There are many phrases most of us use. These usually are heard when we speak of a life event, small or large.
Perhaps a crop fails unexpectedly or a deer is found in front of you while speeding through the highway. Many times these life events seem negative, but cannot be understood. Such things are said to others that seem casual but have world views that alter the basic ways we feel.
An example: A neighbor suffers an accident that kills them. A neighbor that could be seen as a ‘bad neighbor’ that has done things most of us would refer to as wrong behavior. The usual phrase would be: “He deserved it” or “that’s what happens when you go against Jesus’ command to love our neighbor” Bad Karma, darkness generates dark results, the inevitable outcome of sin. Forgiveness not judgement is very hard but is our part of the neighbors errors.
These thoughts are a result of our fear to assign events, good or bad, to a thing resulting in attitudes or behavior of us or others that has consequences. A logic statement that is basic is, ‘Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc.’ It means: ‘After something, therefore because of that something’ Confused yet? An example of belief in charms we have nearby. Talismans, anything to deny God and the horror of an uncaring and empty universe.
Being relieved that you remembered to put that plastic replica of a saint on your dashboard or your Bible in a certain reserved spot at home or in a public worship setting. Horse shoes nailed open side up by your doorway.
Anything, anything to express a reason behind an event, good or bad. Being relieved that you were wearing the same outfit you had on at the casino when money came your way again. Your lucky shoes perhaps. Up to the point of blaming ourselves for failing in some way perhaps has logical explanations that the universe is not random events. There is a ‘Post Hoc’ event that determines Propter Hoc ). The usual example for that feeling about bad things that happen to us is ‘ Well, I guess I deserved that’ or someone else saying it about you.
Anything to not view our world as just random atomic activity creating obstacles or bridges that govern all events. An excellent research paper on this will start with the book of Job in the Bible. (it’s in between Esther and Psalms) The whole book is about a man that is accused again and again by his three friends that he has done something against God that has caused his misery.
Job’s friends accuse Job of being an unrighteous man, a sinner in some way. Job’s reaction to these accusations? As he has lost everything of value to his life he states: “ I know that my Redeemer lives” After all the things that God has allowed (not Done) Job will worship God. Faith, the very gift of God.
Do we look to the creator of all that is and all that will be as our servant? Do we look upon Him as evil? Do we look and worship Him in seasons of good and bad as our master and creator that loves us more than we can even imagine. There indeed is a seductive evil upon the world. As someone asked C.S. Lewis, “are you really asking me to believe in this creature with horns and a tail that causes misery and actually demands I worship him? Lewis answered him “ I don’t know about the horns and such but if you do desire to meet and see him and obey him, you will see him indeed.
As for me, I will worship my redeemer whatever comes upon me. It’s not easy but He is my treasure.
There are ramifications to the recent shortage of shelf items at many stores. People know this well as it is common knowledge. ‘Out of Stock’ as, regretfully our local store owner relates. The industry of supply was severely stricken and the first sign was panic buying of toilet paper. Perhaps the usage of a ‘blip-vert’ on the national news that told people to rush and buy? The experimental process was a success and the masters of war were pleased with the propaganda machine they bought. The plan to wipe us out had begun.
From the very beginning of the communicable bio-weapon, fear began to invade the world. Isolation and confusion reigned. Corrupt government officials quickly took the reigns of civilization and began destroying everything they could. Agencies, edicts given (for our own protection of course) and spiraling inflation.
The development of a medical savior that didn’t. Continued control and pitting people against each other for not following the edicts of the commissars. Business’ began to crumble as they were shut down. Fines for opening a small restaurant were passed out by bureaucrats that used the weak will of the people to approve of them.
The strategy of requiring the whole world to hide their faces behind masks that had no effectiveness whatever. The weapon spread and the fuel of fear built flaming dread throughout the world. Children were at very low risk of contacting this weaponized virus but were also isolated, confused and ‘protected’ by medical experts that were not. A growing realization of reality among virologists throughout the world was publicly ridiculed. Social media was tightly regulated to eliminate truth which was labeled false news.
The medical industry made billions by creating an almost worthless, misnamed vaccine that didn’t. The only protection was natural immunity generated by people’s immune systems. Protests were quickly stamped out and the national media branded the un-vaccinated as criminals and those that refused to wear the useless masks and get the shots were denied entrance to transportation, hospitals and schools. Shunned and hated. Booster shots that did nothing and supposedly gave more protection were quickly brought to the fray.
Then the weapon began to fade away as immunity built. One point five percent of our loved ones were buried and a new government attempt began to start over with another ‘deadly’ disease. However,it didn’t work this time and only a particular type of men were affected. The earlier damage was already done with the perfect medical theater created by the stealth laboratory in China. A bio-weapon that brought the world to it’s knees. Communists that despise us did this and we walked right into it and embraced their lies and hatred of freedom.
The Lord of us all has allowed this war to awaken us. He did not create this war, he allowed it. He whispers to us that He will always be near. We open our heart’s window to Him from the inside and He is the invader that gives us the faith to endure. Jack has been given a small book to show him this truth. A very old book about a man that refused to curse his creator for incredible suffering and loss. His name was Job and Jack recommends reading about him and his friends (and his wife). A lot of the world despises our Lord and that is to be expected. We are a the crooked man who walked a crooked mile and we need to look over our shoulder and see our Father running after us. Stop and turn, and embrace Him. He will show us how to love. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
We notice it without knowing what has just happened. The chuckle. Or, as Jack sometimes refers to it as a cackle. What is it? The contrived sound, practiced for decades to be as smooth as a well known radio announcers voice. A deep voice in some ways, captured by seven hundred dollar microphones. The ones with all the rubber bands, suspended. High end dynamic mics. Smooth, easy on the ears and in the case of the chuckle, made to put you at ease.
Unfortunately, this vocal response is a fear reaction to uncomfortable conversations. Just mention a serious concern you have to an insurance salesman. Within a split second the chuckle rings out to disarm the conversation. It’s nothing like laughter, don’t misunderstand this. Laughter and gaiety are good for us. Even rolling on the floor with laughing sobs. A joke or a pun that just explodes in the room with merriment. That’s good! It’s good humor and the relaxation is very good.
What Jack is pointing out is obnoxious and frustrating at the least. We don’t notice that we have been conned out of intelligent conversation. Try it sometime. Select a person that you ‘sort of know’ and ask them in an inquiring way about a serious subject. Something you state you are having difficulty understanding.
Perhaps an illustration will do: “Hey John, I’m glad I ran into you! I have a real problem with an old friend that just won’t talk to me about our friendship” (slight laugh) Well it’s not me that’s for sure! “No it’s not like that. We used to be really close! (another chuckle) Ha, maybe you forgot you owed him some money! No John, this is serious. I need your help in understanding it. (more light laughter) You know me , I’m an idiot when it comes to women! Getting the picture? It goes on and on and it is a technique really good salesmen use to put people at ease. Nothing happens then, but somehow, this laughing salesman convinces you he is your friend and you sign on the line. They have classes that teach you how to disarm people with the friendly laugh.
OK, now go to the next level. You have just finished listening to a very moving sermon that so affects you that you journal: “I was having such a great time thinking about my sins!” You were moved. The power of conviction overcame you and you knew it was true. You knew the man spoken of is most likely you. In this case, a man that enjoys his comfort and the knowledge that God has a special Lazy Boy chair waiting for him in Heaven. Serious reflection and thought. The room is silent. The man speaking asks if anyone has any questions. Jack thinks about the explosion in his heart. The deepness of the sin still running around in him that he thought was normal.
Suddenly, an experienced ‘salesman’ makes a joke with a chuckle! “hey pastor, did your wife write those slides for you? Chuckle chuckle.”Every one is familiar with this, including the pastor and his wife. It’s over. The intimacy with everyone in the room. The held breath of believers that just heard conviction and truth. It’s over. Time for lunch. The salesman has done his work and he doesn’t have to think about what was said either. Am I ready to die? Nah, chuckle chuckle. There’s a lot of time left in this old carcass..chuckle chuckle. It’s disarming and it’s deadly and it’s a complete waste of time.
Jack can only imagine what it will be like to meet Jesus face to face when his turn comes to face eternity that he knows so little about. Perhaps smiles and the laughter of dancing with his Savior. No chuckles, just love. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
It was the call of the foreman. In the middle of the night as well. There’s been a derailment down by Red Wing! Report to the section house with some clothes and get aboard a section car or drive down to the mainline. Dreary and dreading, Jack drove to what he knew would be days of making wages the hard way.
Not resurfacing, not replacing ties on a crossing but cutting and drawing out bent rails. Pulling out smashed ties from steel wheels ruining them and gathering the plates and pulled spikes from the roadbed. Working around the broken cars while the huge cranes lifted pieces of them up. Sometimes lifting just the trucks of axles and wheels with the open bearing boxes dripping greasy packing.
The engine is already righted and placed on the continuing track siding, ready again to work. Sort of. The cleaning of the cab (the engineer and conductor were just injured but their coffee and lunch and such usually don’t fare as well) and the testing of the motor and generators has yet to be done. ’roundhouse’ men are already swarming about the engine panels and spreading absorbent around. It might run.
All of this mess creating by a train going through an open switch the wrong direction. Sometimes a yard engine would push through a set of points on a switch not set for them and get away with it. Fully loaded trains at speed hitting an open switch backwards is another matter. Oh yes, the switch would have to be totally rebuilt. Hopefully the wrecking crews transport would have brought some fourteen foot ties and all the steel and switch parts. The ties were a ‘bit’ heavier and the foreman would have to direct us in the building and precise gauging.
Thinking back on those times. Meals at picnic tables set up in empty box cars, sleeping quarters about the same comfort level. Sometimes, Jack could drive his old 40 ford coupe to the job site and bring along his fiddle. At night, after a late supper, he could lean back on a chair on the end platform, feet up on the brake wheel and begin playing what he knew how to do. No one complained, it seemed to fit. A harmonica would have been OK too.
Lonely sounds like the late night steamers going around the big city. Blowing the steam whistle at every crossing. The letter of Morse code, Q, Long long short long. The last long drawn out and fading to a bit lower note. Only the steam engines could do that. When he was a child, half asleep, Jack would hear that lonely sound from the west side of the cities. It told him, “I am lonely. I know what it’s like” It went in deep to Jack’s memory. The trains still do it today. At all crossings. The electric air horns do not make the same sound however.
So the work was hard and dangerous and Jack made a little extra overtime pay. The food was not roast beef slices on Brioche buns but it filled. Jack’s fiddling got gradually better and the section crew was gracious for the sound and even the mistakes. It felt old time, out on the plains of the 1800’s perhaps with the very old boxcars. Sort of like the old 40 and 4’s of WWII vintage. 40 men or 4 horses capacity.
Same gauge tracks, same wooden ties, same spike malls. Bolts and fish plates and plates under the track. The old rails were 80 to 90 pounds, still found in older switch yards and piled near section buildings. 120 to 130 pound rails unless there was ribbon rail ¼ mile long to be dragged into place, wriggling like a worm.
Nowadays, Jack reminisces and as an analogy, sees his own life as a train wreck at times. Getting off the right rails and into disaster. Who runs the gauge and lays those tracks for Jack? What are the switch points for and what’s the point anyway? Jack was made to run well, run smooth and stay the course. It’s getting better now that Jesus is the engineer and lets Jack know when the derailment is possible or happening. He is the road-master and builder of it all. He wears the white hat of pure light and is trustworthy through it all. It’s pretty good. JackGator
It has been proposed that some things, some people actually, are so similar that no difference can be seen between them. For example: ‘what is the difference between Karl Marx and Charles Darwin?’
None. Neither of them believed in anything but what they could figure out on their own and they are both dead. Forever. Since neither of them took any time wondering about all creation and why they were included in it, they wasted the differences between them and everyone else. It was all speculation with a little bit of science and what could be manipulated such as objects of study or people. Same thing happened to them really. Dead end. Anything to deny creation.
A choice we all make when confronted with the obvious raw beauty of creation. We either bow down at the point where we see beauty can only be created by beauty. It’s not really in the eye of the beholder, it’s in the eye of the creator. Another moment of enlightenment of truth.
Jack has his favorite summer spot right in the middle of the Gator garden. It’s a round area and has dozens of Gladiolas and Zinnias with some Marigolds. There are other Perennials that Jack forgets the names of. Long stemmed beauties. The Glads take a bit of work which Jack enjoys. Staking and tying them to the stakes. Pulling off the dead flowers bottom up. The tricky part is cranking down the umbrella and tucking the Glads under or outside of it as it comes down. Jack ‘lost’ the previous umbrella to wind. It snapped at the pivot halfway up the post at night during a wind storm. Lesson learned. Grasp the wind and give it the bill for the umbrella.
So under the shade of the umbrella is a garden bench, a little worn from the weather which Jack has his water thermos, a few tools and on rare occasions, a book. It’s a good place to shelter from the sun when the summer gardening gets sweaty. Most often a place that Jack comes to immediately upon opening the garden gate. Actually, the main reason Jack hangs out at the center with it’s bench and flowers is for the gaze upon the fingerprints of the Lord. It feels good and Jack listens well and conversations begin.
Now that it’s labor day weekend and the tomato plants need aggressive trimming and harvesting, Jack needed a respite and suddenly he heard a hummingbird about. The birds usually are seen from another bench on the front porch. Two hummingbird feeders with bird mix of sugar and water. A pop stand for the birds.
However, this time it was in the Gladiolas and surprised Jack when it was a hummingbird moth. Buzzing and hovering over a flower in front of Jack’s delighted gaze. Usually seen or heard in the spring. Amazing creature with a similar beak and tongue outfit.
The thoughts of why was it there and where does it hang out at night? Why me, given the gift of seeing it a foot away in front of me? It’s impossible that this beautiful insect evolved at the same time as it’s food of flowers with their sweet nectar came into being. Similar to the bird and the honey bee. None of which could survive without the flowers. Especially the bees. Pollination and all that sort of thing besides food for the birds and moths.
Jack reads a lot and laughs at what he reads often. Dr. Suess and the National Geographic are fun to read. The latest from Scientific American was the speculation of the usual billions of years of evolution for all sorts of things that some scientist who was there took notes on. Nothing in that magazine Jack has read yet about the birds and the bees and the stunning beauty of the impossible coincidences. Jack knows how it happened and he doesn’t have a degree in scientific pontification to explain his opinions. Jack has a book that incredible as it may seem, gives the explanation in a few sentences of words at the very beginning of the book. Jack will loan you one if you wish to read it yourself! It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
Jack, awakened from sleep by a lightning storm, rose and began typing this story. The story. We all have them. These days, fascination with heroes and villains and other’s stories given to us by actors and people we have never met, give us an excursion into a falsehood of story. Illusions of post modernism, to replace our own. Our own valid stories that get buried in entertainment and the latest gladiator. We are lost and adrift on a wave tossed sea, all the while believing in a screen writers fancy with words or a man that can do things we cannot. Adopting a cheap and false story that we believe we need.
Jack, fully awake now, remembers his story of adventure, loss, romance and treachery. It seems like a good plot for one of those movies. Instead of being prepared by strong men, Grandfathers and fathers, it was a familiar story now for many of the worlds lost children.
Jack’s last memory of his Grandpa was the man, lost in dementia, peeing on the living room curtains while Jack was in the basement, living in his mother’s inherited house. Fresh out of the 6th fleet. Now replacing the sounds of creaking metal and rushing waves with a washing machine and Grandpa’s old Chevy in the garage. No love lost either. An elder that should have taught Jack a carpenters trade. He didn’t know that was his life work, to love Jack.
Jack made his own way, creating his own stories of adventure. More akin to a brigand or a pirates desperate bid for value and purpose. Smuggling, guns and carefree use of narcotics without the age old, correct up bringing of being the village carpenter. Cabinetry and a small farm. Middle ages security and an inheritance for Jack’s children. A firm belief in the giver of life and the yearly cycle of Advent and celebrations of rescue from our Lord.
Rescue indeed. Jack’s heart had turned to stone when he was ten. His father had left and his mother’s lover had moved in. He was a Swedish immigrant and the reason his father left. There was a honeymoon planned and it was to be a trip to the old country across the sea. The plan was for Jack to stay at the Grandparent’s home in Golden Valley during the honeymoon. Jack came home from school and could not find Timothy, his beloved cat that slept with him. His mother came home and told Jack his Grandfather had killed the cat because it would not work for them when Jack stayed at their home. Jack began to ideate suicide, he learned how to tie a hangman’s noose. To firmly set that Stone heart, there was no honeymoon and the Step father stopped in Jack’s room one night and sat next to Jack on the bed, naked. Jack leaped up and ran out the outer door of his room to the garage. Screaming in fear and rage.
Jack’s heart was set on survival mode. There was no lighthouse on that stone. For seventy years. Last night as Jack prayed for direction for the next day, Jesus asked Jack if he would like to have a heart of flesh. Again, tossing and turning with the storm raging outside the house and inside Jack the promise of life started to take hold. The small changes Jack has been experiencing were now brought to light. Small cracks of that chosen stone revealed earlier that something was going on. The heart transplant was revealed and Jack wanted it to happen right away, that night. It was also given to Jack to begin the forgiveness of those two men. Not instantly but now the compass was seen and the course set. Next port of call, freedom from hatred and fear.
