as they revisit valleys shadowed by death. Ask questions when you don’t understand their experience. Be invested in their friendship long before Memorial Day, Veterans Day or the Fourth of July. Love those who feel unlovable. Forgive the unforgivable.

Finally, don’t drape the cross in the American flag. There is a cult of patriotism in segments of the United States that worships the flag. Please don’t equate nationalism with godliness or military service with salvation. My beloved country has sinned, fallen short and sometimes defaulted on its promises.

The hope the church has to offer veterans and friends and families of the fallen is not found in the greatness of our nation. Our hope is in Jesus Christ alone. He has promised us that the Kingdom is within reach. He has promised to right all wrongs.  He has sent the Holy Spirit to heal our deepest hurts and bring us peace. He has shown us that no greater love has anyone, than he lay his life down for his friends.

My prayer this Memorial Day weekend is that the church will show veterans that it loves them more than it hates Jack Daniel’s. That it will remember the fallen better than oblivious civilians and show them the cross will never default on its promises.

Chaplain Jason C. Hohnberger serves in the 5th Special Forces Group Support Battalion.

Old Grandpa Lloyd


Willie amused his acquaintances and embarrassed his family. He was challenged. He talked about Jesus constantly and carried a tattered bag or apples and oranges. Did not the Bible tell us to bear fruit? Well, yes; but figuratively–the fruit of the Spirit. I think of that old story each time I hear tribal spokespersons trying to out-Bible each other.

Burning energy on literal and inerrant is pointless. I know they are talking about original manuscripts, but there’s more to it than that. Even if we had them all the manuscripts, you can’t translate from one language to another by simply finding equivalent words. Each language has untranslatable nuances. You can bet your boots on that.

To translate, you must know the culture and mores of the times. Our desk Bibles are made up of ancient writings in three languages by 40 or more writers over a span of 1,600 years. That’s a lot of culture. And there’s another problem: translators theological views influence their work.

Consider Matthew 16:24-26: “Then Jesus told His disciples, If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Soul, appearing twice in verse 26, is the same Greek word translated life in verse 25. The translator turned interpreter, altering the meaning of the text for the average reader.

I cherish my Bible, but my authority rests in Jesus, who claimed all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). The literal meaning of figurative language is what the writer intended.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Thanks, Lakeland Shores

I rode by Lakeland Shores recently and shuddered. What if I had got my way? That would be my home. (See Epilogue at

It was the one of the most difficult months of my life. I even wondered if the Lord knew what he was doing. What I desperately wanted wasn’t happening. Now and then I have wondered why God put me through that. He could have said, OK, if you insist. I shudder to think what I would have missed.

God doesn’t hand us life on a gilded platter. We become the products of our decisions. Yes, sometimes God intervenes, but as someone said, our disappointments are God’s appointments.

I love my Woodland Garden home, my friends, and the girl from 313. Difficult as it is, I must deal with the inevitable someday: my move to assisted living. I nailed down a choice, but what if, when the time comes, I get turned down? That I leave to the Lord. With Apostle Paul I say, I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances.

Thanks, Lakeland Shores.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

For My Hurting Friends

A  Susan Klein Fresh Bread devotional:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. For I am the Lord, your God” (Isaiah 43:2a, 3a).

In the acclaimed film Beasts of the Southern Wild, a hurricane devastates a remote part of Louisiana. As a little girl named Hushpuppy and her dad ride around in his makeshift boat surveying the damage and looking for survivors, she has reflections, rather poignant for a six-year-old. Staring into the water, she muses: For the animals that didn’t have a dad to put them in a boat, the end of the world already happened. They’re all down below, trying to breathe through water.

Do you ever feel like you’re beneath the storm waters of life, wondering if you’ll ever make it to the surface so you can breathe again? Or maybe you’ve made it to the top but with no strength left to heave your body over the edge of the boat.  Do you need a dad to lift you up and place you securely in the boat?

Beloved, you need not be overcome by the floodwaters. No matter how raging your storm, the end of the world has not yet come. Your heavenly Father cares! He will carry you through all life’s difficulties. He is the same God today promised by Isaiah, ready with mighty hand and outstretched arm to lift you into His lifeboat. He is your life raft, your security. No storm is too great or circumstance too difficult for Him.

For those who reject the Father’s hand, the end of the world indeed has happened. Unless they choose to receive His help in the soul-saving act of His Son, they are already perishing. But there is hope: Our heavenly Father desires that no one should perish (2 Peter 3:9).

In the movie, Hushpuppy’s dad wasn’t prone to show affection, but through this one act, she realized how much he loved her–he would not let her die. How much more our heavenly Father loves us! He not only rescues us from life’s storms, He gave His Son’s life to save us from eternal destruction.

Once again, thanks for clear, comforting thoughts, Susan.

Old Grandpa Lloyd




Amazing Grace, The Story Part Two

To my shame, I continued to sell my fellow human beings, making three voyages as the captain of two different slave vessels. I suffered a stroke in 1754 and retired, but continued to invest in that vile business. In the midst of guilt and shame I felt a call to ministry. After ten years of prayer and study, I was ordained as an Anglican priest and was inspired to write 280 hymns to accompany my services. To my astonishment, my services were always full. It was in 1779 that I wrote “Amazing Grace”.

Thirty-four years after leaving the slave trade I renounced my former slaving profession. Guilt was weighing heavily on me and with God’s help I was able to publish what turned out to be a blazing pamphlet called Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade. The tract described the horrific conditions on slave ships. I wept from guilt and shame as I apologized for waiting so long to speak out: It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders. The pamphlet was so popular it was reprinted several times and sent to every member of Parliament. Several years later in 1807 the English civil government outlawed slavery in Great Britain.

I died that same year, nearly blind, haunted by the echoes of agony and the vile stench of the cruelty I had inflicted on my fellow human beings. At the time I thought they were the wretched, but alas ‘twas I who was the wretch. But in an unearned, undeserved moment of God’s grace I heard the news of England outlawing slavery. I was able to die with joy in my heart and peace in my soul.

Old Grandpa Lloyd