“He made me alive, when I was dead. He raised me up and seated me with Christ. It’s by His Grace that I am saved and it’s through faith, the very gift of God” (Justin Rizzo) Jack’s savior knows betrayal and forgiveness for men do not know what they are doing. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
As it is, so shall it always be. Music, an indescribable and fleeting thing. The string is plucked, the drum resonates, the bowed instrument plays one note that blesses the fleeting sound. One second it is there. An eternal second, there is no time involved and the resonance goes into eternity and the joy flows abounding within the players. So quickly the musicians are drawn away from the object of the music to the playing of it. C.S. Lewis puts it well…”To be drawn away from the love of thing, he tells to fall in love with the telling”.
There is nothing liken to music, perhaps draftsmanship or painting the light. Again, the romance of the stunning scene to the love of creating the painting. Both the musician and the painter are vulnerable to elevation of self. We do not realize the breaking of our admiration of our talents and contributing perhaps one or two notes or a splash of sienna releases the joy and appreciative laughter of the hearing and seeing the Master of all of it.
Images of musicians with the anticipated music played on perfect instruments abound. Especially for ones that have felt the joy and dance with a word sung or a set of notes played. Another image from Lewis: “If one could just read the score of that heavenly music, they would never be ill nor grow old.”
So many years, so many bands and sitting in with other bands. Jack was consumed with applause. For him. The pride of even placing in a fiddle contest would make Jack proud. Of himself. Jack is not as fast these days (getting really close to 80 years old) and actually, that helps. There were so many instrumentalists in Jack’s life and the attaining of blazing speed with difficult passages was the goal and passion of so many. Just listen to bluegrass sometime. The song is over before you can even remember the words. Nice music, don’t misinterpret Jack’s words here. Nice music and really nice people play bluegrass. There were, unfortunately, some artists that would overplay and smirk at Jack’s slow waltz’ or jazz.
Emulating Bob Wills and his stunningly beautiful waltz’ was Jacks goal. He tried the Orange Blossom Special when playing the bar circuit. Jack would not play it until the third set when the patrons were drunk enough to enjoy Jack’s fiddling of that song.
Jack is now playing in the church..not A church, but THE church is Jack’s desire. A little mandolin to fill in the missing notes that Jack hears in his spirit. The mandolin is referred to as the violin’s ‘walking stick’. (The tuning is the same as the violin) Jack’s current worship leader mentions when the really high notes of vibrato ring out, it makes him laugh inside. Good description of joy in worship.
Third position on the mandolin is a LOT easier than on the fiddle. It has frets. Those incredible stratospheric violin passages are pretty swell if your fingers are doing OK and you spend every day in the practice room. Since you were single digits old helps. Jack gets in awe when he hears those players. He wonders what they are thinking and feeling during those concertos.
So Jack needed applause to feel wanted and accepted. Now there is joy in worship when everything makes a brief tapestry of beauty. Offered to Jesus with love and adoration. It’s the only thing that works now. Applause may reflect how others in the room feel that too. It’s heart felt. The neat thing is that Jack now knows they are really applauding the beauty revealed of Jesus, the heart of everything. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
It indeed has become a nonsensical world. If one believes conspiracy theories, madmen have taken hold of things and places. They are getting pretty good press too. What sells papers and electronic news coupled with advertising triggered by usual paradigms of selective viewers. That in itself is kind of a giveaway sign. Jack has bought odd hats online and suddenly, when he clicks on the local weather, ads began blocking his view hawking hats, odd ones.
It seems logical we can be touched by electronic algorithms running on ones and zeros that make us distinctive targets. “What a coincidence! Just the Kromer hat I was looking for!” Logically taken, any news that we look at is an indication of interest and the feed tickles our mind with more and more.
The packages with the distinctive mark on them flow out of Jack’s favorite UPS drivers hands. Buy, buy. Stimulus investments in personal prosperity so that a country that we buy them from can own the national debt, put it into a derivative and sell it back. A Huan Ponzi scam that will topple like an overbuilt mile high tower of Babel. It will make an interesting sound. The growling stomachs.
Then there are the meaningless riots rolling around our wounded country. The rioters think they are massing for freedom and human dignity. That’s why it is nonsensical. Self righteous youth throwing bottles of fire, named after a Russian. Molotov, a communist that executed hundreds for ‘freedom.’
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!”A. Nonsense indeed. So much of it about a huge mistake that caused the death of a wanted criminal with a felony strewn life. You know what I mean. Protests can work, but the smashed windows and blackened walls of the neighborhood bodega brings the victory to a bad smell that lingers in the media. The spin in the papers also lingers.
“Another woman driver gets machine gunned from her seat and they’ll send a joker with a brownie and you’ll see it on TV” B. Sells advertising again. Get those swoop shoes and you can run from those batons! Or better yet, next time just break the windows and grab them, make certain to be a good shopper and get the right size! No returns or guarantees.
Then the geriatric crowd (Jack’s former commune comrades) is stunned into seeing the Jabberwock come flapping in, just like Suess’ birthday bird escaping censure for outing sneeches with stars on thars. Getting the picture yet? Nothing makes sense. Senator Lorax was sounding the alarm and now he is outed for telling the truth. We rewrite history and make certain that our past is now considered toxic. What can we do? Perhaps stand resolute for truth and beauty and not give scorn for foolishness.
There is power in the name of Jesus, ask Him. ‘How should we then live?’C.is the question for our day. How indeed. Be still and read the thin pages of His love letters over and over and find out how. Go the way of the world and be another hopeless, isolated and confused person. Press in, pray and find the peace that passes all understanding. Guiding us through the valley of the shadow of death. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
A: Lewis Carroll B. Frank Zappa C. Francis Schaeffer
In the beginning (Jack’s favorite three words) Jack was enthralled with fiddle contests, playing in country swing bands and always admired excellent fiddlers. After all, in his middle twenties he lived in the neighborhood of ’40 acres of musicians’ He wrote a column on those times. It is available at the web site. Http://www Gatorsgracenotes.com It was published a few years ago in the Intercounty Leader.
There was such a panoply of musicians that Jack had the privilege to hang out and play with. Peter Ostrushko. Brian Wicklund, Craig Ruble, Pop Wagner, Mary Dushane to name a few! Mary wound up on the Prairie Home Companion. She played at Jack’s wedding along with Bill Hinkley, Kevin Mcmullin and Jack. We surrounded Julie in her gorgeous wedding gown and played Helsa Dem Hardemma, a Swedish waltz. What a heritage of being surrounded with music for years.
When Jack was living up north in Wisconsin, he began competing and judging in fiddle contests. When asked by the newspaper to come up with a photo, the only thing Jack could find was a drawing of a young alligator playing a fiddle. He was leaning back on his tail in the cartoon. The nickname of Mr. Gator stuck. Jack even had license plates proclaiming ‘MR GATOR’ Such fun silliness.
Much later a fellow writer (Jesse Selin) drew the Gator picture and then we had to come up with a first name. A masculine one with punch. Jack’s favorite author, C.S.Lewis was nicknamed Jack, and it fit.
Jack’s real name is Norman Eric Peterson. Sort of Scandinavian. Images of sandbakkels, fattigman, lefese an of course, barrels of lye filled with lutefisk come to mind. The cookies are hard to spell and hardly anyone knows about them. Local church basement cooks, however, know these things. These images are first to come to mind and don’t seem masculine (except for the lutefisk ocean crossing ordeal) Not that Norm is ashamed of Norway and Sweden’s images, there just isn’t that instant familiar image of Norm in most of us. Friendly and as a child, a bit rough and tumble. So, the name stuck and you, dear reader, are too. It also helps for the third person writing and as Jack says; “The names are changed to protect the guilty.”
So there you have it. Jack did indeed have a rough and tumble life with prison escapes, FBI encounters, Top Secret rank, Luftwaffe pilots, Russian surface missiles and facing down danger with it all. The name fits. (He does not own a battle axe.) He is Just a slightly dense Norwegian that is ready to sail to the new land. And risk his life to do so. Adventure seems to be a trait of Norwegians and Swedes. They like to work hard too.
Words and history combined with a lot of trauma. Jack likes to write to entertain, intrigue and show those narrow escapes. All of it happened due to shape a man able to witness the saving grace of Jesus. It’s pretty good, Jack Gator
Enough is enough. There are a few relatives down south in Jack’s family line. Cousins/Uncles, the usual smattering of odd balls and brilliant and creative ones. Usually the same ones in both categories. There is always prejudice out there against professional gators. Folks just don’t understand how hard we work for our food.
You know how it is. The relatives show up, sometimes moving in or acquiring a home in the area. A family of distant relatives bought a 40 and is attempting to put in a meat factory to enhance their diet. Who knows how that will turn out! Some people have been protesting against these ‘gators’ and it’s gotten a bit ugly. One of Jack’s relatives was offered a bribe to put in a big swampy factory that made them just drool with the possibilities of unlimited pork and ham hocks. Local folks again, didn’t want anything to do with this operation. There is a clever acronym for this operation: Controlled Alligator Feeding Operation. CAFO
The folks that really like sushi-on-the -hoof were very enthusiastic and supportive. Even folks that are just dabbling into larger lagoons of mass production are enthusiastic.
Of course, the inevitable protesters always show up when it’s plain the other producers of larger farm products do not have ‘skin in the game’. They’re just paranoid that their operations will be restricted or monitored for environmental issue violations.
The old game of ‘gator seniority’ comes into play a lot. You know how it goes. “My family has been here in this beautiful swap for four generations! We know what we are about and we respect other gators around us. After all, we don’t want all the land, just the land next to ours. No need to get snappy about it. It’s the way it always has been for professional reptiles.
The recollection of all the kids down by the bank of the swamp practicing their ‘death rolls’ is so much fun to watch. They constantly look to us up on the bank as we snack on somebody that showed up. Or is it with somebody? It gets a bit dicey when you are a predator to toe the line of eat or be eaten. Neighbors are nice to have and now and then, Gator appetites can be a bit of a problem. When your feeling a bit hungry and just need a little something to satisfy you, it gets confusing. Territorial food chains and all that.
The rabbit family just downstream have been really nice neighbors. Really nice. The beavers next door are very understanding with us and always avoid our family gatherings. Not pushy per se. Live and let live we always say. Predators make good neighbors, ask the snapping turtle family across the river. Their eggs are pretty good too.
So, to sum up, live and let live. Our territory is necessarily bigger, it’s only fair. We were here first.
How often is the Christian church no more than a self-centered community only faintly concerned that God’s will be done in the life of the world, only faintly interested in justice and mercy for this earth’s exploited messes, but passionately devoted to our own protection and advancement as a community and, if we are piously inclined, to assuring that after a comfortable passage through this life we can look forward to a guaranteed place in the foam-rubber-padded seats of heaven.
Christ was crucified because he would have nothing to do with the crowd (even though he addressed himself to all). He did not want to form a party, an interest group, or a mass movement, but wanted to be what he was, the truth, which is related to the single individual. Therefore everyone who will genuinely serve the truth is by that very fact a martyr. To win a crowd is no art; for that only untruth is needed, nonsense, and a little knowledge of human passions. But no witness to the truth dares to get involved with the crowd.
… Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
We cover our deep ignorance with words, but we are ashamed to wonder, we are afraid to whisper “mystery.”
… A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), The Knowledge of the Holy, Harper & Row, 1975 p 26
Do not talk much; neither long at a time. Few can converse profitably above an hour. ‘Keep at the utmost distance from pious chitchat, from religious gossiping. John Westley
Above all, praying means to be accepting toward God who is always new, always different. For God is a deeply moved God whose heart is greater than mine. The open acceptance of prayer in the face of an ever-new God makes me free. In prayer, I am constantly on the way, on pilgrimage.
…Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932-1996), With Open Hands, Ave Maria Press, 1981 p 69
Religion is divisive.” Yes, it is. But God is not. Religion is divisive when it becomes fanaticism, an insistence that we know all the answers, and that anybody whose answers are slightly different from ours must be wrong. Madeline D Engle
C.S. Lewis “I found that I had a prejudice against the French.” Warnie Lewis “How would that be?”Well, if I knew why, it wouldn’t be a prejudice, would it?”
C.S. Lewis: “I wouldn’t be the first ass that Christ has used and most probably not the last”“In a world of self-promoting academics, coining buzzwords and aligning themselves on the side of the angels of the moment, George Stigler epitomized a rare integrity as well as a rare intellect. He jumped on no bandwagons, beat no drums for causes, created no personal cult. He did the work of a scholar and a teacher—both superbly—and found that sufficient. If you wanted to learn, and above all if you wanted to learn how to think—how to avoid the vague words, fuzzy thoughts, or maudlin sentiments that cloud over reality—then Stigler was your man.”
Economist Thomas Sowell on Nobel prize winning George Stigler
Calling Jean-Paul Sartre: “Hello, is he free?” ‘he’s spent the last 60 years trying to work that one out’ Monty Pythons Flying Circus
“Explaining Metaphysics to the nation. I wish he would explain his explanation” Lord Byron in ‘Don Juan’
“The King James version or the authorized version as it was known. All subsequent translations seem to me to the verbal felicity of bureaucratic circulars” Theodore Dalrymple
“ Like a mornings cold spring, clinging to winter’s chill” J.R.R. Tolkien ‘the two towers’ Lord of the Rings.
These are some of the brilliant writings that I, Jack Gator, cling to and paraphrase in some weaker way to express myself. As my long gone mentor, another Jack, said: He owed a great debt to George MacDonald for his inspiration and his Muse. Not to plagiarize them, but to express their wisdom somehow with my own sentences and images. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
There is a common malady that a great majority of us suffer from. Not fear although that can easily be a part of this condition. The lack of contact with others or the inability to actually help someone who suffers from loneliness. This malady is so common that the temptation to minister to another person who also suffers from it is a desire. Unfortunately, the easiest and worst approach is commonality.
“Oh, you too! I am so lonely at times as well. I usually draw out an exciting new novel by Reptile Ron and relax with a warm quilt and a cup of decaf. Might work for you too!” Just substitute an exciting and personal story for your lonely feelings, it was recommended by Readers Disgust!
We all have scars of loneliness. A quote from Henri J.M. Nouwen says a controversial thing about these scars. “The Christian way of life does not take away our loneliness; it protects and cherishes it as a precious gift”a. Nothing will be able to take it away. Vacations to exotic locales, incredible soirees, fame and fortune cannot fill that wound. The ministry to the wounded is done by a wounded person.
The ‘crack’ or visible wound in us is akin to the Grand Canyon. It seems ‘out of place’ and somewhat threatening and dangerous. There is incredible beauty in it as well. A rock climber can overcome fear and descend, roped in and perhaps discovering a precious jewel encased in the hard rock..’
The loneliness Jesus endured up to his seemingly impossible sacrifice is palpable. His best and dearest disciples were asked to stay with Him while He struggled with the biggest and most horrid event of His life. Up in the Mount of Olives was the sweating of blood and the trusted and loved ones were fast asleep. Abandoned and alone. Willing to obey, but knowing the abandonment to come would be the most horrific event in the universe.
It all comes down to the cross, doesn’t it. An old legend in the Jewish Talmud shows us the ministry to come. Rabbi Yoshua asks Elijah when will the Messiah come? Elijah replied, “Go and ask Him yourself” The incredible question of where the Messiah was is answered “sitting at the gates of the city” The Rabbi is told the Messiah is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The people unbind all their wounds and then bind them up again. The Messiah unbinds one of His wounds and binds it again. He realizes He will be needed and feels He must be ready with no delay.
His wounds, akin to precious jewels found in the destruction of His canyon, enable the poor in spirit to be healed as He shows us the wounds, unbound “Touch my nail pierced hands, put yours in my wounded side, Give me all your love because I’ve given you all of mine” b. The ultimate loneliness He endured gives him the ability to touch every lonely and wounded heart and bind it together with the wraps of total love.
It’s who we are, we fall asleep in our comfy chairs just when the ministering one tells us to awaken and become a New Life. Abandon the false gods of comfort and a life with peace of mind with no troubles and a life style that promises to be care free. Touch His nail pierced hands, maybe for the first time and feel the embrace that will take that wound of loneliness. Forever. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
a. Henri Nouwen ‘the wounded healer’b. Jon Thurlow ‘I just want to know you better’
A fascinating device, the tuning fork. Jack has owned one for some time. It doesn’t get used anymore because electronic ones were invented that are a lot handier. The fork, however, has uses that are not possible with the electric styles. You possibly have had one of these forks shown to you. Hold it in your hand and give it a sharp rap on something that won’t be damaging. The tone rings out and you can put it on your mastoid bone to hear it quite clearly. You can set it on the pick guard of your string instrument and tune up with it (they come in various notes, so make a note of the note.) Just tighten or loosen an A string till the tones merge into one. No fair tuning to a fourth of A (D) it will sound a simple chord, but the string will be a bit worse for wear if it is above the D.
IF you have two forks, and they are the same tone, one will vibrate when the other is struck. Sympathetic tone response. It’s pretty cool. But, who has two tuning forks in A?
The call of other things in our lives can also resonate with us. Jack has noticed in a small crowd of people, that a certain word will ‘resonate’ in his mind and capture attention. Words such as: Fiddle or Mandolin. We all know this well. How many times have all of us heard our first name across a room and instinctively turned towards the sound? The faint sound of a voice calling you to dinner (noon lunch for those who need clarification). Resonance is a good word to explain this phenomenon. Perhaps it is now time to introduce the next phenomenon of this fascinating ‘tune’. There are friends and then there are neighbors who can also be friends. A common problem to those among us that want to be a friend for everyone. They wind up unable to be close to anybody.
A person that is the closest friend of all is another step into friendship. Proximus is the descriptive word for best friend. It derives from middle French but the original Latin basic means ‘closest’ or ‘nearest’. A neat word which branches into proximity. So Bear with Jack a bit longer, words are powerful.
The best tuning fork that resonates is the one that is the sum of you. The common phrase is: “I feel like I’ve known him all my life!” Often Jack meets a total stranger that Jack knows has met his Proximus. It really is a common experience if you can ‘tune yourself’ to be aware of it. Several moments where that really stood out are some of Jack’s favorite short stories. A helping guide in a monster sized warehouse that took time to show Jack where something was. Not an employee. A woman that waited for Jack in her car that she had just run into Jack’s car in a parking lot. Many such encounters have occurred, those are just two that are easier to write about.
People that Jack has said five words to: “You’re a Christian aren’t you?” It is encouraging and it is obvious if your tuning fork is ringing true. Brothers in Christ carry that. Don’t be afraid to say it. You’ll know if you listen for that sound. The sound of light, the sound stars sing around the throne. Often the sound that indeed is light. It’s all frequencies on the wavelength of eternity. Listen, it’s for you. Love has a sound of it’s own and it’s pretty good. Jack Gator
A dance tune that has taken the Midwest by storm has the full endorsement of Washington politicians who have been Biden their time for this musical comedy.
Written by a relatively unknown fiddler in Wisconsin, it has up to now been performed in Madison and St.Paul. The melody starts with a very fast arpeggio which quickly settles in for a downward movement from the right side of the fingerboard to the left (high notes to increasingly low ones)
Accompaniment in the score recommends counter melodies to be played on the bass buffoon with introduction of the passage by left hand pizzicato on the 2 ½ bass. Oddly enough, it was first performed in a closed pizza parlor in Northern Minnesota during a medical theater production in 2020. It was so controversial that the government ordered the restaurant closed along with every restaurant in the state.
Immediately, in support of the closings, the neighboring state of Wisconsin also closed public dining. It caused quite a stir among the populace. There were fines enforced by an attorney general who’s religion forbids the consumption of alcoholic drinks. It was in the first act of the medical theater which began in Washington D.C.
The dance continues to this day and the dancers are soon to leave the stage for ignominy with bad reviews.
It seems that these political satraps are also stirring the ire of the populace that are refusing the continuation of the influence of inept back peddling of the accompanying dancers.
Near the end of the comedy (which really wasn’t funny at all) the main dancers attempted to dance backwards to begin the dance again. The audiences at these nationwide productions began booing and even throwing things at the dancers. The debris began to build and not a few of the performers began to trip and go completely off script in attempting to save the performances.
It did not go well for those shows. They complained that the awkwardness’ and disgust generated were just false impressions of this comic opera. Trumped up and not noteworthy.
History has a way of repeating bad productions which are still seen on the world’s stage today. This reviewer advises to be diligent and read the scores of these dances. Variations of the parody (which began as a musical comedy) have been taken seriously by bad dancers who still believe in awkward, dangerous and foolish moves. There can be consequences to keep buying tickets to these operas. Read the sheet music and know the score.
A Roman citizen who exemplified rule for the greater good, Civic Modesty, Virtue and Humility. Several times he controlled the Roman Empire and led it to a succesful fulfillment of long term vision and intelligent use of resources and strength. He lived around500 BC. After ruling the empire several times and putting back on track of civilization (Ending the reliance upon the state) he retired and went back to his small farm.
Very much akin to our own George Washington who made certain that our nation stood by the constitution, after this was accomplished he also went back to his farm (voluntarily retirement) in Mount Vernon.
The obvious problem then, and now, is the outlook of time. Quick satisfaction of desire or long term growth and security. We are faced with this decision now in our nation. Is it growth in essential ways? Or do we wish for the things and ways that seem to satisfy our now?
Quick fix and keeping the populace settled (somewhat) and the offering of government supply and direction. Also a lot of ‘fake news’ to stir the pot of desire. We have all seen the anxiety in our neighbors for things that are not long term goals but in perceived wealth and safety (perceived). Jack will not pontificate of these things. They are simple things and easily seen, if we desire honesty and use the intelligence we have been given.
Stimulus cash that is dolled out to make us believe in a benign economy, entertaining conflict on the airwaves or through fibre optic high speed computers. Jack’s desktop is pages long every morning of answers to satisfying images. A new electric powered car (with a power grid able to keep them charged?) Lowering the price of gasoline by a dime by releasing two days worth of national emergency oil.
How about getting another and another shot of security which is akin to the finger in the dike by a small vision that promises and cannot deliver. Backed up of course by fear mongering. ‘Bring out your dead’ It will probably be you. Keep those shields up Scotty! Isolate and tremble. Your saviors in the capitol will let you know when it is safe. Life is not safe, never was. Again, as C.S. Lewis penned it so brilliantly about our Lord: “Is He safe? Of course not, He’s a lion..but He’s good”
It would seem quite a few people are getting aware that it isn’t safe out there. After all, we rely on lines of paint to keep us from deadly forces of impact. Does that seem safe? If I wear a paper mask that does not allow me to breath or see, I will be safe against people. “Buy this one! It fits perfectly!” (unless it isn’t needed) We are in a hurry to pick up that deal, that stimulus check. Survival food and enough ammunition to fight off ‘those people’
Gold and silver bars and coins to trade for your miserable, isolated and fear filled life. Cincinnatus and George Washington knew a lot of these things and with their virtue and honesty, helped us out of our situation.
We need that sort of attitude today. Modesty and the greater good visions. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
It was a perfect day for a garden party. Carrie had everyone there and she and Emily were out in the garden. Some tips were welcomed about potato bugs from Emily. She showed how they moved and where they came from. “Under the ground?” Yup. But you can control a small amount of them by just squishing them as they appear. Or there is a benign way by using diatomaceous earth powder! Any bug with an exoskeleton can be controlled. It was a new word and very good advice from an expert on those things. Bugs.
The round patio table was set with delicious looking pastries and snacky sorts of things. Crackers and French Brie. Croissants and small glass dishes filled with pesto. There was fine china cups that seemed to anticipate coffee and linen at the places where lawn chairs were set.
Sort of a high English tea picture set for the honored guests. Gary began digging into the brie and, as another writer, was delighted with all his fellow writers, and good friends, coming over to the table to join him.
There was a bit of lively conversation approaching as Dave and Sally were on either side of Nigel excitedly filling him in on Scripture verses that explain how this glorious party resembles another to come. Bob was dancing before them, sometimes walking backwards and giving encouragement to the three of them. How exciting it must be to hear these grand stories. Battles and victories with noble people. Suffering with unbelievable impact. Many things almost hidden from casual reading that book.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, just off the porch, Jack and Peter were whipping up a brew of excellent coffee. Fresh ground and just flown in with Carrie and Peter’s previous visit to St. Helena island. Best coffee beans on the planet for only twenty dollars an ounce. What a smell when the grinder did it’s work. Oh my, Jack never thought he would even smell coffee like this! Jack was ecstatic with his history knowledge kicking in. The very island that Napoleon was exiled to! Jack wondered if it was worth the exile to have that sort of coffee every day.
Eddie came in with a really nice linen towel around his arm and he was dressed to ‘the nines’ with an excellent servants black outfit. He delighted everyone when he walked out with a tray loaded with the best espresso ever. Sugar and cream in matching china as well.
It was a gathering of writers that came to enjoy one anothers company and hear stories from experienced raconteurs. The soiree lasted until the evening dew began and the grass was sparkly with the moonlight.
Have you ever thought what heaven would be like? What the King’s table that Moses and seventy some people got to dine at with the creator of everything that is and will be? Perhaps this was a dim preamble of sorts.
Writers can be persnickety and filled with themselves, but not today. Not in the garden of delights. What a gift for these poetic people to try and capture it in words that just didn’t seem adequate to describe it all. It’s pretty good, Jack Gator
The morning ritual, perhaps a few of us look forward to it. It ends with the half cup and half caff and a screen at eye level. Jack often wonders at the medical frame straighteners that are taxed with the continual efforts to adjust us to these times. You know the posture. Head tipped forward, about 25 to 30 degrees, left hand upraised and the digits of the right tapping on the small rectangle of plastic.
“Hi Eddie, what’s going on this morning?” “Ed?” Oh hi Jack, I was just checking my account.
The isolation of the postures of those around us. Walking, sitting on a bench perhaps or strap hanging on the metro. It has become a reservoir of escape and capture even on Jack’s email in the morning ritual. An interesting article on a Sunday lecture series is delayed a little bit by advertising that pops up.
We all know how it works and sometimes there is a short escape with a click down in the lower right of the screen that says; ‘Skip ads’ Or perhaps an X off the the right that deletes the ad. Jack has noticed sometimes the ad pops back up. Golly, Jack just wanted to read that article in the New York Bad Times about the collapse of civilization and an opinion of an expert on technical issues with the pending doom.
Old news articles, pulled off with a simple copy and paste. Here’s the news and it isn’t pretty. The immediate thought about that lecture or sermon diminishes to fear. Images of young thugs staring at your car as it is stopped at the red light. Red means danger close. Images of that property that is not selling as fast as it should because the market is skewed. Fear of an empty shelf at the destination locked into the GPS. Why was it always toilet paper that is the first thing missing, even at the two dollar store? “It’s those truckers! It’s the inflation causing something I don’t understand!
The good reporter/bad reporter sets us up for the ads hooked into the online reading. “Invest! Diversify! There is a way to guarantee the future for you and your family!” Another go-round on the roundabout of collapsing faith. Looking at failure and perhaps death by ingestion of food that does not contribute to nutrition. Fake food. Fake news.
As it was said thousands of years ago, there is nothing new under the sun. Same old game we play when we loose faith in the life given to us by the solid reliable source of all knowledge. Where is our Lord and Master? You know, I am doubting things and I am going to make sure every base is covered!
Diversify. There are other ways to make certain of my survival! ‘This offer is solid gold! It will get you through the hard times you have even been promised by that leader who seems to have disappeared ”Bullion. Shiny and eternally so. Secure as the bank. Diversify and survive. Nothing new under the sun.
Is it pretty good or is it just fear and lack of trust? Jack Gator
Jack was experiencing another melt down. An appropriate analogy for the origin of Melt Down. A nuclear power plant of any sort, has to be kept cool. There is more heat available in nuclear fission that can be used.
Jack volunteered for the nuclear submarine service as an engineer and thus, he is somewhat familiar with these things. The reactor must be kept cool enough to survive, to be useful and not dangerous.
The melt down Jack was experiencing was internal and dangerous to him. He was loosing his cool. His core purpose of being was under question. Jack was reacting to his perceptions of life and his purpose under those perceptions. He felt he was too old and, well, sort of worthless. He thought of those mile long lines of old grain cars that are seen in a side track sometimes near the highway. Another thought of being set aside is the farm machinery we see near the fields where the new fresh green painted combine is moving among the crop.
Old machinery, old abandoned houses with weathered gray siding and a grown over driveway. Set aside as a symbol of that old Grateful Dead song, “Old and in the way, that’s what I heard them say. They’ll never care about you when you’re old and in the way” That’s the illusion we believe.
We are old, yes. Our hair matches the old barn boards of gray..sometimes a silver gray. So easy to set ourselves on that shunt of rusty steel. Coupled with an endless line of others. Tattooed with gang paint spray and brake hoses disconnected. Forever. Out in the field, the old fashioned tractor almost hidden with the tires flat and grass growing through the frame. How it must be in the dormitories of the old we envision our end. Visitors these days like Clayton Moore with his mask asking how the food is.
Suddenly, Jack bolted awake with a memory of incredible worth. His worth to an absolute stranger a few years ago. After following an ‘instinct’ to visit an acquaintance in the big hospital, Jack had an experience that doubled in size as he thought of it.
When Jack left his new friends room there was a young man, walking slowly down the long corridor. An unusual appearing youth with large hoop earrings. Jack asked him if he wouldn’t mind if he walked beside him. “Sure, that would be OK. My doctor said I had to walk around this floor several times a day” Jack did not ask the young man why he was in hospital. At the next corridor junction, Jack stopped and said he was going to the right and it seemed his acquaintance was going left. Jack then asked if he could pray for the man. It was OK with him and a prayer with permission to put his hand on his shoulder was put forth. “OK” Jack does not remember his prayer but afterward the young man told Jack: “God sent you” Jack said, yes He did.
So now worth, eternal worth came flooding into Jack’s pity party and that was exactly what was needed. We are not abandoned machinery although existential thought and words say we are worthless no matter how old we are.
Jack has been reading a bit of Sartre, Joyce and Nietzsche for research. Some of that old ink stained Jack’s mind perhaps. Hopelessness, no meaning to life and other cheery stories can inculcate deep, they strain to dominate one’s spirit but God sent Jack a memory. A memory stronger than death, as strong as the grave and many waters cannot flood this love. Rich and priceless memories that fill Jack with hope and a life well lived through the eternity we all glimpse, as through a darkened glass.
There it is. A rainbow, in it’s original glory. Rain reflecting the colors of the spectrum. A symbol that the Lord said He would give us as a sign that He would never flood us again.
Quite a few people have taken the symbol and the miracle of refracted light and have used it to illuminate fractured light of their own designated symbols and message.
There are many people that also have taken the beauty of the rainbow and used it as a symbol of a product. Quite harmless but still, diminishing the astonishment a child sees. Do you remember the first time? I remember the first time my son saw it. He was fascinated with the arc and even went to England to meet Ken Ham that came up with building a 1:1 copy of Noah’s commanded Arc. Rainbows of covenant between us and the Lord.
Another outfit decided that the rainbow would instead be a symbol of freedom for them. The concept does not make sense in some ways. Freedom? from what? The rainbow’s only freedom is freedom from an earth flood.
The Governor of our state thinks it is appropriate to fly a rainbow flag for a month celebrating endorsing the hijacking of the beautiful rainbow image. For freedom to embrace perversion. How enlightened. It will please 5% of the population that are on board with birth control by having pregnant men.”How many fingers Winston?” (Brave New World)
Remember Judy Garlands song, ‘somewhere, over the rainbow’ ? That symbolized the promise. We of the last century (don’t ask) would never believed that someday our public schools would be teaching the ‘new’ symbol and language. No more does the rainbow offer a promise of protection and commitment. It now offers the symbol of flesh used for pleasure and a prime focus of our awokened sensibilities. Awoken to the real freedom of endorsement of a child being able to be whatever sex they want to be. When our new Supreme Court Justice cannot define what the word ‘woman’ really means, then we are on the way to Ephesus or Pompeii redux.
Maybe the words ‘on the way’ are inappropriate. That train is here, at the station, engine idling. It has already arrived . How about sliding open that boxcar with the really neat rainbow painted on it? Oh look, it’s already open but there’s nothing inside but an unpleasant odor. What’s in the rest of them? Famous authors and ‘experts’ for Newspeak magazine perhaps. Professors and liberal teachers to indoctrinate the children.
That open boxcar in particular had a whole wardrobe for the King! Splendid it is said. A veritable rainbow of color and coordinated accessories. The parade has already started and has startled one young boy…”the King doesn’t have any clothes on!” He is walking around, prideful in his power. Naked and seen as a fool. Jack knows the difference between men and Women. Counterfeit money is in the till. Try and spend it. Jack Gator
“The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, does glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven; and as imagination brings forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing, a local habitation and a name.”a
There is a great deal of unread and unnoticed wisdom floating about. Often, those words get clouded over with brash recitation. The meanings almost completely lost for the listener to the erudite speaker. We all do it. As a radio would just become background noise to alleviate the lack of conversation, so does great literature and poetry become in the hands of a tone deaf musician. After all, music is poetry put to sound. Prose and poetry are intoxicating concertos when done well.
Of course, there is a beginning to listening and that is a decision to be made by us all. Do we believe in what is being said as truth, real truth? Or does the attempt to inculcate us with excitement in discovered truth not appeal? After all, You and I are most ignorant of great wisdom that lies just about, flat and bound in cardboard or fine leather. Stacks of those at times around Jack’s comfy chair that somehow manages to lull him to sleep. Just when his hungry mind starts to come awake, Jack falls into a slumber. Too much of the fruit of the mind can be intoxicating. Small doses work better for Jack.
Am I getting tedious and bit vague now? Good, that’s the point. Trained at an early age to embrace ‘speed reading’, Jack become a bit of a prig without understanding as well. The words were read correctly and their meaning understood. There is a word that showed up on the old, yellowed report cards now and then, comprehension. A good illustration would be a story about a young boy that had an extraordinary experience. This boy in the story found a treasure that was revealed later in the book. Jack immediately thought of booty and coin like. Jack’s intellect was not engaged in the story.
The story in mind was a fantasy about real things of spirit and life. The author (a recognized master) had written the story to engage both our excitement and awareness of our selves in the story. After a paragraph or two, stories like this one should be vivid. We paint pictures and set in a sound track. After the story or movie per se’, the author rather insists we go beyond and play the melody of words that add a great deal. Great literature can resemble piano lessons. Suddenly the flatted fifth is beauty..
The next time this happens, Jack catches himself either dozing, editing to make the story make sense in his mind. ‘This isn’t relevant to me. Why am I listening/reading this? Just as wheat is combined, the sifting begins to yield the golden kernel hidden in a plain looking stalk. The loaves of bread in the promise are not seen by casual glances. Gleaning it is called and we are called to glean wisdom from everyone we meet in person or not. Our choice. Be arrogant and think of ourselves as complete as we are, or open up our hearts and find treasure at hand. Treasures abound if we look for it. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
As do most of us, we get a little bored watching the scenery go by as we keep a sharp lookout for errant deer, errant drivers and those lines we drive between. Isn’t it absurd that the only thing keeping all of us from collisions is paint. Headlights help a lot, but mostly to see the lines of paint. The game gets a bit challenging when there is snow and ice covering the lines. It really does feel like a video game, driving at speed.
Back to the scenery. One cold day, Jack was motoring south and at that time, he was counting chimneys and the wood smoke. Quite a few modern setups with wood boilers in the back yard were seen. It’s a good thing that windows are closed in the winter at the boiler homes. High barometric pressure or temperature inversions can cause some of those homes to almost disappear in a wreath of smoke.
There were quite a few homes that had masonry chimneys visible and some of them were in use as Jack motored by. There were a few of the old masonry chimneys that had shiny pipes coming out of them. An obvious concession to modern fuel of petroleum base. However, when Jack crossed Highway 8, the wood smoke was gone from the homes. Almost every roof top chimney seen had the propane exhaust pipe sticking out of it.
Putting the exhaust pipe from the propane furnace out of the chimney seemed logical to Jack. How else to do it? There are possibilities of wall ‘thimbles’ that can allow the venting but the easiest route is the old chimney. It seemed a bit sad to Jack to see the wood heat (or fireplaces) supplanted by a digitally controlled furnace connected to city gas lines or the ‘big boy‘ propane bombs in the backyard.
Jack was one year old when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it was nicknamed the Big Boy. Jack was exactly one year old when that happened. What a birthday candle. But, it brought Jack’s dad home. And a lot of other dad’s too. War is like that. Some dad’s come home, some don’t.
Back to the chimneys. Jack noticed wood heat at quite a few of the homes he drove by on his way down to merge onto another highway that begins at Highway 8. There were quite a few homes and business’ visible from the next highway going south. No wood smoke, no piles of wood and not even any outdoor wood boilers. Every chimney Jack saw had the ridiculous metal pipe sticking out of it. A periscope that was looking at progress coming with a petroleum based civilization. Jack wondered if Dr. Suess would be interested in a book about it. “Why was the chimney there and why was it lifted and taken somewhere?”
There is a saying of sorts that living is more real north of 8 I don’t know if that carries much weight and if living there is really that great (back to the Lorax) But there is a subtle difference the further north of 8 you go. Longer driveways, more barns and cows and horses and more wood smoke and real chimneys that survived the propane efficiency movement. More crumpled seed hats and the pickups are not quite as pristine either. Towns that you can walk through the main street in about five minutes. We do have some modern concessions though. There are sidewalks and some folks even have paved driveways. Now and then milk can be dipped out of the bulk tank too.
Lots of cords of wood stacked (new comers stack between trees) Big logs, split stacks and wood sheds. It’s a mess heating with a stove in the house, but nothing beats standing in front of a well built fire when it’s below zero outside. The cat water bowl froze to the kitchen floor at Jack’s house about forty six years ago. Jack now has insulation and a better wood stove. Life is different north of 8. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
It was always there. A loss, not even known for what it was. An emptiness that fell upon every thing that Jack experienced through his life. He was empty of love and lost it when he was a child.
Jack weeps now when he realizes what he felt that time when the emptiness took hold of him. He always thought it was abandonment. A memory that diffused relationship with everyone. Jack tried to cope with that memory, not even aware he was doing that. Clever words spoken and written. There were many times when that empty feeling would diminish and it was always the same thing. Smiles and words that promise embracing mutual friendship. Jack needed to forgive the people that he thought abandoned him. They did not know Jack nor he them. Relatives that should have known those things. Inherited behavior, perhaps cultural.
Music was soothing and a smile inside at a moment of beauty got Jack hooked into that beauty. Songs and orchestral creations worked well. He still remembers some of those songs. Then, when Jack played music, the phrases of praise momentarily filled the emptiness. ”I loved what you did” or sometimes just a few notes spoken of. Jack always felt the emptiness fade a bit. He craved approval and contact. Applause was nice but fleeting, Playing Ashokan Farewell on the violin perfectly, without an accompanist on guitar for example. Fulfilling for a moment.
It was a coldness in Jack’s very core that drove him to play well, and now, to write well. A romantic spirit. Those moments are when the emptiness would back off. Approval and love of just him. Jack did not know why those times of contact and praise satisfied him. Wasn’t it like that for everyone? Seeking smiles and laughter from people and amazingly, an interest in him that might be a friend. There were a few friends that Jack could contact anytime for their care and seeing him for what he was. An empty man, perhaps like they were. Leaning on one another like an unmovable roof truss. Solid wood. With knot holes and defects but Oak or Gopher wood. A trust able to withstand bad storms.
They are Gone now from the inevitable event we all must experience. They died. How inconvenient of them to do so. Jack still loves them dearly and he knows they still do. One of them appeared to Jack just as he was dying. He was 2000 miles away, so Jack figures friendship is eternal. (One man in particular)
Most of those friends were the kind we all need. A phone call or even showing up without calling, just showing up. Not even a hint of inconvenience from the open door. “You were in the neighborhood? That’s over a hundred mile trip! C’mon Jack, tell me what’s going on”
The day of the wall phone is gone. Now we have Facebook and posts telling us what’s right with us. All neat and clean without any tears or embraces of understanding. Isaac Asimov’s robots now have cell phones and good internet. We edit conversations akin to open book exams.
The last two years of isolation and fear have reduced our civilization to rubble. The masks, no smiles seen from anyone. The old game of keep away. Friends were forbidden to come near and we are so much poorer, even crippled by it. We all lost and the stats and graphs and zoom meetings were just party favors for the worthless messages.
Jack is not alone in his quest now. The world needs good friends and we must learn again how to do it. Smiles are back and Jack has noticed that a slight smile and a nod are beginning to make a difference. Smiles and laughter ring out as bells from the steeple. Come. Gather together and be thankful for blessings and deliverance from evil. Look upon the world as a small child’s smile at an adoring adult. It opens our heart as we look upon our world. Not through rose colored glasses but with clear vision. We take off the disguise and reveal ourselves and see. This is who we were created to be. I’m not afraid of your visible smile. It’s civilization 101. Jack has
been masked for most of his life and he has the ability now to offer himself. Smile, It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
It was one of those soirees, delightful providence of food and people well all yearn for. It went on for the perfect amount of time. Beautiful children, eager pets and faces and voices familiar. Polite words of promise and the search for lives barely understood. Surrounded by a choir, singing a light opera of intimacy, queries and laughter. The author of the notes and stanzas still in the wings waiting for the stage call.
Bits of the score, heard but not completely understood are jealously embraced, perhaps acted in a dream that night. The unrecognized but palatable yearning to be written into the opera at various stanza’s almost heard and ended many times with recognizable laughing voices.
Sometimes, you have the impression that the author has saved your savoring for last powerful measures. The ending of stunning beauty, perhaps only felt by a few actors still present on the stage. Duets mostly but with engagement of song between several singers. Fulfillment and with the dishes put away and the snap of tables folded for the next production in the background. The final notes played like beautiful, loud trumpets and kettle drums building to your then silent departure.
We have all been there. It was an invitation with promise and the invitation given casually. Turn on the voice in the car and follow her instructions. ‘Turn left’ almost going through the stop sign while looking for the road she was telling you about. Blue tooth on the car radio and it works. Sometimes. Upon arrival, it was anticipated that parking would be somewhat complex. It was a breeze this time. A few decades of months in the winter past, the sleigh and the snow complicated parking. A wonder of landscaping came into view. The stage was set.
The guest of honor spoke after a delightful lunch. Jack and Julie, sitting in the front could hear him plainly. The intriguing thing was his demeanor. Engaging. You could tell he was not used to speaking and it really helped him. Not smooth but truth easily heard and personal as weakness’ and surprises as well.
After he spoke there were the inevitable requests for clarification and he handled that very well. Professional speakers are a dreadful bore in those circumstances. Thanks be he was again, engaging and the time sped by.
Since we were in the front row, it was natural to approach him and reassure him. We talked and talked well. There was no lecturing. Fascination. Worlds presented from far away. The mission to intrigue and cause a slight tip of the head to look beyond sight. The author delighted in us.
A light opera, conducted just for us it seemed. As indeed the accouterments were put away and no one else was seen or heard around us, we realized it was the curtain call. The car was easily seen as the other ones were gone.
Every one of the guests and hosts had politely exited and we felt very honored as we conveyed the mutual pleasure of the evening to one another. Real conversation. After all, the opera of honor was well written and well sung by all. Silence and delight at what had been given.
The author of the play is still with us. He has a habit of doing that. He rode back with us and is, as usual, still about the ranch. He helps Jack write, he surprises us with snippets of astonishing beauty that we have never seen before. We long for more, always. We hunger for the meal again as we wait with eager anticipation. At times, He shouts his name over us. Jesus, author and finisher of our faith. it’s pretty good..Jack Gator
Always lurking in the controlling mind. A real solution for ‘those people’ that just don’t get it. A safe way to send them back to reality and make a small profit on the deal. As our world gets a fourth of the truth from the sanctioned loud voices, we find ourselves either listening on our secret wireless sets, or reading the rants and being admonished by family members. “Why do you keep reading that stuff if it makes you so upset?” Of course, along with the news sites comes the inevitable ads for cruises in the Archipelago islands and the like.
The collapse comes steadily with the usual shortages and complaints. Why is heating oil unavailable again? I just got back from the bakers and they’re out of flour. Can you get it running? I’d love to fix it but the parts are back ordered. It seems again like all the toilet paper can be found at the Roswell Mall Wart stores.
Then we hear and see cars and trucks that need some work, prowling the roads. Then run down abandoned houses will be occupied with people that don’t mow the grass. I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Toyota.
Our money is getting worthless and fuel is well over fifteen bucks. Large gardens abound in the country and generators and transfer switches are flying off the shelves. Ammunition is a subject of quiet conversations. It’s only a matter of time until the gentle words come forth: “Hello! We’re from Madison and we’re here to help. How many people live here? We need to keep track of supplies, are you doing OK? Your safety relies on us. We are setting up some shelters now that the weather is getting colder. The protesters have taken out the power grid and we know getting heat in this weather is critical. When you come to the shelter area nearby, we will make sure everyone is safe and warm. Basic food will be supplied. The fences and guards are for your security. Able bodied people will be asked to help with camp duties, cutting firewood and such.”
We will be told that it will be like camping out with our families and neighbors. Even common rooms for socializing will be there. (It is assumed that games such as ‘Go Fish’ and ‘ Monopoly’ will be available). It will be a vacation! Forwarded mail will not be an issue as the Post Office will have other duties assigned to them.
These measures are presented as temporary until the government gets things back in order. Moving into the shelters will at first be offered and when the national guard arrives, interstate travel will be regulated. Travel papers will be necessary,everywhere. The Consolidation of area resources will be accomplished and there will be work that needs to be done. Camp gardens, maintenance of equipment, and clothing repairs and distribution of supplies from the area. After all, “Work Sets You Free.” If we all work together we will survive. For a while. The recalcitrant will simply be let out the gates to fend on their own. To salvage and hide. And die alone.
It isn’t too hard to visualize the transition, it has already begun. When the social security checks that come into our bank accounts cannot buy gas and food. When government subsidy payments are only for ‘those’ people. When the internet news is always filtered for sanctioned good news. Cameras everywhere keeping law and order. It will be too late to stop the rock of Sisyphus from rolling over us. End game. State is our ‘savior!’ Our only savior is Jesus! He’s pretty good. Jack Gator
The flash and flare in the east and it is time. Move away from the comfort and deep sleep, awaken to dawn.
There are duties and places to be and now, it’s easier to find things because there is light streaming in. A little bit of Brownian movement from the dust and put on the pot. Find the good bread and drop two slices in with the timer set to max. The good bread is heavy. Got to find the cash for that upgrade on my cell phone is important too. Can I afford it? After all, everyone in the family has a new phone. Mine is old and I need to be current.
There is a shuffle and purpose at hand to indeed waken fully and the hot caffeine warms the old ceramic cup. Carefully, set it down besides the fresh toast and open up a book next to the vitamins and various pills.
The accouterments of morning rituals. The book at hand is a collection of short stories that are a bit hard to understand. Sarte, Sallinger and the rabbit eared current selection is Tolstoy’s ‘The death of Ivan Illych’
Nothing to it. Toast and coffee and a little orange juice to sluice down a hearty meal of existential writing and with some of the greatest short stories ever written. It’s still early and Jack’s son is stirring a bit. Jack comes to the part of the story when Ivan knows he is dying and no one will be honest with him about how they feel about it and him. Only a peasant boy that tells the truth.
A quote from la Rochefoucauld is at hand: “One can neither stare long at the sun nor at death” During the war the thought was, it will come quickly perhaps? It did to that shipmate on the horizon. It was close but I am OK. Next stop, Palma De Mallorca. Great liberty!
As the inevitable death to Ivan comes, close behind is the funeral. All attend and all contemplate what this means to us as perhaps connections for work. How will the widow get by? Really, there is nothing we can do financially for her. Our own debt is big and that new payment for the big pickup is going to really strap our finances. Of course, how could I forget that vacation to Venice! I think I have enough saved.
We go on, inwardly feeling we will live forever and poor old Ivan, it must have been his diet or that he just wouldn’t go to gymnasium as we advised him so many times. After all, his whist game was more important to him. There was nothing to be done and here I am, dressed as though I was in a church service. Listening to one after another speak of Ivan. The fact that we are in that silken and narrow box does not cross our conscience.
Even when the preacher tells us we are off the hook by death of sacrifice, we do not comprehend the sacrifice not really understood. Put a few quarters or even a dollar bill in the red kettle. Tithe well and perhaps, just perhaps, we will walk as Enoch did and not have to suffer as Ivan did. That’s it! The second coming and it will all work out! Don’t worry, be happy.
Death was defeated lingers and we are all good to go. Mourning seems to have passed us by. Ask not who the bell tolls for, it’s you. Old Ivan, it was his time to go. Is there lunch after this, should be. It’s pretty good here at the church of endless life. Maybe I should get in line before every one else does. Jack Gator
Some of you older folks may remember the ‘free speech’ movement in Berkeley back in the 60’s. There were all sorts of speakers ‘for the people’ declaring the freedom to say anything they wanted to and thus, enabling everyone to do the same.
Mario Savio, Jerry Rubin and others were up there on the steps at the college,ripping up the air with megaphones and every filthy word they could muster up. The lizard was let out of the cage and it really still belongs in there today. Jack has noticed things that are acceptable nowadays that were not so a short time ago. Movies, literature and people on some sort of insane voyage seem to be heard and amazingly, understood and endorsed by many. It seems as though Allen Ginsburg and his ‘man/boy’ agenda has been given a new look and found politically correct this time around.
It appears that insanity and the collapse of thinking is here. Turning our children into the opposite sex and actually having people in Washington unable to define the difference between a man and a woman. That sort of thing happens in fantasy movies. Usually it is some sort of super power that appeals in those kind of films. Now, the super power is saying things that are not real and people that hear these things believe them. These new believers get angry when those of us see absurdity spoken and written. Easily seen if you haven’t drunk the cool aid. Feminine personal products available in men’s public toilets just in case you feel you need them. Men competing in Women’s sports events because they have changed their names to female and wear girls outfits.
Our country is on a acid trip that Timothy Leary stated would be so cool if LSD was put in all the water we drink. Conspiracy theories abound. Free injection needles for drug addicts. Creating ‘safe zones’ for rioters we now call disenfranchised and troubled youth. Shootings every night by criminals that ‘we created’ because of our racist history (which is being re-written by George Orwell’s ministry of truth)
Jack experienced the tip of that iceberg the other night. He was at a public reading by a university professor with many endorsements and accolades from the usual foundations and politically correct intellectuals. Books for sale too. Autographed as soon as the cash was given.
It was Sproul plaza again. This time without the megaphone. A totally inadequate sound system and refreshments for those of us who need those sorts of things. It was put on by a government funded institution, out in the delightful perfect summer evening on a plaza. Nice chairs and very friendly people, a lot of them old friends and acquaintances. The main speaker was reading a book of her own and it began to segue into language that is now free to use. Language of bar habitués in questionable parts of cities. The small gathering of intellectuals began to titter and appreciatively express their delight in the continual use of curse words and the denigration of our Lord. As though He was the cause of sorrows and arbitrary wrong doing. “Is He safe? Of course not, He’s a lion but He’s good” A.
The free lemonade and grapes and crackers were leaving traces to follow the crowd along. It was a courtesy by the staff to comfort us and prepare us for the endorsing of the cool-aid of the times. How exciting to hear an endorsed intellectual (with the mandatory book signing afterwards) speak those words that we all want to. Polite society is not ready for them..Yet. It was sad for Jack to experience such drivel and insanity from an old friend.
He brought some of his columns for the author to enjoy later but tucked them back into his journal and left. It was not good. Jack Gator
A. C.S. Lewis. ‘The lion, the witch and the wardrobe.
It was Jack’s first duty station. Sent overseas to Italy and the only destination was the mysterious, Comservron 6. It was exciting and only the third plane ride for Jack. First one was a DC3 out to Michigan to set up a curtain display. Second one was boot camp in San Diego and now international!
Naples, Italy sounded official and perhaps some sort of embassy duty! A few weeks leave to remember where home was and it was off to the airport to fly overseas. Jack was just barely 21 and away he went. Jack was just getting used to Camp Nimitz in San Diego. Teaching Morse code to other Sailors in A school It was rather pleasant after boot camp actually. Jack had a sister in Laguna too. She had a red Corvette and let Jack drive it now and then to Las Angelis.
Instead of some villa with radios and communication for an embassy, Jack found the duty station was aboard an old WWII fleet oiler. His first duty on board was back in the mess decks, peeling potatoes as finally the ship left port and steamed off to the east Mediterranean sea. The ship anchored out (she always did because no one trusted a ship filled with millions of gallons of fuels. Oil, gasoline, JP4 and kerosene. None of this bunch had ever exploded but you can’t be too careful with floating bombs.
The landing craft was launched and Jack actually set foot on yet another foreign country, first one was Tijuana after boot camp. Now Turkey. Exotic and quite a bit like movies that feature bazaars with people jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Exciting to Jack and still so foreign. The street vendors closed in on Jack and began offering to buy his dress blue pants. Jack thought about Dr. Suez and the story of the green pants with nobody in them. Jack got back to fleet landing and was glad to get aboard. So much for Izmir. Jack’s pants still had somebody in them and he quickly changed into his utilities.
Being home ported in Naples, Jack was entitled to have a room in town. What a surprise when Jack heard this! There was an advisory contact to obtain a room or apartment and Jack chose this room on the seventh floor of a galleria. There was a balcony leading to the room and at the middle of it where the elevator came up, a view of the building unfolded. Stupendous falls short. It was about eight stories down to the interior which was laid out in a cross. At Jacks floor, the glass dome covering the galleria was right above him. As the development in Jack’s home town began to take off, the concept of an interior shopping ‘mall’ which began in Europe, was very attractive. Jack could see the shoppers way down there and he could see right to the north of the Galleria to the Napoli Opera house.
Jack set out to get some ‘civvies’ and chose wool Harris tweeds and the accouterments that went with that style of perhaps an English professor on holiday. Jack met a British art student at a local cafe’, and over small demitasses of espresso, Jack invited her to take a train to Pompeii. A delightful excursion until they arrived and the ruined city was very pornographic in it’s statuary and frescoes. That was the end of that and she left for London and Jack went back to the Galleria. The elevators all ran on 10 lire coins and once Jack came up to his floor, he realized the gate to his room was closed for the night. Jack tried not to look down as he climbed the railing and swung around the gate. Oh well, the room was a refrigerator in construction. Marble floors that would not warm anything. Jack had a little sunflower propane heater and it kept his bedside table a bit warm.
Foolishly leaving the beauty of Galleria Umberto for a seedy apartment rented by his new friend Chuck. Was a dip into the seedy side of Naples. The elevator up to Tonino’s apartment also ran on 10 Lire coins and if you hit the call button just as it was getting the bottom and climbed in the open door, it would go down a few feet and go up to your floor. It was that kind of alleyway apartment area. Trouble was brewing for Jack with the local pharmacy at the end of the alley that legally sold methadrine over the counter. Chuck called them ‘pep pills’ for the mid-watch. This adventure, Escape and Capture I and II was in the Leader last year. (Drop me an email and I can forward them to you) Gatorjack75@gmail.com It’s all pretty good. Jack Gator
In order to prove the theory of gravitation which is linked with the resonance of particulars, a linear accelerator the size of a galaxy would be needed. That would take quite a government grant. Another quote: “..it all depends on exactly what you call gravity” or, “ will we ever know the real nature of space and time?”
It’s a pretty swell free magazine operation. Early or late, 24 hours open is the library magazine drop em’ off and pick em up‘. It is the place where Jack met the ‘North Dakota Drifter’ if perhaps you remember that column that was in the leader in December of last year.
Jack stopped on his way to an early morning swim and found several magazines of interest. One of them in particular that had an article speculating on the beginning of space and time. There is some disagreement among the research and the most popular version involves a fantastic theorem. Well researched and well written too.
Roughly the theory speculates that both space and time emerged from the structure and behavior of more basic components of nature. It is often referred to as “The theory of everything” This might be the analysis that the Monte Python movie was inspired by. Hyper pan dimensional mice are responsible for creation is that theory. Quite close to the article in Scientific American actually. Suddenly, in the midst of this complex article the “Big Bang” gets brought into the playground. OK, here is the summary in the article. String Theory: “It’s eponymous strings are the fundamental constituents of matter and energy, giving rise to myriad fundamental subatomic particles at particle accelerators around the world.”
That’s pretty basic stuff and it goes on from there. If you are a nuclear physicist, this is just the credits before the main attraction. Sort of like the disclaimer in action movies that state all names, places and people are fictional and bear no resemblance to real ones. Entertaining if you like to go to those sort of movies. And of course, we have to add Star Trek nomenclature into the thesis with black holes. Not the ones at the on ramp to highway 8. Those holes can take you where you have never gone before. Places like Jay Austins Auto sales and service.
Seriously, there is more with diagrams of resonance to particles galaxies away. Now they are getting somewhat closer. Science fiction such as “Out of the silent planet” or ‘Perelandra’ by C.S. Lewis are more entertaining with the precepts given in those books. Try ‘Life, the universe and everything’ by Douglas Adams. There is even a movie made out of that one. Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy.
Jack is looking forward to that answer. Perhaps, as Jack speculates in one of his columns, ‘The watchmaker in Paradise’ (published October 27th 2021) We have no idea what we will encounter in a place indeed without time or perhaps the universe as we see or imagine it is. This thought ‘string’ is perhaps what all these brilliant physicists are searching for. Desperately searching for anything to explain how and why we are here, or what here is. Jack knows there is a mind that created him and you and all that we are and will be. After all, the brilliance of scientists ends at the endorsement of the theory of ‘The big bang’ a popular view that takes God out of the creation. Perhaps some scientist will actually believe that they can create life from elements of our earth or discover life in our own backyard of the solar system. The challenge to create life from dirt is you have to get your own dirt. Evolution does not compute at all. My eye could not possibly be built by waiting 5 billion years for eyes to ‘evolve’ As in the article of string theory it could be said, “Get your own string” The most basic thoughts from children is “If there was a big bang, where did it come from and who lit the fuse?”
Three words can describe our existence and they are written down in an incredible book. “In the beginning..” Is anything impossible to the eternal God that was not created that can spend an eternity with just you or me?
Eternity indeed is calling us away and it’s pretty good.. Jack Gator
There it was, so fleeting perhaps and gone quickly. So many moments in our lives that stun and stop us that we cannot reproduce. The fragrance of a smile in the midst of a ferocious storm or a measure of music that was perfect, even in recording cannot reproduce the moment you heard it. A memory of beauty is not the moment it was seen or heard or even smelled. A farmer working his field with the music of his machines. A hummingbird, dancing in the lilac bush just outside the window that Jack opened. The sound of the wings, the sight of the bird going back and forth, dancing for his mate just inches before him. Exciting, unexpected and so intimate that Jack had to sit on the bed and thank his creator for the gift.
The beauty of paintings that come close is a slight opening to the painters grasp of her face. The Mona Lisa of Leonardo described by Vesardi :”There was a smile so pleasing that it was more divine than human” As Jack meandered the halls of the Vatican almost sixty years ago, he was silent and amazed at the masterful paintings, the priceless paintings that came close. They made Jack long for the painters mind and visions that he tried to capture. Beauty so close but not all of it. The smell of the oils, the touch of the brush on canvas and the gift to see what conveys some of the experience.
Later in Jack’s life there are moment’s still strong in Jack’s memory of desert sunsets. The sound and motion of lying in his bunk at sea, rocked to sleep with the rush of the bunker oil beneath the deck. Describing it can invoke memory but it is not being there. Beauty in a war.
The sound of laughter and an overwhelming partnership between a couple next to Jack. They were playing and singing in upstate New York. A famous club with Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson on Jack’s left. The song was obscure but the music swirled about them. Judy’s laugh and Bill’s smile as the trio created beauty for eternity.
A small storefront in Northwest Wisconsin that Jack’s family had transformed into a place of musical worship was beautiful. To the family, a longing years afterward for those moments of unity indescribable. They all played and sang together in the evenings and they too, yearn for more of it. The small, hand painted sign over the sidewalk, hanging from the awning is gone. The room, seen from the sidewalk is in disarray now andnext door the friendly bar that allowed them internet signals is closed and the building looks like it got the wrong end of a 105 mm. Next to the burned bar building is a closed bakery storefront. No small tables with good breakfasts and glass cases displaying the sugary delights. Just blinds on the windows now with the baking going on for gas stations with fill ups available. No friendly faces behind the counter either. All memories that cannot be captured with photos, smells or conversation. No more pedestrians walking out with with white bags of donuts.
The sighing of the wind through a tree top, the sudden smell of flowers as Jack’s son rides by them. A combined beauty of things seen, felt and smelled that cannot be captured to enjoy again. Fleeting and a glimpse again of eternity. Our memories are reminders of a sort but not the real moments stunning beauty
Jack’s navy best friend Chuck told him about it in five words. “It’s better than you said!” Chuck said those words appearing to Jack just as Chuck died several thousand miles away. Another fleeting beautiful thing, perhaps portayed in a movie about those things. Again, stunning and indescribable and unrepeatable.
We try to grasp the sighing wind and paint with our cameras beauty heard and seen. It has been said by many artists and writers. ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’. Impossible to repeat emotion powered by all of our senses. The Lord works in mysterious ways and it’s pretty good, Jack Gator
There are many ways as perhaps there are people to engage with music. It’s a bit of a stretch to think that way but it seemed apparent at a recent conversation. Three of the Gator family were discussing response to music played live. Not recorded. Ex Ante or before the music is heard, versus Ex Post afterwards.
Jack began seriously thinking about why he likes certain experiences of music, including music he has played ensemble. Is it the gestalt of everything, the singing, the instruments or the attitudes seen and felt? Perhaps at least all three, but one aspect stood out for Jack. The rhythm. When Jack played for years with a local square dance band, rhythm was everything. Even if the perceived pace was two or three times the chords or notes played. The dancers listened to the ‘caller’ we played the tune. No body in the band sung anything.
Before long, after joining the band at the invite of the mandolin player, Jack realized the gift he had been given for all of his life. He loved music from childhood onward but until he joined that band ( Duck for the Oyster) Jack did not know what really moved him about music. They knew after a short time of playing together. It was a four piece band consisting of a fiddle, a mandolin, a stand up bass and Jack on Guitar. Jack became dubbed “The Rhythm Monster” The playing of a chord slightly ahead of it’s usual place. Doubling up the time signature while the band played in ‘half time’. Adding extra beats to change a waltz so if the dancers were not careful, they could be a bit lost.
It made things cook and now and then when Jack would do these things, the guys would give a brief chuckle and join in the fun. Just adding a harmonic note instead of a chord would work too. They were all fantastic musicians and the joy they projected was palpable.
Nowadays, Jack plays with a small ensemble that is always a different group except for the guitar player and lead singer. He is, of course, the leader that gets the songs, the charts, the order and picks just who he hears in his mind to play. He picks Jack to play mandolin and violin every month or two and whenever they rehearse and play, Jack has fun with the rhythm with his instruments. The real high notes that are played with a tremolo makes the leader ‘laugh’ with delight. The fiddle Jack plays sounds more like the square dance and waltz things Jack learned playing country western music in the middle 70’s. Double stops with chops and more harmonics. It’s Jack’s love language.
This band is a worship band that plays in front of a sizable group and the hard part is playing a short period of five or less songs. The goal is to project the joy of the subject (whom Jack has some experience with) and the sure pathway to projecting this joy is to experience it in front of the singers, the congregation. A quick smile or a nod of a head. A quick glance by the leader with that smile, conveys the joy sought with all their hearts. It’s preaching on a different level. The message is always the same. The living God Jesus, deserves all the glory and honor. He dances and gives His joy to those in the room along with Him. Nothing else comes even close.
Do what you love and love what you do. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
Fairly recently, Jack started doing Zoom meetings for a committee he is a member of. A local outfit it is but still, easier to chat with neighbors within a radius of 10 miles or so.
There is a mute function at the top of Jack’s screen that shows his face on the screen. Clicking it silences any vocals or noise from Jack’s workspace. Clattering pencils, coffee cup clanging, all silent for the other participants. Of course, the camera showing everyone in a smaller space on the screen is difficult for Jack. No matter where the camera is located, Jack seems to be looking up or sideways. The other folks don’t seem to have that problem. Jack will have to ask why.
Recently, Jack remembered a similar chat format that he had with some friends in the big city in the late fifties. Most of the guys in the chat were friends of similar age except for Brother Dave in South Minneapolis.
Since home computers and cell phones were decades away, the multi chat ‘room’ was done over Amateur radio. Jack was in eighth grade as were most of the participants and all of them held General class licenses. This allowed them to use audio transmissions and more ‘bands’ of short wave to do so.
The chatting was done on the Ten Meter band which was much wider in bandwidth than the popular citizen’s band radio. That slot in radio bands was much higher around two meters and was disdained by Jack and his friends. No training or knowledge of circuitry, antenna construction and Morse code was required for that citizen’s Band. Elitist Ham juveniles. Citizen’s band is still used by OTR drivers as a useful tool, but the range and power is very limited.
So, there we were, a group of nerdy young amateur radio operators and we came up with a plan for a ‘network’ or net to join us all at the same time. We decided on a frequency at the edge of the ten meter band and called our little group the ‘Fish Net’
We would log on when we should have been in bed on school nights and talk about school and ‘social’ events that it seemed we were on the outside of: football team stuff, flirtatious gossip and the ‘In’ crowd. You may have been in on that or if not, you know the isolation of not being approached to join one. No doubt, we radiated (pun) our superior minds and scientific abilities that made us total outcasts. Jack went on to a custom loud chopped Harley in the early 60’s and confirmed his rebellion. Another column. (Jack sold his ham gear to buy chrome plating and engine parts.)
So, late at night, Jack and his friends would establish contact. One at a time we would announce our monitoring the exact frequency we would meet on. Jack rigged up a string to his foot switch which would switch from listening to broadcasting. Switching antenna for receiver to transmitter and standby to both parts of his ‘rig’ The string went up the ceiling and down to his bed.
Jack took his microphone to his bed, laid down and would pull on the string to make the switch. It worked and a few times, Jack would fall asleep at the switch. It was fun and almost impossible to convey to school mates. Several times, a ham operator from another part of the country would log in and chat a bit too. A bit of another difference between Citizens Band Radio or CB. That can not be done with 5 watts of power. We had a hundred watts or more and ionosphere radio wave ‘skip’ now and then.
It was fun and connecting as we all went to different schools. Early Zoom, about fifty years or so. Pioneers in communication as it were. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
It’s natural. It’s necessary. There is danger that must be realized at times and to be avoided. Of course, the downside is we tend to believe that the danger extends to those around us of our ‘tribe’. Jack knows this is one of his obvious problems, is it yours too? Not physical danger but religious danger. We all have religion in us. After all, the philosophers on Mar’s hill centuries ago were religious too, as we all are. Every one of us. Paul of Tarsus was not successful in convincing these men of the truth of Christ. Why? Because they are just like us. Comfy in their own religion and not open to anything else. Well presented and truthful by Paul, but judged as wrong.
Jack has had a lot of experiences that can and have been judged by others. Is it your experience too? It isn’t too hard to see the response of incredulity and rejection immediately. A slight lift of the eyebrows or a small pulse in a carotid artery. Closure of the mouth slightly and an upturn of the head. The most obvious response is a crossing of the arms in front. Subtle, there are other ‘tells’ of emotion. You can see them if you get good at it. Oddly enough, they show when you lie too.
There are many subjects in conversation that trigger judgment, Jack finds the most reactions are those referring to conversations shared about communications from God, Lord of lords. Personal events of beauty and love. Especially if there isn’t any understood point, or worse yet, a prejudgment of himself as deceived or worse. As in Jack’s life, a judgment of doctrine or scandal in another church body or chain of faith. It leads to a loss, always. Jack has mentioned some mentors that have assisted him in his faith growth. Miracles of healing and visions while with old friends or where they were at the time.
The gossip usually goes on within and it is a ‘hot button’ often resulting in a total rejection of music written and sung. Music using scripture as a base as well! It is disappointing to Jack as he knows how he is being delivered from this what is called ‘discernment’. Jack has been a musical performer with folk music and country blues for a great portion of his life. A lot of songs that are not too useful in a faith gathering but this does not necessarily condemn everything Jack has done or will do. . Jack’s mentors of worship however, are shrugged off as soon as he mentions them or even exposes a sticker on his instrument cases. ‘Oh them’ Heretics, deceived people
Beautiful songs that bring tears to Jack and when Jack mentions them in groups or personal conversation some extraordinary things, miracles really that he has experienced; they are quickly ignored and put in the judgment bucket as the result of brainwashing or hypnotic occurrences. Jack has done this too and he is the lessor.
Think of how John’s Revelation was and is received. It’s similar in many ways. It is the way our life is supposed to be at times. Stunning to us and extraordinary to others. Why are we like this? Jack guesses it is his arrogance and belief that he is the judge of all things. After all, beasts with many eyes, a Man with eyes of fire and a burning sea of glass with infinite musicians playing and singing. Some folks even reject musical instruments.
Try and open up without the feeling of being dragged away on a sledge of sludge. Listen and look at something else, something that can have a lot of beauty and truth in it. Ask Jesus how he looks at these things, the song of songs which is dismissed as a fleshly song. Solomon was out of his mind and hallucinating perhaps? Actually, it’s pretty good. “I am lovesick, tell me if you find Him”. Jack Gator
It was a trip that many of us have taken. Perhaps quite a few times for some. Jack and Julie decided to go North and become relaxed by the worlds containment of perhaps a third of all the fresh water on the planet.
A brief stop at the entryway to the North Shore, Canal Park in Duluth. It was a Thursday morning and there was hardly anyone around and parking was a breeze.
An automated parking meter had issues and would not complete its given task. We tried to talk sense into it but the last thing we tried worked. Like a vagrant with an attitude, it wanted money, folding money and not plastic money. Jack understands that as he was a street busker in The City. If you have been there, you know where that is. Square card processing is not an option when you are sitting on a sidewalk, much as the meter was doing.
There was limited entertainment forthcoming, but it was adamant about the cash. It pulled in the bills and was satisfied and permitted our car to be parked next to it for 4 hours. We went into the basement coffee shop and got
coffees and scones and went up to the second floor to the violin shop. Old friends of a sort own it and they operate on Jack’s instruments. A tale was told by Chris about the guitar shop on the same floor. An interesting character was there buying a 1920 Martin D28 guitar. He paid cash and stood out side the violin shop with the guitar in his left hand, leaning on the stair case balustrade with his right. No one paid any attention to him as Duluth is rife with odd men. It was Willy Nelson, in town for a gig and unrecognized and not fawned over either he finally just strolled down the stairs and out the building. Perhaps another busker in from the cold.
Neat story and Jack and Julie left for highway 61 to go north. Another famous guitar player wrote a song about that highway. Jack’s odd mind was now peculating along with the lyrics that Bob Dylan wrote back a few years. Something about Abraham and his son Isaac.
It was easy to find the cabin they would have for the better part of a week. The really good ones are on the east side of the road (that’s where the lake shore is)Forget about the three story mansions in town with widows walks and turrets and fantastic land taxes. The quest the Gators was on did not consider mansions and bling. It was easy to find the cabin and after acquiring a smoked whitefish just before.
The cabin was as close to the shoreline as physically possible. About 25 feet or so and the same above. It was perfect. One room with everything you would need. Toaster, sink, king size bed, table. The civilized things.
Stunned by the almost exotic view, they got everything out of the trunk and made it home there. Jack made some toast and coffee right away and Julie went down the boulders to the shore. There was some wind and left over waves from somewhere and the crashing waves and foam worked their welcome.
They slept with the window cracked and the heater cranked. Two quilts and a wool blanket and they were sound asleep as pillow rearranging was done. The crashing of the waves was a familiar sound to Jack from his Navy days. The oil on board below Jack’s compartment made rushing noise as the ship rolled at about 12 knots steaming. It is akin to a wind sound but the regularity is the key. The bed was not rocking Jack to sleep as it did aboard the old WW II tanker, but the rush of the waves did the job quite well. Eight million gallons of bunker oil that was heated by the steam pipes made the ships deck nice and warm in December too. It was all there in Jack’s deep memory and he was asleep for the night. The waves never stopped all night and through the next morning.
A hot cup of coffee and the fingers of foam rising up from the black rock below was mesmerizing and the anxiety of civilizations rush began to fade fast. Nothing to concern yourself as eternity calls us away. Thousands of years on those chiseled rocks. The agony of time, rolling on and on. Wearing away our world one channel of rock every century. It roars and leaps and then there is passive swirling as the next impact swells up and in five seconds, crashes again. Eternity and the soothing of time in small increments. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
The oldest question man continually asks: Where did we come from and where are we going? It’s a reasonable question. There are many answers that are sort of reasonable as well. Some of them are rather humorous and some of the really old ones are much better than new musings and mutterings from the landed authorities. Gator gets puzzled by philosophers that haughtily pronounce we came from the expansive struggle of lessor forms of life. Over billions of years, a microbe of impossible life decided to move into a nice condo and developed that dream. It’s natural they say, after all we developed intelligence from nothing to stupendous heights. More towers of babel perhaps. A hearkening to go where no man has gone before, Intelligent awareness. At warp 10, passing the aptly named black hole library where those sorts of books can be found.
All sarcasm aside, the question still stands and the only studies that go beyond our foolishness fall into the category of theology. It is sometimes referred to as philosophy of the old thinkers: Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. The deep ones we dismiss because they’re dead. After all, we have advanced scientific thought to heights that no man has achieved…oops, back to Star Trek again. We know nothing about origins and intelligence as it comes from our worship of the god of mankind. It’s us, it’s me. Easy to worship myself. Don’t even have to think about it.
Good and honest conversation about these things is refreshing and a good use of time. Perhaps at a conversation ‘pit’ at a local library. A perfect place to speak and converse about anything in print or even a popular debate in the newspaper. Jack enjoys eating his breakfast with a book on his left or perhaps the latest issue of a newspaper. What an archaic communication device, a newspaper. Yet, left with reading the news on a 3” wide screen which seems akin to reading an old letter that is faded and yellow and needs close scrutiny. We all do it, gazing down at that little window of information to see if there is any good news or gossip to share. Copy and paste and send it on. Before newspapers, and that was not really long ago, there were the coffee and tea shops where people went. They read their own writing to one another and then invited comments. This is a quote from a man who did that sort of thing:
“Genuine controversy, fair cut and thrust before a common audience, has become in our special epoch very rare. For the sincere controversialist is above all things a good listener. The really burning enthusiast never interrupts; he listens to the enemy’s arguments as eagerly as a spy would listen to the enemy’s arrangements. If you attempt an actual argument with a modern paper of opposite politics, you will find that no medium is admitted between violence and evasion. You will have no answer except slanging or silence.”…G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936),
A wise man and very ‘up to date’ with his thoughts. Perhaps you, dear reader, have experienced what Mr. Chesterton is describing. Polite and respectful listening and conversation is delightful and also, at times, stimulating. Different viewpoints and feelings are opened and thought begins. Civility and respect are not things of the past. Listen well and speak as you are led. It’s pretty good, Jack Gator
Jack has been studying a lot lately. It seems as though taking a College correspondence course is right in time with the strange times we are in, the whole world is in. Distance work, computer work now made possible with fast internet and social acceptance. There are great benefits to working at home. Good coffee for one. No ground coffee in the cans for Jack. Pleasant contact with family, mostly. Casual clothing too. Just sit at the keyboard in his Wall-Mart shopping pajamas and start working with the bean grinder and French press nearby.
A game plan that satisfies. After Jack passed his philosophy finals, he found something pleasing. He kept studying historical philosophy for more insight. To be more aware of his own thoughts and philosophic views.
A poem by Frederick Nietzsche, translated from German, hit Jack profoundly: “Oh man, take heed of what the dark midnight says: I slept, I slept—and from deep dreams I awoke: The world is deep—and more profound than day would have thought. Profound in her pain—Pleasure more profound than pain of heart, Woe speaks; pass on. But all pleasure seeks eternity—a deep and profound eternity”
Nietzsche, without trust in an infinite and personal God, went insane in beautiful Switzerland. We now realize without that trust we develop what we refer to a ‘Game Plans’ We shut ourselves up in the structure of a plan and do not look beyond it. Perhaps a plan of a secure retirement investment, shaving two seconds off of a 50 yard breaststroke or getting that hole in one. Once the game plan actually comes to fruition, another one is created that keeps us in that focus on our immediate pleasure. Only ourselves in mind, others get in the way a lot.
For the professing Christian, the game plan can work against him. It can set aside the complete and absolute surrender to the living personal God. Only complete surrender to our Lord can make our game plans world toys, suddenly unimportant. Many times Jack has been told to do things, say things perhaps or just go somewhere and quite a few times Jack argues with the Living God. The Lord is gentle with him but very insistent. Patient.
Jack’s worldly game plan was high gas mileage! Until that goal of adding several tenths of a mile was revealed as absurd, he kept to it. Resenting other motorists for being foolish for rushing stop signs and tail gating he began to understand how selfish and isolating he was being. Now Jack can see anxious people in many different circumstances. Driving, shopping, manning a public help desk, many other places where Jack has contact and influence to help. To understand the game he was playing was dominating every thing he did. His obsession with efficiency now has been replaced. Now it’s how he can make life easier for other people, most of them strangers. A life long game plan that will have eternal pleasure generating the immediate joy now and forever.
He still makes plans, but they are short and usually simple. Shopping or writing. With the often gentle presence of the Lord, the plan is given. Jack feels the difference when it’s Jesus’ plan.
It’s a real ‘game changer’. Going to the bank the other day was rewarding. There was a young woman taking all the attention of the two tellers. It was a drama of passwords and ex boyfriends. Complicated. With complete ease, Jack began looking about and found a table with a sporting magazine collection. Sitting in a very comfortable chair he began to read about the expansion of copper in firing chambers.
Once the problem at the teller window was solved, Jack was called up. Profuse apologies were given and Jack made sure that he was very comfortable and not in any hurry. “It’s OK, I found a good magazine over there, I kind of wanted to take it home!” Jack wanted to make sure of their comfort. As a bonus, there was a random survey on Jack’s computer about the transaction. Five stars all the way. I wonder if they hit a button to see if everything was OK and sent the message. No problem. It’s a new game plan. Firm affirmation. Jack’s new focus is on his Creator that shows him these small things. Taking chances when told to instead of retreating. Knowing what to say occasionally after a delightful quick chat with an absolute stranger, “you’re a Christian aren’t you” Sometimes Jack is then asked “how do you know?” “Because it shows” he answers. It’s pretty good. Jack
While reading at breakfast, Jack was astonished and admonished by a simple small book, a gift froma relative really. A great gift that the relative didn’t even know they had given to Jack. The book started an hiatus in breakfast that actually took his attention away from the table to the bookshelf to look up a word. ‘Awful’ was the common word we all use but is derived from ‘Awe’. It is a transitive verb which means it is describing an object not an action.
The author of the book Jack was munching on as he munched his toast was attempting to describe the impossible attributes of God. Jack’s mind began to tumble and bumble as the short paragraph started to strike deep into breakfast. THE question that atheists and devout worshipers both stumble upon when thinking actually takes place. ‘If all things I see, feel and hear are created things (I.E. the sky, our bodies, water and food) what can an un created thing be?’ Of course to stir great confusion, a thing that is eternal and always existed is the unavoidable question. The usual questions that arise during breakfast are a bit easier to answer. Mostly. ‘what to do with my day? Why did my friend say that hurtful thing to me yesterday?’ The usual undigested flummery we all ruminate upon.
As we have asked since time began, If the universe is eternal, where did it come from? And if there is a God that created this universe, where did He come from? It’s the most basic of all theology and a question that begs an answer that cannot be found in science. Jack’s mind, odd as it is, has not the slightest clue on how to begin this quest either. He is comforted by the company of some of the great theologians. They don’t know either although there are many ‘interesting’ speculations. A lot of these books are found on a shelf in the second-hand stores. “Eternity for Dummies” is one of them.
The origin of an eternal God is an oxymoron. There is none because eternal forbids an origin. The vision of eternity begs a different mind that Jack has. He has always seen life unfold and then turn along a time line. No time line, no time, no sunset or a sunset that never ends..ever. His choice. It has been speculated that God has eternity to guide Jack writing this. Also to you to read it. It really is impossible. Everyone, every nice event or disaster can be seen and experienced forever.
So, what does the result of all this searching generate within us? At first it’s a great ‘time waster’ and then the awe of Jack’s vision turns rapidly into ‘awful’. It’s fear generated along with the awe that turns quickly into awful. There are also no words except the ones written about 700 years ago by Julian of Norwich which do pretty well: “For of all things, the beholding and the loving of his maker, makes the soul seem less in our sight. It fills this seeker with reverent dread and true meekness…” Reverent dread is a good description of Awe that does a quick turn to awful.
Seeking the creator of everything that is and was and will be…everything..and then be told by pretty reliable sources that this awesome Person (God ) is very interested in you. He wants to have a nice chat and tell you things. It makes Jack tremble when a little bit of this truth gets in deep.
How about you? If you have an answer, Jack would definitely like to hear it or read it. It’s pretty good.
As goes a saying, especially in a novel by George MacDonald (At the back of the North Wind), the window in our hearts has to be open for change to enter. Of course, the change has to be done by Adonni. The man of no reputation, the healer and the Abba Father. More on that later.
Jack used to think that the window was the focus, as could be interpreted in the novel. After all, the North Wind says it isn’t A window, it was Her window. The Holy Spirit’s window.
If the cleanliness of the window was the issue, it would not be good. My heart especially. If you have read a few of these columns over the last few years, you know a bit of my life. Not very sociable is a light term. Speaking of which, another column more recently addressed that issue. Especially church attenders and faithful ones too. (Open Windows 1 was printed in the Leader on August 25th 2021)
This column is dedicated to the folks that have been attending ‘church’ for some time, some even since childhood. Deacons, leaders and elders too, attentive and a lot of times, complimenting the Pastor/speaker on their talk. Just say ‘thanks, I needed that’. It’s good, don’t misunderstand Jack. As had been said by Jack’s very closest friend, his wife, “don’t take condemnation but..” pay attention to what Jack is saying without judgment please. It works to think beyond our image of ourselves. Growing up is better and preferred. Of course, it’s hard and often embarrassing. We all need to grow, constantly. It’s why we are listening after all.
So, all this illuminating about scripture can be rather distracting if we are not paying attention to the complete conviction and the very passionate person standing in front of you,saying these important things. It’s not a college lecture on philosophy or metaphysics. It’s not the old Greek style of a famous orator. Taking notes is very good, Jack does that too. The notes are not the passion. They are to be read now and then. After all , you wrote them for that reason. Just as in school you wrote crib notes for the coming exams. Jack will talk about those later.
‘Watch, look and listen’ just as at a railroad crossing is good advice. If we don’t, it’s easy to get distracted by the speeding train in our minds. “I wonder what’s for lunch?” “That gal I saw in the lobby certainly caught my eye till I remembered God’s word on that!” the worst one is “I wonder when church will be over, I’ve got to get some shopping done before our relatives show up for dinner!” We must open our hearts to what is being said, don’t concern yourself about schedules and perhaps about the dirt on your ‘window’. Throw up the sash and let that cool breeze into your heart. When you start to weep, that is the first sign of successful communication and often, astonishment. Those besides you may ask, “What’s wrong!” The correct answer is ‘me’ It’s OK. Jack knows.
A word of caution! Don’t wipe your eyes, just get the run off. Tears are good for you. The Lord says he treasures them for grief and this grief is real. It’s conviction and real grief for how short our arrows fall when we think we are making a bulls eye with our life. The voice you hear goes way beyond the speaker in front of you.
Let the transformation begin when our dirty window is even slightly open. It isn’t a window per se, It’s just our guard we have developed to protect our damage and disappointments. Filthy windows, and hard to see into as well. We know the dirt and smudges and they mean nothing to who we are. We are created as one of a kind, a miracle of incredible complexity and unique potential. Throw open the sash and indeed, the tears will flow when truth is heard. We don’t usually hear truth about ourselves supernaturally. Not that it isn’t said to us, just that we don’t listen. Truth presented with the beauty of it. It’s pretty good. Very good. Jack Gator
Jack has been faithful somewhat in reading the scriptures in his New King James Bible. I know, some folks will only accept the 1611 manuscript while others want something a bit more modern. They all have their strengths.
The 1611 has many words not used today in conversational or even written English. Thous, and shalt. Thee and delivereth and sayeth. And so forth. Phrases that take a LOT of thought to understand.
There is also a lot of things to do and not to do that confuse the present day Christian as the instructions to us seem to be simple but very hard. Things to keep in the ‘forefront’ of out minds day and night. The last two instructions by the Son of God, The word, The Lamb of God, the Alpha and the Omega. Him. Jesus.
He says: “Love the Lord your God with all your soul, strength, mind and spirit. Love your neighbor as yourself.” He mentioned that all scriptures were summed up in those two sentences.
Repentance, ‘Be Saved’ Be holy. The Big Ten written in Stone. The Hebrew Shulchan Aruch (1563), and of course, multiple doctrinal stances by various faith streams. Duplicates of course, but a lot of rules. That seems somewhat intimidating to an inquirer. “Do I have to do all that, not do all that and tell someone they are doomed if they even think about doing ‘That”? Keep reading. There is a light showing through all those thin pages.
There has to be a starting point to understand the scriptures. So much war, plotting, betrayal, wanton lust, murder and downright nastiness abounds. It is somewhat easy to understand if we let go of the delusion that we, ourselves, are not so bad. We don’t do a lot of those things I just mentioned and even toss a few dollar bills at the offering! So, look inside. Go ahead, I won’t peek. Thoughts of revenge are hidden but available for a few minutes entertainment ( The Gator Identity or The Gator Supremacy) better than the movie! How about that glance out the side window? David on a rooftop again. ‘Bathsheba, the irresistible one’ Playing now in your frontal lobe. Might have to get some popcorn, long movie! That money in the wallet you found (hey, I turned that wallet into the store manager,….well I kept the money) the list is long and no one is good. Starting point 1. The great delusion and why am I here anyway if I am just as bad as everyone else?
The great Rabbit hole that so many of us have been unable to see from the inside. Take the red pill (the matrix blue and red pills) and open your eyes to reality. There is no escape from the wrath of God. Ouch. Gator had to teach that to prisoners a while back. What! Impossible to do. Not really. Love freely given and with only one requirement: Love in return.
The infinite God is capable of infinite love and begat Jesus to do so. Love requires a loved one. The the Holy Spirit is the result of that incredible love. A messenger to us. The band leader. The dancer. You decide the best description. Jack has put forth a few thoughts on that. Talk to Jack and tell him your illuminations.
Love is romance. We have an echo of that here. Love ignored or shunned is contempt. That’s where we come into the story. Contempt for the creator of the universe and all of us is not recommended. Look at HIM!
We think we are better than ‘that guy’ and when we realize the mess we are in there is fear. What did Jesus tell us about these things? What does it mean to be ‘saved’ ? Saved from what? It’s really obvious. Saved from His Father’s wrath. Tell Him, go ahead and tell Him about your life, the real one, not the one you tell when someone asks; “how are ya doing Gator?” “Oh, I’m good” No you’re not, no one is. Only one person is good and the impossible part is that He paid your bail, plead your case AND served your sentence. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
It seems intriguing, to be assisted in your life. Not that it hasn’t happened to myself for most of my life. After all, there are so many things, necessary things, that I just cannot do alone. I cannot cut my hair (well, I could but I would not be presentable till it grew out again) How about waking me up when I am snoring, It isn’t good to keep snoring as your oxygen levels go down a bit. An elbow at 3am will do just fine.
Lawn mowing, stacking hay bales in the barn, fixing the cantankerous old tractor. A lot of things I could do but would rather not as I am not as good at it as my family is. They are younger and more fit and quite talented enough to do those things. I did similar things for over half of my life and now it is good that the farm has great family to do those things. There are many such ‘chores’ that I still do but, many of them require the ability to press 60 lb or more. Repeatedly. I have family around the place and it is such a blessing to me. The way it was meant to be. Maple syrup time is a teamwork affair. I get the firewood and help cook. Teamwork with coffee made from maple sap that exceeds any coffee ever drunk before. Perfect around the steam of the cooker.
I muse on times less than a century ago. The family homestead with the original founders relaxing at times in the swing on the porch or the bench in the middle of the garden. A lot of mental pictures as well as the ones on the walls come to mind with those images. My early childhood, pulling weeds in Grandma’s garden and things like that. Family farms are a blessing.
Now big farms have GPS tractors and such huge machinery which cannot be maintained easily by an older man. That sort of life is more demanding and labor intensive than the usual farm. Those big farms are almost exclusively crop farms. Corn, soybeans and occasionally sunflowers.
Small farms are now called ‘hobby farms’. To have your own grown food. Wheat and hay along with big gardens. However, being able to pay the taxes and usual life expenses usually requires an outside job. Of course, an on site business is ideal for that money. The only drawback is someone who shows up with a broken something Sunday Morning! A something that is a pivotal part of that customer’s life.
Cars, trucks, tractors or appliances,plumbing and things of that sort. Usually a neighbor is ready to help when needed in other areas. A bit awkward for timing at times but it pays the bills that show up down the driveway at the big mailbox. Our neighbors are good friends, as it should be. We fix the combine and he plants the wheat.
Eggs, raspberries, tomatoes, snow peas and such are grown in quantities to store and share. A beef steer in the horse pasture looks pretty good too.
The kids Grandfather is hundreds of miles away and lives in a assisted living facility. It’s hard to visit and it’s hard to see so many older people just hungry for family, friends and a front porch with a swing. A bit of knitting for Grandma and advice from Grandpa on various things. Sometimes he is right and with a chuckle he knows he is perhaps out of his league with computers and cell phones. It’s a life that is good. The family Bible gets read a lot and it tells everyone how to live well. They pray a lot too. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
There is a common saying around the world that means much more than the two words it says. It is about acceptance and it can be very misleading to some of us. Accepting a gift is pleasant as it also is getting a package from the brown truck. They could be one in the same as well! You must, of course open the door and let the package into your home. If you are not at home, the gift will be left on your doorstep. Maybe.
The thing I am referring to is the common phrase, Accepting Christ. It is usually a cause for celebration by both the recipient and family. But what does the phrase imply? Is it just like opening your door to have a package of renown given to you? It would seem the phrase would indicate that someone finally made up their mind to indeed open their door and receive a Man. It seems so simple, but what does it really mean to us?
Jack likes the phrase, ‘Accepting the Word’ It means so much more and it doesn’t mean an instantaneous change and a new person that almost glows. Of course, there is an immediate change often, but at times nothing really changes. It can be world shaking as it was for Jack! He had been seeking some answers to questions he had. The big ones. “Who made the universe and why? Why do I look a bit different and why am I a bit happier than I was? Why do I think and do things that even I know are wrong?”
Answers that we all ponder and pontificate on. We all have ideas to answer those queries as well. As was said by one of the wisest men known: “ Those who are given over to preconceived ideas are forced to defend what they cannot prove” Cicero 36 BC. We cannot prove those big answers but some try with science and theory. Evolution is one of the greatest children’s stories ever expounded upon. It has entertaining value, much akin to science fiction classics. We evolved a brain with more synapses than there are stars in the Milky Way? Ben Carson pointed to that absurdity.
We have all heard them from some pretty smart guys. They are brilliant scientists and tell us that a big firecracker exploded a few millennia ago (the big bang) and all we know and see came of it. The new question which has not been answered is where did the firecracker come from and who lit the fuse?
All those questions can be answered within the pages of one very old book. You most likely have heard of it and probably have one. It starts “In the beginning” which indicates that time started then which is incomprehensible to us but we read on, and it starts to make sense. A lot of sense. It states that at that exact time, God created the building blocks of the universe. Then He made us to enjoy Him and His incredible creation Further into the book it states: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and Word was God. All the scholars and teachers that Jack has met agree on the description of Jesus as ‘the Word’ That makes sense after a while of study. A lot of reading starts with the above questions.
The Triune God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All of the three God and separate as well. Jack knows what you are thinking. If you are anything else than a Christian, then it doesn’t make sense. If you are a Christian it doesn’t make sense at times either. Ask someone in your circle of believers to talk about it with you. Dig and keep asking questions. Be unrelenting in your pursuit of God and knowledge of Him.
Read and then study in ‘the word’ (Bible) coupled with some pretty savvy authors. Jack’s all time favorite for the tough questions is C.S.Lewis and his seminal magnum opus, ‘Mere Christianity’ You might have read or seen the movie, Chronicles of Narnia. (That work is a wonderful primer for Mere Christianity.) Read Mere Christianity a few times and then put it down for a while and then read it again. And later, when looking for some light reading, read it again anyway. There was a group of scholars from Beroa (modern day Greece) that studied like Jack is asking you to do. So perhaps another way of saying the tremendous realization of ‘accepting Christ’, would be following Him or studying Him.
The best way is to talk to Christ. Right now. He is delighted to talk with you. He is eternal and can be your intimate best friend for life. The description Jack likes is ‘Became best friends with Jesus’ It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
The recommendation from a medical facility in a city suburb. A chiropractor that knows his craft well and his front desk advised a nearby cafe’ for breakfast. Jack decided to make a go of it. After a year or two of ‘you gotta try it!, Jack decided to go. A delightful drive through a condo development of duplex and triplex, the restaurant’s parking lot hove into view. Still stunned by the actual beauty of the neighborhood, Jack walked up to the front door and an older couple held the door for him. They were as friendly as the wait staff and a brief chat gave Jack the hometown cafe’ feeling. They were from Hudson.
Triple stack of cakes, thick sliced bacon and sides of raspberry jam and real maple syrup. An elongated plate that promissed and delivered. After the astounding meal (how many big city restaraunts make their own maple syrup?), Jack asked for a shot of expresso with a bit of sugar. Mas certo (Italian for of course) The thought of a two dollar tip ramped up to a five dollar bill. Extraordinary. The predominant rendezvous’ of diners seemed to be older couples. Muted and delightful converstaions of wise seniors. Most of them were married Jack assumed.
“Five stars!” with a thumbs up to the front desk as Jack left. Jack had introduced himself at that entrance desk that he was ‘A columnist’ What paper was not asked and as the actor Jack is, with his leather bound journal, a reasonable assumption would be the Tribune or the Press. The service was exemplary as was the meal and it didn’t have anything to do with Jack’s supposed review. Ask Jack where it is and it’s name, and he will be glad to fill you in. It’s worth the drive. This is the review. 1 1/2 hour away, tops.
So, being in the big city, Jack decided to meet a friend that was at an assisted living facility about half an hour further into the metropolis. The friendly Google lady was blue toothed into the radio and the drive was freeway fast, but effortless. Jack drove yellow cab decades ago and those skills help him a little bit with traffic. His newer car with side cameras and warning beeps helps too. Arriving at his friends facility, Jack met security measures that reminded him of the Spanish jail in which he spent a lovely summer at hard labor. This facility was multi layered with passcodes to elevators up and down. Badges. Id’s and forms to submit. No stairs to be used without triggering an alarm.
After figuring out the code procedures in and out and getting past the doors that were labeled : Elopement area. At first glance it seemed an odd place to put future giggling spouses to be waiting for a ladder. Close description. In this case it means an area where someone should not leave due to medical conditions.
The visit with a fellow veteran was hard. He did not know who Jack was and so Jack listened a lot and responded in the military way of truth accompanied with a bit of call and response. “He was a real Jerk that CO” Yah, well so are you” sort of thing. Jack also told him he was getting fat. “The food is good” Yah, I can see that! Is that shrimp on top of the rice? Jack’s friend was talking of his father and other relatives as they had just passed away. Jack always managed to bring it back to the special forces and his friends Halo jumps. It worked a bit. Then the screaming began in the eating area and yelling from someone that his back hurt. A bit distracting. Finally, Jack had to leave and after patting his old friend on the back, it was time to go in reverse with the elevator codes and sign out protocols. Both the restaurant and the visit were highlights of the day. Different food adventures and both a rendezvous’. The drive home with the usual insane drivers passing on curves with double yellows and turning a half a mile ahead. No bother, Jack had his mind elsewhere. A good place. Digesting the adventures and focusing on the bright spots and the expressions of love given and received. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
It was right there all along. It’s been right there since the beginning of time. An undeniable feeling that there is nothing to life and in the end, obliteration to the grave. A lot of atheists, even pantheists are trapped in that despair. But, despair can be engendered by many experiences, not just feeling hopeless and without a meaning. Betrayal is one of the worst as it gives a strong emotion of destruction and the end of a trust that turned out pretty bad. Often, a feeling of being considered worthless by a friend.
This attitude of despair is tragic and is a ‘constrained’ view. A viable example is a quote from Kant. “From the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made” This view is that we are hopelessly flawed. This is in direct contrast to an ‘unconstrained’ view. There are no limits to human achievement. With reason and will power we can manage war and poverty and solve them entirely. A quote from Rousseau: “man is born free but is in chains” We are in chains but are worthy to be loved by our rescuer that has loved us since we were formed in the womb. This is reality for all of us. All the flawed things of ours and all of our pride in our power can be healed by the only perfect man that ever lived and is alive within us. It’s perfect love. Talk to Him. Sing to Him.
Jack was reading his journal from a few years back and remembered when the Gator family had been betrayed. They lost a place of great import to them. A place where they put a huge amount of work rehabbing, building, painting and equipping a full house of prayer. A place where the whole family would sing and pray to the man, the one who is with God and is God. Jesus.
It was a place of no reputation and a gift from the owner. Then after a few years, a possible buyer of the building guaranteed Jack’s family that if God allowed the sale they could continue singing and worshipping there. Within a few weeks of owning the building, the new owner told them to pack up and leave. Despair and betrayal of a man’s word given. It was hard and it looked at from the constrained philosophical view an inevitable event. After all, it was too good to last as the saying goes. More crooked timber revealed. Fear for the new owners final encounter with the betrayal of God.
After a while the family learned that neither view of our world was correct. The loss was not unseen and a lesson for them to not hold anything too tight as their right. Neither hopelessness nor bootstrap lifting was any sort of answer. After all, trust in the creator and sustainer of all things was available right at hand. Crying out to Him and giving all their angst and disappointment to Him.
After the very last two hours of an incredible set of music and deep sung prayers, it was over. Time to leave and put it all away. The scrollwork on the walls. New walls too that they painted well. The drum cage and all the sound equipment, instruments and beauty created by them. Standing stunned by the intense worship and the finality, Jack looked at the clock they could see from their platform. It read twenty after seven. The same time they had started that last set. It had stopped and indeed, time stood still as they just stood there weeping in their saviors presence.
Another chapter and book of excitement and training for the whole family. What was next for them? Ministering to people. Writing and encouraging folks often never met. Speaking truth when it was asked of them and above all of that, still worshipping and also listening to others worship, occasionally involved in other places that they could use their steadied and visible faith. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
A quote from John Bunyan to begin: “It came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me as a slave.” a. Indeed, power over other men is one of, perhaps in our world, the only game in town. Played out on the world’s stage locally or world wide, it is always the same attempt. You will do as I say.
A local battle has many fronts, much akin to warfare as well. After all, the front line is where the action is. Often, dangerous action which may have unpleasant consequences for the combatants who win or perhaps loose together. Many such battles have resulted in the unpleasantness of destruction of peoples and lands they live upon. The conquest of nature (small N please and not mother nature either) has shown us how we can shrink the world with aircraft or cell phones but also how we can wound, or outright kill a generation to come by choosing to conquer our world with our desires for gain and power.
Several examples come to mind. The attempt of several world powers to change the name of a country to benefit them or their partners. Jack was in the six day war some 57 years ago. He saw those powers at work, killing, and in Jack’s case, the good guys won with help from above (not just the aircraft of our ‘side’). Liberating a whole nation.
Jack has been involved with a local bid for power. It comes from a powerful moneyed group of lobbyists and propagandists using us and our neighbors for their own ends. Always power and control as Bunyan’s quote.
The propaganda is craftily created and repeated to amplify the importance of the controllers and to disparage the opposition. The ‘playbook’ is carefully followed and on the surface, is made to intimidate and disarm any opponents. The subtlety of painting the power attempt is to make the aggressors the victims. An effective tactic. This goes back to childhood when a child declares ‘unfair’ and threatens to withhold the ball of play unless acquiescence. A bit of name calling and pouting goes with.
An out of state corporation has been using this playground tactic quite successfully in dividing people in our country. They propose the use of natural resources a right. Their army is given a convincing argument to augment this stance. Instead of neighborly discussions, there is created animosity. It moves things along with a sprinkle of bribery and legal obfuscation. Frustrating to those few who bother to find out what the problem is and try logic and research to provide clarity. One side believes the propaganda offered and the other side sees it for what it is. “Men of power have no time to read; yet the men who do not read are unfit for power” B
Divisive and destructive for both sides of the battle! Jack is referring to a local battle, now a legal battle among some farmers and their perceived enemy, neighbors. Jack is using the family prayer cabin to speak to the Lord on how he can love his neighbor when the neighbor sees Jack and his family as enemies. In this case, reading the scripture must be the time to read and not condemn. Rejecting anger and confusion. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
Jack lost half his seniority with the railroad but it was worth it to transfer up to NW Wisconsin. Commuting to his job on the Dinky Town railroad section was getting a little dreary when Jack first moved ‘up north’ to a small house with 30 acres. Driving every morning with his 1947 Ford to Minneapolis was the cost of the veteran’s loan approval. Of course, getting the loan in the beginning was harder than the drive to pay it off.
The paperwork alone helped heat his new house in the wood stove that Jack had little experience to run. The better words would be ‘no experience.’ Jack bought a chain saw, a bicycle and a splitting maul from his old friends hardware store on the West Bank in Minneapolis. Jack also got an old GM pickup to haul the firewood from the state forest about 15 miles north of his new digs.
Of course, at that early time there was not much commuter traffic as the concept of commuting had not taken hold. That was a good thing as Led headlights had not taken hold nor been invented yet. Being blinded by a new pickup these days with lights that illuminate about twenty miles of road is now somewhat of a hindrance to that long drive. Dreary and dangerous too as Jack had to keep a wing window open for fresh air to keep the CO gas out. Tiring it was to drive a long way with an exhaust leak. It seems white tailed deer had not been invented yet either, at least the ones that commuted across highways. However, back then, cars weighed a lot and had real bumpers. Sometimes you knew when you hit one. Jack’s job was on the section at DinkyTown, right across the river from his old neighborhood.
So, pulling into the section yard and sometimes being called to do some ‘back breaking’ jobs outside of the section. Derailments, road crossings and laying ribbon rail were some outside jobs. The section would survive a few days without continuous maintenance. Jack and big Leroy were called out to put in the dome spikes on crossings. They were about two feet long and had to be pounded through the crossing planks down into the heavy black ties beneath. Swinging those 16 pound malls was a young man’s task. The spikes would rotate going down and had teeth that would engage the plank at the last swing. The deterioration to L4 and L5 began then. Leroy was well over six foot seven and weighed around 250 or so.
When Jack transferred up to the ‘farm’ with it’s pump jack well and log barn he was green to the isolated and rural life. A few new friends made at the local watering holes helped him adapt. To wood burning stoves and chimney rebuilding it was made doable with these other young men who grew up working the farms. It was quiet and the only link to the outside world was the black wall phone by the sink and a new princess phone next to the wall in Jack’s bedroom. The phone was out of reach unless Jack was in bed.
Jack got transferred to a section gang closer by over in Minnesota and gained respect with his strength and accuracy of work. The road master would call for Jack to put the pin into a switch actuator while the man held the pin at the two holes. “Get Jack up here” Jack never missed with the spike mall, never. That back damage was still lurking but not complaining much yet. It was good work and respected by the locals. They knew strength from farm work.In spite of all the good camaraderie with his new crew, Jack was transferred to another section, closer to home.
When Jack showed up, the foreman immediately insulted Jack and gave him a job in the yard that was hard, demeaning and unpleasant. It involved jumping from a ladder into grain cars to sweep them our of grain dust.
This was the last straw for Jack’s back. Back at home after work, Jack suddenly could not get up from a sitting position and collapsed in agony on the floor. He could crawl but standing was impossible. Also impossible to call for help. “The first day and night was the worst. The second day and night was the worst too. After that and no water, Jack began to go into a bit of a decline”.1. The cat water bowl helped a little and suddenly, Jack figured a way out of death.
He pulled all his clothes out of the lowest drawers and the bed sheets and blankets and made a ramp he could roll up into the bed. Grabbing the phone then and calling for help Jack does not recall any more than waking at the hospital and being somewhat free of pain. Drugs. He remembered the addiction he had and was a bit concerned about this but the lack of pain was OK. The usual hot and cold packs, traction and hospital food (motivator) did it’s work and Jack could walk again and his railroad days were over. It was then pretty good . Not luck, something extraordinary as when Jack was out in California. Jack thanks his Lord for the saving of his life. Again. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator.
Decades ago, there was a connection and an area wide idea. House concerts with well known folk artists who played acoustically. Mostly these concerts were actually in homes of people who listen to those types of things. Many, if not most of these singer/songwriters were well known from the popular radio show, ‘The prairie Home Companion’. This radio show was hosted by local personality and writer, Garrison Keillor.
Jack knew these performers from his immersion in the folk music scene back in the early 70’s. Jack toured with a few of them and they all played at the New Riverside Café in Minneapolis. It was pretty good music and an outgrowth of the beat generation ( Jerry Garcia, Joan Baez, Carolyn Hester, Utah Phillips and Woody Guthrie to name a few) It was the musical time of the singer-songwriters and very popular when Jack was in the Navy overseas. He even ordered a classy Martin D12-20 to be mailed overseas to his ship. Never arrived. “Lost in transit” as so many of us were as well. Middle sixties, lots of war everywhere.
Jack went to Junior college and transferred to another after a short stint in his parents basement after discharge. A common experience for vets at that time. Focus is a common experience for vets. You miss all your buddies but you don’t miss the rest of it. Authority rebellion occurred with Jack as well. He tuned in and dropped out as the saying went. Long hair and the attitude of hippies and old beatniks.
After a year in basement, Jack moved into an upstairs apartment in a somewhat unfashionable part of town and met his lifelong friend, Bruce, at the yellow cab stand at the airport. They became roommates at the crummy apartment. It worked. Jack practiced his painting on the walls of the apartment doing reproductions of art work on the Beetles yellow submarine album.
After a short time with Bruce he and jack began playing country blues together. Advertised as 16 string blues, they went under the stage name of ‘Actual Mexicans’ Before Jack and Bruce met, Bruce spent half a year on China Beach after getting blown up in a PSY OPS truck. When he and Jack met, Jack thought he was a black man. After a month or so, Bruce’s skin got lighter. “I thought you were a black guy!” Bruce then replied, after his distinctive laugh, ” Heck no, I’m a dark Norwegian” It became the subject of many humorous conversations. He is gone now and Jack misses him a lot. You know how it is. We grieve.
The two vets got a bit antsy and Bruce knew some people who lived in Berkeley. Why not ditch this joint, get some cool English motorcycles, strap our guitars on the back of them, and go west? A long story in the archives here under ‘ motorcycle pilgrimage 1-6. Jack and Bruce came back to Minneapolis and Jack wound up on the west bank and got involved at the New Riverside Café. Music, Jack and Bruce’s real life focus’ became the catalyst for the next few years. Jack joined the Riverside staff and Bruce drove Yellow Cab for a while and married one of the café women and then moved north to Trade Lake.
It was glorious to be playing on the stage where famous musicians and poets came. Jack never got paid to perform and neither did any of the others either. Record contacts helped a bit and Jack had a good friend at KQRS radio that did some recording of Jack and Bruce. Alan Stone was his radio name by the way.
Remember records? They never made one although they did some reel to reel stuff at the radio station. Tony Glover worked there as a DJ at those times too. Tony was already well known from recordings of Koerner Ray and Glover. (Gator just had contact with John Koerner late last year for a funeral for one of Jack’s good friends, another 12 string folk artist, Charlie Jirousek. Charlie also had a distinctive laugh.) How many times friends and their laughs are remembered!
Jack, finally tiring of the poverty of the café, started track labor with the railroad. Upon urging from Bruce, Jack moved up to Trade Lake too. That was in 1976. Bruce lived just down the road from Jack’s 30 acre home. It was a good introduction to the rural life. Frozen pipes, racoons, gigs with country western bands and lots of new friends. Wood heat. Chain saws and splitting mauls. The railroad work got Jack fit enough to endure the northern life. It felt right and the air was clean and the noise of the freeways gone.
Through Bruce and Jack’s music connections, they continued to visit the West Bank. It was grand times and upon meeting Garrison Keillor at a party, Jack and Gary got loaded on some of Jack’s homemade wine. First and last time they ever got together. Jack dropped the name of his good friend, Mary Dushane to get in the door. She was the fiddler for the Powder Milk Biscuit Band.
Jack was still friends with a lot of the West Bank performers from the café days. They were pretty broke and Jack offered ‘House Concerts’ up north of Highway 8 in Wisconsin for them. Actual money was made, not much, but gas and housing guaranteed. Advertising of those concerts found it’s way into the St.Paul Pioneer Press. Turn outs were large enough to get a scramble for usable chairs, baked treats and rug cleaner. It was grand for a time and Jack and his friends became a rumor and a quaint source of amusement for the locals. Most of them were Home Companion fans. Old hippies that had graduated to organic gardeners and old ford 8N tractors. Those times are gone now. Radio shows are passé with U tube, CD,s Television and the internet. Television is actually now supplanted with Netflix and other streaming computer web sites.
We are not the better for this transition. It is not nostalgia but the loss of good fellowship and neighborly entertainment. Except for a very occasional pricey large venue concert, there is little to replace this loss.
There is one platform where some of these musicians still play however. It is not billed as entertainment however. Some of these ‘old timers’ can still be seen and heard locally too. It’s in the churches and it abounds. Old hymns, gospel and up tempo current worship songs can be heard and felt. The music just starts getting in the groove of a team vouting off one another and it’s over. Older pickers, strummers and such lament the shortness of the playing but it is still very worthy to play there. It’s called worship music.
One of the greatest fiddlers Jack heard, quit the stage and it’s acclimation and applause. We all thought it was a tragedy for us. At the time, it did not make sense. Later, much later, Jack discovered why that man went on to play for Jesus. The applause from Jack’s new Friend moves more than Jack’s ego, it moves his spirit and the joy is stunning. It often causes the band to stop playing and just stand, overwhelmed with the Joy from Jesus. Jesus loves the worship. After all, the man after God’s own heart was a musician. He loved to dance for Him too. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator
Catching attention is that announcement over the 1MC (That is the speaker system throughout a Navy Ship)
Mail call! Overseas, it was a light moment, usually news from home. Packages of cookies and such were obvious and demanded attention from one’s division. Hopefully a large box. After doing a few tours in a war zone, it was a welcome diversion. Mail was found aft, at the Mess deck by the ship’s Gedunk.
Being on watch 24 hours with 12 hours to sleep was a bit uncomfortable. The mail call was a pleasant relief besides Folgers coffee or Mid rats on the mess deck. We all do it, walking out now to the box at the end of the driveway to see what’s there. On Tuesdays when the trash is also in it’s container there, it’s an easier job to not have to clutch the rolling trash can and the mail at the same time. You can tell what to toss in the empty can. Sometimes, it’s the whole days mail with all the ‘Special offer just for you!’
Every one on a rural route knows the drill with the flag up to signal there is outgoing mail in the box. Country folk nowadays usually skip doing that flag thing. It used to be convenient, but now there are a very small minority who have a calling to inspect boxes late at night with flags up.
There is almost a romance with the mail. It is something our government really got right to establish the Postal Service. Our language has responded with phrases and words particular to our mail. Special Delivery, Tracking, Return to Sender, Postage Due, Return address’, Zip codes and the inevitable, Junk Mail (spam for Gmail)
There was a rumor afoot that messenger and email type communication would completely eliminate mail. At first, paper mail was called ‘snail mail’ but electronic mail is easily lost and addresses are tricky too.
A few years back, Jack was told to walk a bicycle trail and then cross the highway to find a treasure. It was old mail in the ditch. Dozens of envelopes mailed in the fifties, mailed from a distant war to home to ask about the crops and the harvesting. Touching base from a soldier overseas. It was, indeed a treasure. It was accompanied by a small, broken cedar box. Thrown in the ditch by thieves that thought it was worthless booty. It was then returned, bundled with a sturdy rubber band to the man’s granddaughter who was easy to locate. Local name.
Personal mail, ah, that is the treasure at our mailboxes! It even surpasses envelopes with checks to cash. A real letter that shows a friend that cares enough to gather ink and pen and encourage us immediately when we gather it up and see the return address. We all get Email and that has no impact as a folded piece of promised love from an old friend. Jack gets those letters often when he needs them.
So, what have we always had that is faster and never has any junk mail or spam with it? We have a passel of love letters from a very dear friend which bear re-reading and we have the incredible permission to answer those letters with just..thoughts. Spoken alone or with friends or just found behind our eyes. The only requirement to receive those letters is to understand them and if needed, ask for clarification with our response. To hear and read and feel our hearts move to get closer to the writer and speaker to our very core.
By the way, there are no mail slots or boxes on tombstones. No more love letters written or read then.
It’s time now to read and understand and respond to the best correspondent that is and always will be. You know his address. Jesus. He’s waiting for you to read his letters. Pay attention, it is very important that we do so. Think seriously about a special letter from your best friend and devour it with joy. Send a response with all your heart, mind, soul and spirit. He is delighted to hear from us, especially you.
It was a restless night for Jack. He discovered the morning before that he had lost his wedding ring. He had worn it since 1992 and it meant a lot to him. It has an inscription inside with his wedding date. There is another one too in italics: “Through headwinds and tailwinds” Jack and Julie met on bicycles under very strange and beautiful circumstances. Unbelievable ones. That is a story for certain. It involves a Lutheran Pastor, a bartender in Washington state, A camp cook and the bartenders grandparents. It’s been written and published already, ‘A bicycle built for two’ Jack will send you a copy if you are curious! You can find it at Gatorsgracenotes.com too.
So, back to the ring. The whole Gator clan began looking for the ring. Could be it was stripped off Jack’s finger when he removed his gloves outside? (It’s happened several times) Search the garden, the wood shed, the garden tool shed, the glove box in the house and car. You get the idea. Jack felt it was perhaps thrown off his hand in the night when he shook off a carpel tunnel cramp. The only way to search the room’s carpet was to move the bed. An awful lot of dust and the usual vacuum cleaner task. Incredible mess. After the bed was moved 90 degrees and the cleaning began in earnest, a dusty journal of Jack’s emerged. In it were Details of Jack’s ministering to his old navy best friend that was in hospice in Maryland. The journal Hadn’t been seen for sixteen years. No ring was found. They left the bed turned ninety degrees and cleaned a lot. Their thorough cleaning was very thorough and they had been thinking about vacuuming there anyway.
Driving alone to an early prayer meeting, Jack began haranguing his Lord about the ring. The usual rant we all when things are difficult and not making sense. “Where is my ring? You know where it is Lord!” The answer was, of course, immediate and kind. Jack was reminded that his gold ring would not follow him into eternity. Neither would his 18th century viola nor the 100 year old Gibson Mandolin. The story of Jack gently responding to his best friend Chuck’s dying request will go with Jack. He answered Chuck’s question “So what’s the good news?” Indeed, there is very good news about forgiveness, redemption and the romance of Heaven. A lot of you know exactly what It is about. It’s fact, not fiction. Impossible it would seem, that the God of the universe would die for me! Jack asked Chuck to meet him when it was his time to die. Chuck cried when their parting embrace ended. They both knew that living at the hospice is not usually a long term situation.
Not long after Jack told Chuck about the good news, Jack saw Chuck entering paradise. Chuck said five words that Jack will never forget: “It’s better than you said!” Chucks wife left a phone message that Chuck had died in Maryland. Jack called back and told her that was the same the time he appeared to Jack. What a gift it was/is and the best good news anyone could hear. Mary Lou, Chucks wife, was astonished and obviously, greatly encouraged by this. In Navy terms, Chuck had ‘crossed the bar’ and was home.
So, Jack surrendered his angst about his wedding ring of gold and realized that the journal with the details was only found when they looked for the ring. It was Still missing after five days. Gone for good, impossible to search through leaves and grass around the farm. Sad, but resolute in surrender, Jack went for his usual lap swim at a high school pool about 20 miles away. Early morning, around six am. Jack began swimming in the lane next to the wall lane and on the third lap, looked over into the deepest part of the pool under that lap lane and saw a round object that was dark. It looked like an O ring that was perfectly round. Could it be? That is where Jack was doing his Backstroke five days earlier. He asked the gal that was swimming in the lane if she dives. She said “sure” and Jack asked her to dive down 10 feet and bring up that round object. She did and popped up with Jack’s wedding ring. Not so shinny after five days in chlorine and bromine, but it was Jack’s ring. The inscription said so.
Wonderful release of the sad loss, Jack held on tight to the ring and did a short swim and texted a picture home of the ring. Impossibly that it was still there in plain sight. pool Not vacuumed, not in the drain close by. Go deep jack. By the way, Jack has never seen that young swimmer since then.
Jack’s surrender after the discovery of the journal was perhaps the key? “How has God been working in your life this week?” Jack’s good friend, his pastor, asks that every Thursday morning at the men’s Bible study. This Thursday Jack has got something to share with the men. An encouragement of choosing the best thing. The good news indeed..It’s pretty good, Jack Gator
It’s an incredible photo from a walk close to Gator’s homestead. It prompts another deep region, even a place unnamed, and familiar. A perfect photo by Gator’s son of an Eagle, flying overhead and a gasp of purpose and life as viewed when Soren showed Jack the photo. The eagle had a glint in his eye and his claws were tucked in back, out of the air-stream. ‘Rotation, gear up’ A slight flash of light on his incredible beak and Gator shivered contemplating this aviator with talons and sharp, piercing beak. Danger close.
It was flying into the wind, looking down. The intense stare at the camera and us, it told a story. A tale of life lived as a predator from the sky, silent and flying with irresistible death from above. No escape. No way to reason with the eagle. Can you envision a small animal, with a white flag waving desperately?
Gator thought back to the fighters he saw launch from an aircraft carrier about 300 feet away. On the port side of his ship, a huge fleet Oiler that was Steaming at flank speed. Barely able to stay with the carrier. The oiler’s huge screws, making the aft mess deck thunder and shake. As it must do, the carrier had to maintain wind over the flight deck to help those fighters get airborne. The flight deck blast door up, engine at full, burning gallons of JP4 per second and suddenly, the fighter leaped down the deck, dropped a little off the bow and already had gear up and climbing. Awe inspiring at night ops.
Steam swirling around the channel from the catapult, and the power heard of the fighter still climbing to watch over the battle group. Combat Air Patrol, CAP. Just like the eagle, deadly talons and loaded and armed. Looking for anything within range, anything moving where the fighter was, something that an enemies weapons radar would detect and cause terror for them. Now a target. A Tomcat fighter, armed with a tactical nuke, just in case it got ugly. A little vaporization reaches everybody.
Later that night, the enemy came near off the starboard and lit up Gators ship and quickly dropped It’s missiles midship, right at Gator. He was on deck, headed aft for mid-rats. It didn’t look promising. Gators ship had 8 million gallons of various fuel in it’s huge belly, a tanker with puny three inch gun turrets on the bow and stern. The strong image of a flaming, roaring death with the sea covered with burning bunker oil. Basic training coming to mind on how to impossibly swim beneath the flames.
It wasn’t a movie. Gator could see the 02 or 03 level on the enemy ship, it’s radar turning around and around and the spotlight from it still steady on our bridge, blinding our helmsman and the combat information bridge, just above (CIC). Those missiles dropped from vertical incredibly fast with the sound of a hammer being cocked on a very large pistol.
Suddenly, the missiles went back vertical and the cruiser sharply veered off and disappeared into the dark sea at full speed. The Tomcat was there with the battle group, flying overhead, painting the enemy cruiser with it’s radar. Dropping out of the sky at almost Mach 1 and It had and prepared it’s talons.
Gator was still alone on the long deck, still poised to go get a midnight rations (midrats). Suddenly Jack had lost his appetite for anything available, good or bad. A narrow victory for the big fat slow tanker with friends in high places. The fear felt is still sharply felt after five decades. It was Just a bit more scary than a man with ill intent, coming it at you. Terrifying is the word.
There is a bit of prose that Mrs.Gator remembers while Gator writes this memoir: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint” Old truth, timeless and steady.
It’s very good news to everyone that understands the book of promise and freedom. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator