Hello..Hello..Is Anybody There?

The world has packed the phone booths and no one knows the number of another one. “Operator? I need to be connected. Can you do this for me? No, I do not know the number But I need to talk to them” Dial tone.

What is the question? What pushes us into that isolated phone booth? Who do we need to connect with?

It seems safe in the old fashioned phone booth. Sure, it’s glass and anyone can see me, but the door closes and maybe the people I fear will respect my need to be alone.

Perhaps I don’t need to talk to someone about this transparent loneliness I need to embrace. I need to be alone and yet, I know I need someone desperately to understand. No phone booth will take a message and help me call back. Someone took the phone book and all that is left is the chain. I wrap it around my hand to calm me.

Maybe later I’ll put on my mask and stroll into a shopping place and look around for something I need. There must be something I have forgotten that I really need to get. I cannot see very well as this mask fogs my glasses. I cannot see if anyone is smiling or not and I assume they feel the same way. Just assume they are as afraid of me as much as I am of them. Fear, my nemesis and my excuse for bad behavior.

Our nation, our country does not trust anymore. We don’t trust the government. We don’t trust our police force. We don’t trust the news we stream in daily. It’s no wonder that there are flash mob thefts, car jacking, drive by shootings and the like. We don’t trust ourselves and the things we were perhaps taught about trust.

There seems to be a shadow malevolent power that somehow is broadcasting destruction to us. There are a lot of exposes’ on the media of course. The shadow power is never named, never mentioned. Too risky. No doubt at all if named, the namer will be censured and dismissed as a conspiracy kook. Another schulb that spends their time hacking web sites with cold pizza and Dr,Pepper close at hand.

What’s the cure for all this destruction? It threatens our very country and our founding principles in the Declaration and the Bill of Rights. It will be exposed and defeated by one method only. Prayer. The Creator Himself sees these things and wants us to talk to Him. Earnestly. It’s not that He will change everything to suit our fancy and relief. He will talk with us as we talk to Him. Calming and assuring that this terrible destruction we see and feel is not what it appears to be. “Trouble, You’re gonna have trouble. But when the Bad is good. Then the good is not bad”a. Don’t be surprised by this and pray hard for His Love to flood us. To hold us and give us trust as His very gift. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

a. Clifton Chenier and his Louisiana red hots

Authentic Christian Truth Seen

here is a worldwide pandemic of…Fear. There is also, accompanying this Fear, a host of issues that come out of the Fear pandemic. Riots, Thefts of cars and looting stores. There is rage and violence citizen to citizen.

Anyone reading this doesn’t need these things pointed out and named.

There is an underlying result of this pandemic. Isolation and what is referred to as ‘existential methodology’

Big words, big meaning. As long as our own religious activities, evangelism and lives are not disturbed, we will be OK with an authoritarian government. Referred to as personal peace and prosperity 1. A serious inflation combined with an economic breakdown can cause anyone to panic and worry about their life-style of pleasure and no troubles. “We got trouble and that starts with T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pandemic.

All of this, whatever viewpoint you have, is ameliorated by truth. It’s difficult to discern with the news, Facebook, Twitter and Bitter and the like. As the front of my favorite T shirt says: “The back of this shirt is false.” The back says “the front of this shirt is true”

Everyone, I mean everyone, has an opinion and there are, of course, opinions about opinions. We are fearful of making a mistake, offending someone about our decisions. Mask Up! Mask Off! Mandates, Passports for the ‘right thinkers’ Even the government seems as confused as we are. The Fear acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real. It works. The song ‘Fixin’ to die rag’ by country Joe and the Fish seems appropriate at this time. The song was about the draft. Gator got drafted when he was at Recruit Depot in San Diego. Timing was important back in those ‘good old days.

One of the refrains of that old song ends this way “..Ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee we’re all going to die!” It’s ironic for Jack. Now you have to get shot to survive. And of course, if you don’t want to get shot, you are scorned and called names. Fear again. Fear of the government and fear of your neighbor. How can we get rid of this national fear? The same way the early Christians did. Trust and give it all, not just part, but the whole heart to the Lion of Judah, Christ. It seems simple but was the hardest thing for Jack to do (mentioned a LOT in previous columns).

Then this Truth (another word for Faith) will become our focus rather than the world’s fear and anxieties. We find ourselves calmer. Boldness with the romance of the Risen Lord going before us. We find ourselves moving about in the world and seeing the light in other people of the way. Back in the early days there was a lot of danger in that recognition. If you were wrong, you might get arrested and killed. Perhaps those days are returning? We will know our brothers by their love. If you look with the eyes of fire you will see that in other eyes as well. Focus on Him and Him alone in all facets of your life and it will happen. There are no measures that anyone can do than that without the eternal intimacy within.

It is so much fun to look at a stranger and tell them that they are a Christian by the way they act. We can see it if we are open. We can feel that connection if that empty part our Lord built into us is filled now by Him. Anything can happen when our whole heart (not part, but all) is surrendered. Personal peace yes, but not by might, not by a platform where everyone knows our name. Not by fortune, and not by those little straps on your boots. You may ask as C.S.Lewis put it: “Is he safe? No, He’s a Lion, of course He’s not safe! But He’s good!” Love the giveaway, it’s the formula for eternal joy. (It’s found in Acts.) It’s pretty good! Jack Gator

1. Gregory Koukl

A Drifter from North Dakota

It was an easy task on the way back home. Early in the morning. Jack was passing through the closest small town to eye up the crowd at the corner cafe and drop off a book and a few DVD’s at the town library. There was a car parked near the library entrance. It looked a bit ‘rough. Paint faded almost to a gray primer color. Drivers door slightly ajar. The signs of travel on the budget plan. Living in the car type of thing. A jumble of belongings and a few empty white Styrofoam civilian ‘mre’s’ on the seat.

Gator knows the signs. He lived in a pickup truck out in the bay area about 40 years ago. He had built a wooden camper in the bed and it even had Plexiglas skylights, french doors on the back and a few shelves with ‘fiddles’ to keep things on them. Pretty exotic for a street person. There was a small propane one burner ‘stove’ to heat up Jack’s favorite meal. Dinty Moore beef stew. He liked it. The family grimaces at the image. It was cheap too. Playing on the street with his Martin Guitar for spare change. There was enough change for the can of stew and gasoline to get across the bay bridge and park overlooking the ocean. Open up the doors, cook up the stew and enjoy the view and the breeze. There were no bridge tolls at that time, just on the Golden Gate. It was a life of sorts. Homeless.

So, inside the library vestibule is the drop-off chutes for books and dvd’s. There is also a bench with free magazines opposite. This time, sitting on the bench was a man that appeared to be a perfect match with the gray car parked outside. Thin, needed a shave and very friendly. Jack asked if he was from the Dakota’s. Somewhat taken aback the man answered in the affirmative. “cold up there too” Jack replied. It was around ten outside just then. A polite conversation ensued and the drifter mentioned that the town had a lot of traffic in the bars quite close by. “After all, it is Wisconsin” replied Jack.

Book and dvd’s deposited, Jack walked across the street to his newer auto with good paint and tires. The doors and heater worked and Jack buckled in. Suddenly, that still, small voice told Jack to part with one of his Andrew Jackson bills (Jack had two of them). Not too hesitantly, Jack unbuckled and tucked the twenty in his right hand and walked back to the library.

As mentioned, Jack knew the signs. He knew the score. The man had most likely spent the night in the somewhat warm vestibule as a refuge from the rough looking car. Jack walked back in and held out the twenty and told the man: “It appears that you are up against it. Go get yourself some breakfast.” Surprised at the gesture, Jack was thanked and Jack left across the street to his warm car.

Twenty bucks that was well spent. Maybe on refreshment at the bar next door, maybe down the street at the cafe filled with men in hunting orange. It didn’t matter to Jack. There was no evidence of sleeping off an overdose of aliphatic ketones from the two dispensaries nearby.

A mystery and a gesture from a stranger that has Kingdom consequence. Someone noticed. The perfect someone that had an emphatic reaction to circumstance. Perfect timing.

Obedience to that still, small voice that Jack hears now and then. Almost always inconvenient and costly. After all, Jack’s family had a prayer room right next door for years and the ‘odor’ of hearts praising the Lord prevails on that street. It felt good to Jack. Useful. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Mission Field

The missionary, out in ‘the field’, we have all heard the term and some of us have been one. There are so many ‘fields’ in the world. Gator had an image of this field as wading through a jungle or trudging about a very different terrain overseas. It seems everyone that has been asked, suggested to about this field, thinks of deepest, darkest Africa. Complete with Indiana Jones types and indigenous people that can kill you in many various ways if you make a social faux pas. The favorite one seems to usually be a blowgun dart or a bent tree branch with spikes. Too many movies about adventure for gain. The mission field has gain of a different sort. Eternal.

The foreign country field often involves flying on the frayed cuff. Sometimes sleeping in various airport or bus terminals in various positions. Pulling chairs together or dreaming of a quarter activated padded storage locker that slides out about six feet. Those dreams can come unexpectedly while sagging between those chairs. There are also predators in the terminals which could sweet talk a Chicago cop. The world needs those missionaries in many locales, but not just in far away places. Right in one’s own neighborhood perhaps.

The Gator family created a mission in their area of the world that gave families a bounty of food for ten bucks.

There are professional food gleaners that acquire food from distributors. Food that is out of date or about to be out of date. Some foods too that just don’t move as fast as thought. Pickled eels, fresh Beetle juice (two stars for that one), Dried mushroom flour, things like that. Gator has a ‘best by date’ that indicates he is prime for sale as well. About ten years ago. The food in reality is good fruit, veggies, breads and often meats as well. Several times huge cardboard containers of watermelons. It was always a surprise and usually delightful.

The best part of the ‘Feed my sheep’ mission was the two Gators (Mrs and Mr) that held a meeting before the food was set out on tables. In another room with chairs, filled with people with shopping bags, carts and cardboard boxes. Eager, at times, to hear what these intriguing reptiles had to say, they listened. There was nothing else they could do. Sort of a standby terminal for flying into the next room and getting your ten bucks worth of good stuff. Quite a few of them were Christians and taking care of the brethren is scriptural too.

So, the Gators talked to the room about how the food was obtained and why the volunteers showed up to help. Even carrying out the bounty to trunks and back seats parked nearby. Skycaps from a different sky locale.

Mr and Mrs Gator earnestly talked about the King who was nearby and had talked them into starting the mission and how the roomful of people could talk to this King themselves. He even touched some of them who had various physical and social ills. Some felt the romance of Jesus calling them to Him. Grace that led to faith, the very gift of God. A judge of all of us, but firm in His desire for all men to repent and Be filled with joy as they saw reality and the world with His eyes and heart. The gentle way of the Christian leaders among them was the catalyst that Jesus was using to talk to everyone in that room. It wasn’t easy many times, but worth it.

Often some people would be astonishingly healed of their ills. Returning recipients of the bounty had good stories to tell and it enhanced the expectation of something good. It also brought the King into sharp focus and reality. Truth. There were, of course, many of the public that were agnostic or even Pagans that ‘endured’ this.

A mission field right in the same county the Gators lived in! Only ten clicks away from their modest ranch and it felt good and right. They even got some of that good food too. So, you see, the mission field can be across the planet or in your own neighborhood. The key is to be available when the King lets you know of an mission that requires some one just like you. A special person that is perfect for the job. You. Completely unique, one of a kind and the mission can involve hundreds, thousands of people or just one. You. It seems the King is not interested in numbers of served or servants. His standards are just and true, just for you. He loves it when the ones he whispers to or writes love letters to, answer Him with an eager ‘Yes!’

Listen for His voice. He speaks softly and at times speaks right into your soul, unmistakable, and exciting. You can say no of course, but the task is suited for you and the rewards are simply the Beloved Kings to give. The best gift of all is His presence. There were folks at this ministry that were attendees at local Christian worship services that had never seen this type of prayer, of talking to Jesus as he was present in the room. He is the King and He promised The Holy Spirit to guide and be a helper to us. It never stops and the echos continue. You begin to recognize believers by their countenance. Telling them you see this is another mission field. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Traditions of Thanksgiving

The story always starts the same way. A ship, the Mayflower leaves Europe and sails for religious freedom (not to be confused with freedom from religion which came almost 400 years later)

The ship carried 102 passengers and it took over two months to make the crossing. Bad weather and the usual oceanic thrills and danger. They missed their destination at Plymouth (Not Belvedere as has been put forth) They had to sail across Massachusetts bay from Cape Cod a month later. Those pilgrims consisted of Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Quakers, Presbyterians, Protestants and a few Jews.

There was a genuine deliverance, providential and we are sure, astonishing. Many of the ‘Pilgrims’ as they began to known, died in that first year and in 1621 the first feast began with about 90 of the Wampanoag natives with fish, venison (Five deer) Eels, shellfish, stews, veggies and beer. They fired guns, and drank liquor to seal the treaty of peace.

The treaty lasted till King Phillips war (1675 -1676) when a lot of colonists and natives lost their lives. About 54 years of peace. It was a war between the colonists and indigenous peoples. America’s bloodiest war as 30% of the colonists were killed (2500) and a dozen towns destroyed. About 5000 Wampanoag’s were killed. The head of the natives was Metacong known as Prince Phillip!

The colonists, of course, continued to pray and thank God for provision.

When the American Constitution was enacted in 1798, (221 years ago) Congress left celebrating to the states. Finally on October 3, 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed Thursday November 26th. In 1942 president Roosevelt declared the 3rd Thursday in November to give an extra boost to the merchants for another week of Christmas shopping! The Thanksgiving holiday 130 years ago had feasts coupled with the Yale vs Princeton football game (1876) In 1920 costumed revelers and Gimbals department store had a parade with Santa Claus. In 1924 the Macy’s parade, also in NYC had huge balloons.

Now the celebration is focused on Intercultural peace, immigrants and home and family.

Canada has their Thanksgiving on the 2nd Monday in October. It began in 1578 for the thank fullness of Sir Milton Frobisher’s crew surviving. It was on November 6th from 1879 and changed in 1957 to the 2nd Monday in October. 442 years ago. Also thanking God for survival,They celebrated with salt beef and mushy peas. (This was 43 years before the Mayflower arrived.)

Alexander Hamilton, a founding father and Washington’s companion declared “No citizen of the U.S. Shall refrain from Turkey on Thanksgiving day” So, now we consume 45 to 46 million on Thanksgiving. Hamilton was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr. The usual Thanksgiving meal at this time was turtle soup, pigeon pie, hogs ears and stewed eels. Turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie seems a more pleasant menu. Jack’s sense of taste has not been the same since he had the Wuhan flu. He just could not do justice to the eels.

The turkey is odd, the first presidential ‘pardon’ of a turkey destined for the table was made by President Bush in 1989. It was remanded to a farm to live out it’s life there. Ostensibly uncooked.

Who knows how it turns out for a turkey that has a presidential pardon? Which would taste better? A Republican or Democratic turkey? The tradition of President Washington continues today. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Chosin Reservoir

It was sort of unexpected. The usual surprise when the phone call came. The funeral was up north where he lived. The smiling in-law and survivor of war and crime was being ‘put to rest’ next week and “could you come?”

His pain is gone, but the ‘rest’ part seems a bit ambiguous to Gator. As though death was a train station you just sacked out in, waiting for the eternity express to rumble in. Sort of like the one in the movie ‘Matrix’ for those of you that have wondered about that place. What’s on the ticket you have in your hand? They always say ‘Judgment seat, last stop’. The ticket also says ‘payment pending’ Better get on the train and get a good seat. Might be a slight delay at the Judgment station. The conductor says there is a bit of a crowd there. He also says ‘today’ with a slight smile. If you know what is coming, it gives you a bit of a sharp uncertainty, everyone does it the conductor says. Open mouth and realization that the truth was told to you. “Did I make the cut?”

So with this imagery in mind, Gator softly walked into the church building and took a pew seat towards the front. The front rows had the soldier’s sons and the family, and us of course. It was a different ceremony, a different faith stream but with the same feeling. Gator did not know the drill, so he just read and reread a passage in his NKJ Bible. Matthew 22: 32..”God is not the God of the dead but the God of the living” This was a passage of those that will live forever. I had no doubt that this rough and tumble Marine was going to be with his Savior. We had talked with him earlier in the year. There was certainty about him being saved from condemnation by his faith in Jesus.

At the end of communion, the Priest requested the eulogy to be given. The sons looked at each other and then turned and looked at us. I took my Bible and ascended to the pulpit. I read, almost from memory the few lines of scripture I had read over and over. I finished the short reading and then began to honor the fallen Korean war vet.

I could see the VFW guys in full dress and the colonel and the bagpiper nearby. Solemn but focused. On me.And the casket

I thought about the time when we asked him to turn down the TV for our young sons sitting with us. He replied in no uncertain terms that we were in his house and would do what he pleased. A little rough language tossed in for emphasis. Then afterwards we all went the Post and played pool. Young Gator made a pretty good bank shot and Dad-in-law offered a fireball shot of whiskey to him. Young Gator was about 15.

Those images were set aside as Gator eulogized about the fallen Marine as a man of bravery and honor. A Chosin reservoir survivor in the Korean war, followed by decades of police business in Milwaukee. It felt right to bring those things to light. His buddies at the VFW knew him well. His license plate read: ‘Ill buy one’ His other car read: ‘Stop 4 one’ Cops knew him and they also know about survivors and trauma. They made sure he got home from the post.

We followed the casket behind the Piper and experienced the seven men shoot blanks three times. I thanked the Colonel and then went in for the lunch. The Priest was walking next to me and I said: “Father, thank you for speaking of our savior” He turned to me and said: “Yes! It’s all about Jesus!” Gator will never forget that.

There was a proposal by his sons to give the VFW a budget of a thousand dollars for that days bar tab. We said OK. Soon afterwards it came time to go back up north and figure out what to do with the estate. Mrs. Gator’s brother handled the record keeping and we all spoke up for what we wanted. The sons wanted the vehicles and Gator wanted the man’s sidearm, an Ithaca 1911 .45. The Grip handles were well worn and there was some cleaning to do. It appeared to have been used somewhat.

Other things were attended to and it was pretty equitable between the six of us.

The house was cleaned and Gator got some Pendleton shirts and some slippers. The freezers were emptied and there was quite a bit of steaks and roasts to be salvaged. Gator also spoke up for the powerful garden tractor that was top of the line. Stuff like that, most of us know what it is like. Left behind has a different meaning.

We have all been through this and Gator thinks what it will be like when his unneeded precious instruments and other stuff is given to the family and friends. None of it will pay that ticket we all get when we get on that train for the Judgment station. We will tremble and yet look forward to our friend that has spoken to us many times in different ways. There are some tickets that cannot be paid and then there are the rest that will say ‘paid in full’ The next stop is eternal joy but the unpaid tickets will have to go on for the Perdition station. ‘End of the line!’ Lets talk about that ticket payment sometime, it’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Lost Ring and the Saved Soul

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 his bride 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 as well.

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. Details of Jack’s ministering to his old navy best friend that was in hospice in Maryland. Hadn’t been seen for sixteen years. No ring was found. They left the bed turned ninety degrees and cleaned a lot. It worked very good and had been thinking about it 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 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.

Soon after Jack had flown home, Chuck called and wanted to talk. He asked Jack what are the words? There aren’t any ‘words Jack said. Let’s just talk with the Lord Jesus and show him our hearts. Let’s tell him how we feel about the mistakes and victories we have experienced. Ask him to forgive the mistakes and bad decisions.

After about a half and hour went by and Chuck said, “Is that it?” Pretty much sailor, how do you feel now?

Chuck said he felt pretty good about the truthful talk. That was very good news as the phone conversation was a ‘party line’ with Chuck’s new friend listening in. “See you upstairs!” Those were the last words Jack said at the hospice. Several weeks later, Chucks wife rang up and said Chuck wanted to be baptized. Seemed appropriate. She said Chuck was getting close.

Praying in the front pew at Church with his eyes closed, suddenly Jack saw Chuck entering paradise. Chuck was walking away and turned and pointed at jack over his shoulder and said five words that Jack will never forget: “It’s better than you said!” There was a bit of commotion in the pews. People were concerned about the odd things Jack was trying to say. “I saw Chuck! He…just left” The Gators went home.

They found that Chuck’s wife left a phone message that Chuck had died in Maryland at the same time Chuck appeared to Jack. A phone call to Chuck’s wife telling her what had just happened to Jack was a great encouragement to her. What a gift it was/is and is still the best good news that Jack shares. A gift from God. He doesn’t know how it works but it was pretty swell to experience.

So, Jack surrendered his angst about his wedding ring of gold and realized the journal with the details was only found when they looked for the ring.

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 the lap lane and saw a round object that was dark. Looked like an O ring but 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 his sad loss, Jack held on tight to the ring and did a short swim and texted a picture home of the ring. Impossible it was still there in plain sight. Not vacuumed, not in the drain close by. Go deep jack. The surrender of the lost ring 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

Chief Cornerstone Communication

It was early afternoon, it was below zero and Jack was headed down to the wood shed with the empty wheelbarrow for yet another load of ‘all nighters’ if he could find some among the rank.

Suddenly, Jack felt Hispresence again. Unexpected, not a result of praying or listening or reading particularly. Jack thought just for a moment something was going to happen to him, perhaps unpleasant and God was about ready to soften the event with a bit of a heads up. Jack really thought it was the end perhaps. Jack began silently singing cornerstone where I am firm with no scheme of man could pluck me from His hand. Gator was shaky but ready Lord. Very clearly Jesus asked: “Who is condemning you?”

He just began talking to Jack and showing clearly that the anger and fear were totally his own doing. Simply put to Jack that he did not have to condemn himself for his failures with relationship. With All the family. All of them along with close friends

Listen, ask questions and above all, don’t retreat into yourself feeling once again everyone, is pointing their finger at you” They love you, I love you, I love how you write about me. Reveal your heart as I am teaching you to do so in your writing. Now it is time to open that door you have been longing to have swing open. Let them in so you can really see them the way I do!” 1.

I am worthy! they are worthy! The only one who can do any condemnation is me! Why do I do that?

An old habit, decision, who knows. Jack’s life has been filled with decisions made to protect himself from the world and in doing so, the glass door that leads into his heart has the sign ‘Closed’ visible from out side. Protection that Jack thought he needed. Not needed now. Open heart indeed! Many betrayals is the worst feeling of all. “How can I make this right?” this is the way to begin. Ask a good, heartfelt question.

Betrayed or the betrayer. To be dealt with in a similar fashion. Pursuing rectitude in all directions. The really hard stuff we know is our lot in the world. Always lurking around corners for all of us. The sudden intake of breath and the surprise heartbeat increase. Realization of a boatload of bad decisions and coming to a conclusion that there is no end to it and nothing that can be done about it. Beyond depressing. Your last meal of love already finished and all that needs doing is a little washing up. Stack the cups of anger and defeat so they can be used once more. Open the cupboard of your heart once again that is stacked with these cups of wrath.

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen” 2. The blues from the one who knew these things.

Upon finishing up the wood stacking on the porch, Jack came inside and Mrs. Gator handed Jack a short post on Valentines day with a beautiful healing message on healing the fear of rejection. It had come into her computer in-box when Jack was out, doing the wood and being waylaid by the Lord. Jack was ready for that. Perhaps the first time in his life. Eager to learn, eager to heal and be healed. It’s pretty good.

Jack Gator

1. Chief Cornerstone 2. Louis Armstrong

Grace Notes and Alligators

Perhaps a little history is in order after several years of columns. The alligator part is convoluted but interesting non-the-less, it’s true as is most of the personal stories that have appeared here.

There was a fiddle contest and Jack did not have any ‘glossies’ to show off his incredible countenance and poise.

Searching shutter stock type photos for something appropriate for a cartoon like fiddler, one showed promise more than any other. It’s hard to find an exact match, but you get the idea. A good friend sketched the above logo to replace the cartoon. Very good friend. The complete sketch has an alligator lounging on a riverbank holding a fishing rod with a zebco real. pretty cool.

Grace notes. They are the little trills added in musical scores. Too rapidly played to notate but can be done with the musical note you see on the above logo…It’s the eighth note right next to Gator. An alternative and enhanced version of the term will come a bit later in this column. Play three of them quick and it’s pretty good to hear.

So there you have most of it explained, somewhat clearly. The fiddle contests were like any other sort of talent contest you have been in or watched live. As a contestant you dredge up your best stuff. The most beautiful waltz, the most furious and clever fast tune(s) Rehearse weeks before and on the spot of the contest. In the outdoor ones the parking lot is usually safe. An accompanist is a great help, guitar is the best if such a thing is allowed. Playing solo is revealing to the contestant. Nervous? Unsure? It happens all the time. Then there are Issac Stern fiddlers that have graduate degrees in music. They usually are half your age and their technique is flawless. Beyond third position of course (that’s way up in the stratosphere and neck stuff) It sounds gorgeous and often wins. A few times however, old Uncle Zeke shows up and with a little stagecraft and stunning old time fiddle technique, pulls off first place.

Time to rosin up your bow and check your zipper and stuff in your shirt. The judges are up front and sometimes appear like Robespierre who lost his contest in 1794 in France. Serious folks often. You don’t know who they are and sometimes they know nothing about music at all. Sort of like American Idol. If it makes you cry it might be OK. So serious. It helps to do a little jig and a joke, entertainment. It gets the crowd in a good mood.

Make sure the sound technician is on your side too. A serious nod of your head and an impressed comment on their four channel mixer from Radio Shack helps. Bring your own mic and such stuff. It helps calm you. Just don’t hit the mic with your bow. It’s a real stage fright moment. Set the mic far enough away from you.

Don’t pay too much attention to your competitors, you’ll get nervous..again. Look into that heart of yours and play the notes and slurs and fun jazzy stuff on the fly that you are gifted with. Jack isn’t very articulate on the fingerboard and compared to a lot of very good players, Jack is in the Yellow Cab metaphor. The old ones with the continental 4 banger under the hood. A little slow off the line but sturdy. Somewhat heavy in his frame too. One of his mentors, Judy Larsen told Jack once: “it must be nice to be on all the time” Jack realized it was the notes in his head that always had a little ‘twink’. Adding something to someone else playing. Of course, solo is a bit trickier. Pay attention to that small still voice that speaks to you. He will tell you what to play, note by note if you listen closely. Play for Him that loves it when you do. It will put joy in your heart and a smile on your face.

It’s nothing fancy I am mentioning. It’s listening to the man that has always loved your playing and wants to give you the rhythm that pleases, the impossible harmonics and flatted notes that shouldn’t be there. “Just surround those out of place notes with friendly ones and do it again. It will sound like jazz” Judy again.

Gator loves to play when his favorite mentor is his focus. He shows up a lot when you want Him there and that is the other explanation of Grace Notes. He is filled with grace and you will note it. It’s Jesus. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Watchmaker in Paradise

Jack always wonders at what we say about ‘going to heaven’ for ourselves or others. He has been told by people that he was with during their last days or hours, that if possible and permitted, that they might meet him when he ‘crosses the bar’. (old Navy term) Seems reasonable. As though we can figure out what eternity is like and can make requests to arrange things. First class comes with perks after all. We all know who is in that club along with our dear friends. We really think we know who is on the list, like santa claus with his naughty or nice.

Eternity is not just a long, long time. “If you cried one tear every year in paradise, you could eventually have enough water to cover the earth.”1. In no time at all’ How about walking to the crab nebula at a really fast pace? Just to take a look and wander about. Billions of years which of course, is a time measurement and is meaningless.

Gator once asked his Lord when flying over the east coast, how can you count all the hair on everyone’s head? I can see for several hundred miles in each direction. A lot of lights, millions of people. The answer was swift and humbling. “Easy Gator, it’s a finite number” Oh yes, forgot about that little detail.

So if we are going to live forever if we have been saved from the Father’s wrath, what are we going to be doing eternally? Sort of the same thing we spent our lives doing so far? Gator gets interested when he thinks about worshiping with music. There are times when worshiping that are transcendent and stunning. Music then seems a reasonable eternal life style. Gators back aches at times when he stands and plays. Ensemble worship teams that really only last a short ‘time’ are tolerable. With a new body and an incredible vision before him, Gator figures it might be the best gig ever. After all, the hours are good (forever), the pay is decent (deliverance from eternal suffering and hell), and the flaming sea of glass with the elders sounds like a happening place.

Eternally gazing upon the face of God and His Son would be the picture in a dictionary describing ‘Ecstasy’

What about writers, cab drivers, laborers and medical people? What are they looking forward to with this Eternity promise? Gator, of course, doesn’t even have a clue. He has visions as above. Exploring creation. Macro and micro. Living forever? Are there restaurants in Heaven? Perhaps asparagus with butter and salt on the menu along with German Chocolate cake. Are there bathrooms in heaven? Saunas and shampoo with eternal odor?

All these pleasures of our life now seem fall back images for eternity. Gator has nothing to compare his life with the thought of eternity. C.S. Lewis has written a few stories that describe hell and escape. The endings leave you hanging a bit, of course. Riding a powerful white stallion into the mountains of eternal beauty sounds good. I assume saddle sores are not included and the tack never gets worn. Is there such a thing as boredom there? That might be a clue. Gator gets bored easily. What if eternal fascination is completely encompassing. Forever.

The watchmaker might be assigned orbital mechanics and timing for the world he just left. Asking his Lord, Why me? “I thought you might enjoy it” the answer. So, Joined with Copernicus and Kepler and others keeping the whole show on track. Making certain that the interiors of the suns are at the correct stage of nuclear fusion. No office cooler needed. Being a useful servant feels really good. Jesus knows all these things. He loves us.

It’s impossible to know Holiness from our position. It’s a Nice thing to contemplate however. We sing about the Holy one and give Him praise as we can. It feels right, it feels eternal. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

1. Gregory Koukl

Everyone Counts or No One Counts

Every One Counts or Nobody Counts

Francis Schaeffer from L’Abri wrote a book that Jack reads so often that the appearance of the book could be described as ‘shabby’. Dog eared pages, coffee stains on the cover and other signs of good scholarship and a care free habit of Jack’s. Books are meant to be read. Over and over if necessary. Truth is a full meal of life and digestion takes time and circumstance. An irritating and comforting habit for the Gator family. ‘Where’s Papa?’

‘He’s in his chair in the living room, he was asleep last time I looked’ (with a book that is now on the floor or sitting next to him underneath his coffee cup)

Research is entertainment to some people, like Jack. He reads at breakfast a lot. It helps communication with the rest of the family if it is 4 am. Distractions such as conversation and passing the maple syrup are not an issue. Then. Sip the fresh brewed coffee from Berkeley’s storehouse of Jamaica Blue Mountain and Hawaiian Kona with a little Tanzanian Peaberry for the punch. Jack tries to not make too much noise with the grinder. Jack has gone to the length of hiding the grinder underneath his bathrobe when it is running. Anything to further his alone time.

Jack learned all these secrets from a next door neighbor some time ago. When Jack was living in the big city, his next door neighbor was Miss Thrope. She did not care for Jack or anyone else for that matter. Being reclusive, they were both intrigued with one another. Jack was in his twenties and Miss Thrope was a bit older, around 70 or so. A chance meeting at 6 am when they both were taking the garbage out put them briefly together. Quick shy glances and a slight uplifting eyebrow now and then did the trick. They were intrigued as members of the same extended family can be with one another. Miss Thrope said something, a bit sarcastically perhaps. “Like the classic two ships passing in the night, eh Mr.Gator?” Jack immediately responded, “More like two garbage trucks passing down the alley” It was then, the impossible friendship began with a little chuckle from them both.

Jack had to leave the neighborhood because being an academic works if you can get tenure or better yet, a position of a Don or a professor of the literature teaching and syllabus for the courses. Jack, however, had a manual labor job that was ‘up north’. It helped Jack get fit (he lost his conditioning in Boot Camp in San Diego.) Another story in the upcoming collection of stories.

Jack did stay in touch with Miss Thrope via email and such. They skyped and posted pictures on Facebook. Both of them were writers of a ‘different’ genre. The same authors were on their ‘best seller list’ as well. Aristotle, St.Francis, Origen, Pascal, Bunyan, MacDonald, Chesterton, Lewis. Just a few come to mind as this is written.

It didn’t take long for those ‘next door neighbors’ to discover they could talk for hours about an obscure and beautiful writing from Shakespeare or Milton. New stuff flew into their physical mailboxes, Jack as well as his good friend and confidant, Miss Thrope. They critiqued each others writing and columns written. No one knew what to make of it. C.S. Lewis had Mrs. Moore at the Kiln’s and no one knew what to make of them either.

Miss Thrope is now gone from all of us. She wore out herself. She made it to her late 80’s, and Jack misses her laughter and intellect. Two peas in a pot as Stan Laurel said. Jack is still Jack, even though he is married to a wonderful gal and they have three sons. None of them write steady, the youngest shows great promise though.

Jack still eats his breakfast alone most days and retreats now and then to another place in his mind. He likes the description of his life and Miss. Thrope. Her first name was Ann. Put it together, It’s pretty good.

Jack Gator

How much can we Get Away With?

There is a common rule among all drivers now. 5 over. If you are in a hurry, 10 over. If you are in a real hurry, pass everyone even if it means a turn not far ahead (or passing on the double yellow.) In the early morning commute, the vehicles stack up behind you like a string of expensive glowing pearls. Keeping a common camaraderie among them month after month..”Oh here comes old one eye up from Bad Elbow, wonder when they are going to get that headlight bulb replaced”

Big rigs with huge grills, metallic white sharks so close that their headlights aren’t visible in your rear view. Hid headlights that allow them to see 17 miles ahead Old clapped out Chevy something or another, wheezing along with hydrocarbons sleething into your ventilation intake. Black Suburbans with lots of antennas, incognito.

The usual crowd found bellying up to the fuel bar, old acquaintances and odd new models. An occasional tuner with the uneven hot sound of cam work, masculine exhaust tones and turbo blowing off after passing. The triple porthole Buick bar where everyone knows how to ballroom dance. “See you at the Legion later!”

So, the unwritten rule, as stated, is at least 5 over for the pearl parade. Adjust that cruise button as needed beyond the basic when the string stacks a bit. An occasional maniac passing the whole string on a curve, over the double yellow because they estimate safety with oncoming headlights. Rebels living on a thin line, snorting adrenaline glee.

Jack has done that recently. Passing an old motor home that was towing a trailer, it seemed there was enough passing length to do it. The motor home, impossibly, began accelerating and another truck with a trailer moved up where Jack’s car was. They did not slow down to let Jack back in. Blocked and an oncoming car was now ahead of calculation. Jack had to floor it. Blessedly enough, the newer V6 responded and at 80+ Jack pulled in just in time in front of the head on death rendezvous. Greta was not thrilled. There was no other recourse except to head for the very steep ditch on Jack’s left. More death, a bit slower perhaps.

Of course, Jack had a good excuse to defy death. This time. The oncoming driver just flashed his lights. As though Jack could do something else but sprint. “I’m not slowing down for this idiot!” Death coming near.

So, if we tolerate the ease of breaking the speed limit (not TOO much, just enough to be unnoticed by the flashing blue/red lights donuts folks. Plain cake, doesn’t get on your uniform. They know the five over game too. The cops work hard and are on the line for us. I’m not critical, I know a few and they like humor.

So, the question is: How much ‘sin’ is 5 over the limit? 10 over perhaps? There are some folks that believe the more they sin, the more grace abounds. There is a long name for that attitude: antinomianism. Neat name for professing Christians that don’t worry about Jesus too much. “I’m OK, not as bad as the prodigal son!” So the question bears upon us: What do we do with the sin limit? What is it? Oh, and by the way, in case you miss it,

I am threatening you with the worm that never dies and the fire that never goes out. 1.

There isn’t any get out of hell card. We are all deserving an ‘ unpleasant eternal existence’ unless we realize that and come to a place where we want to be saved. Saved from what? Saved from the Father is the best explanation. He does not tolerate any of my sin. None of it, zero. We make up a ‘sin limit’ “I’m not so bad, really!” We Are.

Take comfort in not being perfect. There was only one perfect man and he died for me and you and actually, every person on the planet including ones not yet born! The incredible writer of over half of the New Testament put it well: “but I am carnal…for what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do…Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

It seems so simple and yet is the hardest thing to do. Admit the truth about yourself. Talk to Jesus, do it now before it’s too late. He will speak to you and give you joy. Talk to Him about all these things. Every day is a good idea. Saved and loved, It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

1. G.K. Chesterton and Jonathon Edwards 2. Paul of Tarsis

The first signs of things to Come

Signs of otherness. Different ways of looking at the world. Wondering about the people involved in these things. Speculative questions, because history of things of the past can only be derived from writing of eyewitnesses (the best type) or records from the time and place. The more corroborating evidence,the more assured history can be derived. Autobiographies are the best. They have to be believed of course. Fiction does not read as history does. Historical accounts usually have odd things and twists of life that authenticate them.

A few examples: Gator had the earliest General Class Amateur radio license when he was in grade school. The examiner at the downtown courthouse said that. That examiner didn’t specify whether it was just in the state or the nation. Thirteen words a minute Morse code and the ability to sketch a power supply and an oscillator circuit. Things like that. Laws and rules of radio frequencies and basic electronics/electrical knowledge to round it off.

Gator remembers too asking his 3rd grade teacher when the class would be studying soil and earth crust stratification. She laughed and said “later for that” Odd, Gator thought. I really wanted to know those things. ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself and the class’ was also said. Don’t stand out was the message. It won’t go well.

He wondered why his classmates talked about leaves in trees and stars and other things far away. He was very nearsighted and finally was examined and got his first set of glasses. ‘Four Eyes!’ Bullies, finally finding an in road to beating Gator up. Gator’s favorite was a Croatian boy. Face washing in the snow was one of the highlights of winter. All that young boy wanted was to have a friend. Gator was perfect, an outcast and very different. Third grade children do not talk about ionization of the atmosphere and radio signals blocked from the sunspots. Gator turned out pretty good and he really knows now what he has been prepared for. All that curiosity he was gifted with, all those other gifts. These things were designed to help Jack write about another man. A man that Jack doesn’t need a radio to communicate with, a man he can hear in his mind and spirit. Clearly.

That man lived a long time ago, and did such astonishing things that are written down in a very reliable history book. Quite a few books actually. That young man, not a child, but a young man of no reputation, did things that no one has ever done since. He was at a social event, a wedding with his Mother, and the guy who was throwing the party ran out of refreshments. A social blunder of the first sort, especially at so important an event. The revelers had drunk all the wine and it was getting a bit embarrassing for that host.

The young man’s mother, she knew his father very well. She pointed out the problem then, and her son told her it was “not His time”. An odd thing to say in lieu of his life from then on. Never the less, Mom told the waiters to do whatever her Son told them to do. As recorded, after a short time, her Son told the waiters to fill up all the empty jugs with water. A lot of wine jugs and a lot of water. One of the guests drew a flagon of the fluid from one of the jugs and pronounced it the best wine of the celebration. “Most hosts save the cheap box wine for the end! This wine is exquisite, the best I have ever tasted!” Water to wine, bypass the vineyard and all that messing about with stomping grapes and aging. This was the very beginning of the young man’s tale. Just a peek behind the curtain of eternity. So, Discerning historical events isn’t too hard to do. No one would make up a story like that. The things that Jack writes about are similar. No one can make up stories like that. If you know where and how to look, you know. Other historians, distant in the past, or right now on this page, desire to tell truth. It is so fascinating and astonishing to discover a world outside of ourselves that tells us who we are. Tells us what we are and why we are here. Of course, the young man was Jesus and his Mother was Mary. His Father I leave to you to discover. It’s a great family tradition. Don’t get confused, Just talk to Jesus. He’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Abandonment

It was a long time coming. A revelation of the deep things Jack has stored within himself. It was quite a few years ago when Jack was just out of the Navy. He was living in his Mother’s basement and going to junior college. The third house that had a remnant of the Gator household, now containing Grandpa, Mom and the Swedish fireman. Not pleasant but the best Jack could do after getting discharged down in Virginia with one more free plane ride to ‘go home’. Not like coming home to a small town and getting the welcome back treatment on main street. Big city home and new neighbors that are somewhat crabby about mom’s Buick convertible, Grandpa’s older Chevy Biscayne and the Swede’s ‘spaceship’ with the huge tail fins.

A job came up for Jack, working the YMCA youth program. That is where Jack found the love of his life. A quick engagement and suddenly, she disappeared. Jack looked all over the big city, usual places, he could not find her nor anyone that knew her either. Weeks went by and the tension was unbelievable. A little Later, Jack found out she had left him for a famous stage actor.

That was a traumatic event that got filed away in Jack’s emotional file within him. It never occurred to anyone, especially Jack, that there was an emotional paradigm that was operative for decades.

Jack found his old fiancé in a mental lockup downtown quite a few years later. Same friend that told him about the actor. Jack bluffed his way in posing as a youth pastor. His past love was in a bad way, drugged. She came out of the fog briefly and asked Jack bluntly: “Why are you here?” Without thinking about an answer, Jack just told her; “because I love you!” A shift occurred within Jack. Unknown to Jack that was not the whole story for him. The fear and conviction of being abandoned again was deep in Jack.

Every time that a person, often Jack’s wife, would somehow disappear, the trauma would slide into Jack and unbeknownst to Jack, he would be back getting that phone call about the actor and his old fiance. The reaction would be to assume that the disappearance was some inadequacy in Jack or flat out abandonment. When it finally came to light; that emotional response, it was stunning and explained a lot of Jack’s odd behaviors and emotional oddities. Anxiety, depression, expected abandonment. It finally came forth around the kitchen counter, piled high with peppers from the garden. Jack kept focusing on a pepper that had a damaged part that jack really wanted to cut off. A very interesting focus when viewed afterwards. Cut out the damaged part. When he was brought back to what was being discussed about this age old wound, Jack had a life changing epiphany. Expecting abandonment around every conversation, every giving of attention and love. Why fight it, no one really cares enough to let you in on the secret dashing off to someone that is much more important.

Lies that Jack has embraced for at least a half a decade or more. Has anyone else ever made that unconscious decision to pull the pin again on that emotional grenade? It doesn’t go off with a sudden bang, it’s more like a nerve gas release. A vaccine to remove attachment to anyone that Jack would give a piece of his heart. The more pieces, the greater possibility of withdrawing. An unpleasant disconnect that was not apparent to Jack. Another ‘checking out’ to his loved ones. “I thought you might have called when you got there” or “I was out with our son in the shop, all you had to do was text me” etc..Expect, oh yes expect adoration from everyone because soon, they will dump you for someone else. Make sure you get the ring back. One of those trauma/wounds that lingers like a deerfly in the raspberry patch. At the end of this conversation, both Jack and his patient wife began to pray.

Revelation and freedom can indeed occur, it really can happen with a distinctly unique ‘tool’ that the Gator’s keep handy. Easy tool to find, you just have to want to find and use it. Prayer. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Mr. Smith goes to Washington ( p.s. updated previous column)

A great movie coming to a government agency near you! Some of us remember the movie but this is a powerful remake. The plot is basically: A semi-secret agency in our nation’s capital has made moves initiated by insane people acting on their odd convictions and they are using political power and their captive Fourth Estate (look it up) to promote, indoctrinate and mold public thought. It’s against the constitution in many ways. the First amendment states freedom of speech. ( Not freedom from religion but freedom OF religion) Debate, thought and discourse cannot change this basic right.

Already that article of freedom was trampled in 1962 which removed the foundation of this beautiful country. A lawsuit by a known atheist successfully removed any mention of faith, prayer, the Bibleand anything pointing to our original pledge of allegiance. The universal statements of our founding fathers and our first Presidents. You perhaps have noticed the words ‘Under God’ have been dropped in some public pledges. Gator is certain the next move will be removing “One nation under God” from our currency. Gator looks at the twenty dollar bill and President Jackson has a serious expression. Perhaps seeing the way things have gone with the disgruntled and proponents of decadence and oppression (in the name of freedom of course) Of course, we don’t have the freedom to disagree. Haters, oppressors or everything phobic. Islamophobic was not a talking point ten years ago in New York on Sept. 11th

Gator has watched these things escalate, political correctness is the insidious phrase used to alter the past, wipe out books that say things truthful. Science! They shout, it’s inhibited by Religion! Read Plato’s logic which is one of the solid philosophy truths we know. “If there are no absolutes, the the individual things which are about us, have no meaning” The particulars, the individual things that are about us. At that time, thousands of years ago, very wise men spoke these things to one another about reality and reason. People like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Even Saint Paul went to Mars hill and was asked to speak about God. They did not have him arrested because he talked about our God of creation.

The absurd begins to be the cause of nodding of heads when the talk of banning great childhood books that are accused of having ‘racist images’. Books of great scientific knowledge that state men and women are created by God and they are created as men and women. A recent quote seems to fit an absurd thought: “I was trapped in the body of a woman and then my mother gave birth to me” Good sarcasm. Perversion is now taught in our schools and any mention of truth can get you fired as a teacher. I wonder now what biology classes teach. “It’s not my fault, I was created that way” But it takes sperm and ovum, a womb. A Man and a woman. A medical exam can tell which we are. Thinking we are someone else is a definition of insanity and is indoctrination by absurd theorists who demand re-writing of scientific truth.

The thought police are hard at work to destroy us and put us under their control. George Orwell put it quite well (look it up if you are interested, or write me) ‘New think’, tear down the statues of history, rewrite or ban and burn books of truth and also history. The pilgrims are now referred to as colonists. Of course, this is a simple path to fear of being politically incorrect. That can get you into trouble and get you reprimanded by the ‘woke’ people. The socialist play book instructs the power hungry to paint themselves as victims. Phrases suggesting that you are oppressors. The real story is that they want desperately to be the ones in power by controlling any thought or truth as an antitheses to your plan of righteousness. It Worked for Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky who initiated the socialist tyranny that still exists. The concept of equality of income and government support to endow us with re-written history. After all, the only thing Gator can remember that our government gave to me was a uniform, training and free air plane rides to a foreign country to serve our country. I even got paid and free meals too! Serve your country, do not demand your free country serve you.

Awaken my beloved friends and ones I have not met yet. Be free to disagree with me and use logic to speak to one another, not propaganda. A new shirt says: “What is printed on the back of this shirt is true.” The back reads: “What is printed on the front of this shirt is false” It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Secret Place

Everyone has one. It’s often the go-to place when your world does not make sense. A child’s ‘fort’ in an easily climbed tree or a cave of sorts nearby. A place found when wandering a bit perhaps. Created or found, a secret place is usually not such a secret from family. However, it is such a place that is a wonderful secret. Many times the only person who sees it as a secret place is the only person who knows of it.They Know what happens there and why it is there.

Jack’s secret place is known by the whole clan and they know where it is. “Up in the cathedral” A planting put in a ‘few’ decades ago that reminds Jack of the Vatican. Somehow, the Swiss guards let Jack in just to wander about. Jack had been living on the street for several months and most likely was taken by the guards for what he was: A street urchin seeking value and truth and wonder. The seemingly endless corridors that had perspective there stamped a vision into Jack. Long narrow corridors, lined with incredible artwork are, at the least, Cathedrals.

The Sistine Chapel was pretty good too but the Vatican itself was stunning to the artist within Jack.

This day was difficult as the family pooch had disappeared/run off/vanished. She even had on her electronic ‘call’ collar on and the hand held unit showed no signal bars from the collar. Out of range. Not good.

Everyone searched the whole property, up and down the township road too. Roaring about with the 4 wheeler that the pooch loves to race, no response. Oh oh. Hours went by and everyone retreated to their own secret places. Eventually, Jack did the same thing. Up the hill, into the pines and sat on the new bench (green treat wood) and began complaining to the creator of the universe about his beloved dog. Seems reasonable. He knows our hearts and impossibly, spends as much time with us as we want, just to talk. After all, He invented time so He doesn’t need a Rolex. More complaining from Jack as concentration on the conversations is difficult for him.

Please show me where she is! You know where, you know everything. Why is this happening to us, don’t you care? How can we find her? Can we do anything?

More of the same. That’s what nice about a secret place. You can get loud and passionate without concern for others around. They aren’t. So, just a day ago, God showed Jack that He heard him by dropping a pine needle right on jacks sweatshirt, right over Jack’s heart. When asked to show Himself, He did immediately and so now what to do.

Jack left his cathedral and walked the long way back to the homestead. Depressed but still moving. Mrs Gator gave Jack the remote control of the collar buzzer which of course, showed no signal from the dog.”Why don’t you drive around the block or something? Maybe you’ll get a signal!” Jack drove out the driveway and turned right and at the next driveway over the hill, he turned right again. Ok, this is where Mrs Gator looked before but it’s as good a place to start again I suppose. Long driveway, a mile in, Jack went left to the steep, washed out gravel road and stopped by a new home. Not willing to go down a very steep incline ahead, Jack put the car in reverse and looked at the data on the hand held. Five bars! The dog was ten feet away. Filthy and covered with burrs, she got in the back seat and Jack drove back home to a bathtub for the dog. Deeply thankful and knowing, he was led by a very quiet, still small voice. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Biography of Jack Gator Part I

Sometime ago, in the last century, Jack was born in Minneapolis at Swedish Hospital. His parents were doing OK as they both worked and Jack was put in the care of his Grandparents for a bit. Out in a western suburb called Golden Valley. At that time, his father was working for the Minneapolis fire department and his mother worked downtown for the school administration.

It worked for the family and besides, Jack had a sister that was four when he was born. She helped for five years. Sis went to school in the one room school right on the highway a few miles away. No buses then, they hadn’t been invented yet. I have no memory of how she got there. Maybe cut across the golf course

Life out there in the valley was pretty bucolic, a big truck garden to joyfully weed by sis and I. Grandpa was a Mpls fire department chief and my dad was a fireman at station 16’s. The both smoked pipes and it wasn’t high quality Latakia tobacco either. Seemed an odd habit for firemen.

Jack had a neighbor friend, Freddy and they lived right across the fence line at the southwest corner. I exploited Freddie’s friendship in a way. All I can remember of him was his super electric train set in his basement. Hours we would spend down there. I never got him to help weed the big garden and I never really knew him. Maybe that happens more often than I realized. It worked as he was probably just as bored as I was. No climbing trees, no forts. We did go fishing in Bassets creek however. It was right across the road from the big fancy Golden Valley golf course. The creek was fairly narrow but to me, it was a mysterious river. Adventure unknown.

Once I got a hold of a fish that was so big, I could not raise it from the water. No one believed the story but I still remember it. Maybe it was a big Sturgeon! Probably a nasty cat fish or bullhead. Looking back at it, I suddenly realize that it’s not the catching that was important. It was being a part of the fish and the water having business together. A. I just got to go along with for a brief time as they did business with me too. Lasting and poetic things we did. Catch the spirit and never release it for life.

The golf course was a good place to slip into (before the six foot chain link fencing) and golf balls abounded in the creek. Pretty good, easy money for my sister and I. It was a water hazard and the golfers were very grateful for us. These days we would probably be detained or scolded. Different times, last half of the twentieth century.

When I got old enough to go to school with my sister, we had to move. A neighbor that took offense at us, turned my dad in for being a city employee that did not live in the city. Grandpa fire chief had a bit more seniority and was close to retirement, so he got to stay there. He made stuff in his basement for the Shriners. I remember the huge scimitar with lights all around the perimeter he made. They might still use it for the Shrine Circus.

Grandma was a tough old Norwegian that made the best deep fried doughnut holes on the planet. She loved me and I loved her too. She was an orphan from superior but I never did hear how she and Gramps met. A lot of family history was just gone for me until I really wanted to know it. So there we were in a stucco and brick house in North Minneapolis and it was time for me to go to kindergarten. It was only five blocks away so I walked. It was OK. I enjoyed the time alone and got to eat my lunch at home alone with the TV on the linoleum counter. It was tuned to ‘Lunch with Casey’ A guy with a railroad engineer outfit and a sidekick named ’roundhouse Rodney’ We were rich. We had two TV’s with rabbit ears too! (too be continued) It’s pretty good. Jack Gator A. George MacDonald The Highlanders last song.

Painful Changes

An analogy, inspired by an author that Gator owes a greater debt than anyone for language. Imagine that there is an automobile that is sentient. With it’s own thoughts, desires and purpose. Then you own this automobile and are constantly tinkering with it: Redoing the paint and finish. Taking out critical things and making them better and more powerful. Putting the engine right with better pistons and timing components. Literally ripping out the seat coverings and replacing them with better fabric and even airflow types. Better mirrors to see what is behind and clear glass to see what is ahead. The basic model now being turned into a high performance one that is seen as needing these things. Not things the car wants to be done to it, but things the engineer knows will bring it closer to the ultimate car.

What would that tearing apart and scraping and stripping be like for an automobile that is aware of itself? The first thought would be “I could do all that is needed before! I could get from place to place in a reasonable fashion. Why make me go through all this painful change?”

And so it is with us. Our Lord and builder and designer of us has plans to improve us now that we have the ability to do our own modifications which are part of His plan. The changes are only powerful and go deep if we connect with Him and then begin the process within us. Gator goes to a church meeting at least twice a week. It’s as if a man, desiring physical healing, went to a lecture about medicine. Great teaching and preaching for sure but it is a window into truth for me. I must act on this revelation again. It is up to my will to go deep and open my heart to the Lord. My pastor is showing me the door and the doorbell. It is a door locked from my side and I have the key to open it.

All the good intentions we have are just that, thoughts. Our inner core cannot be changed by good intentions. Cannot be changed by a good friend telling us what is wrong. Worse yet, the good friend will usually tell us to ‘just stop doing that!’ As though a leaking faucet can be fixed by giving it good advice to stop dripping. The faucet needs a good plumber and I need our Creator. The one that knows me and would love me to change. The change cannot be done by reading the instructions I am given by loved ones. The change comes by me opening my heart to the only one that can actually change me.

I can change if I finally realize I need to. The creator of all things and us, could fix me in an instant if He wished. He knows these things but I must discover how to find Him and ask Him for help. There is no other way, no other path, no alternative treatment, no two for the price of one, no spiritual duct tape that will do the job. I must die to my raging, often wounded, basic core and ask for the warranty that is offered for my spirit man, my heart, my soul. Whatever phrase works for you.

I must answer the gentle knock on my door and accept the life offered. He could blow down the door if He wished, but the change must come from my desire, my surrender, giving up my love for the wrong things I have thought were right and the way I accomplished them.

My Creator knows me and desires me to know Him more. I talk to Him as often as I am able to. The way He showed me how to talk to the Father. A good way to start is to sing to him. Works for me. Singing scripture is another form of prayer. Worship with the Word, it’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Books and Sandwiches

Jack reads..a lot. There are open books scattered throughout the house, some dog eared, others left for perusal at some undefined date. Some of those books are older ones that Jack read some before. There is a bit of wonderment, even from Jack, why would he read once again a book devoured times ago?

There is a joy involved in reading again a MacDonald, a Bunyan or even a Dante that defies a description by observers or even Jack himself. “ I thought you had read that one” or “ I guess you need to go through your Lewis again” It’s not that at all. It’s a hunger and the joy of a meadow once trod upon that comes into view. Quite unprepared for astonishing beauty, the lay of the land forgotten and unexpected things underfoot. Vague memories, stirred into sight and remembered more strongly than before.

It’s hard to leave and there is a presence that brings a smile and appreciation of it. The time Jack was reading his care-worn ‘ Mere Christianity’, and it occurred to him why some folks, even his own, are a bit puzzled about this habit of his. Almost as though a reaction to eating again a well prepared meal from the Mrs, or impossibly devouring a sandwich eaten years ago. Of course, there are favorite dishes, and the memory of them is fleeting but pleasant. “Didn’t we put horseradish on this sandwich last time?” can always pop the bubble for the cook.

The point is, it’s not the exact same sandwich eaten long ago, but seen and tasted anew. Even the drawings or lithographs are seen with more experience and depth. Perhaps, akin to the horseradish, it is better for the lack of it. It is, however, the same book that was not quite as absorbing or understood before.

There is one book that Gator reads over and over and always finds something new. It’s fascinating. The undeniable, “That wasn’t in there the last time!” It feels as though one of the Gator family has stuck a page or paragraph into the book just to astonish and puzzle Jack. Fun game if it were real. But of course, none of us are talented as bookbinders to pull it off. Jack does know a good friend that could do it. That friend doesn’t need to put paragraphs into Jack’s favorite book. It’s his favorite book as well and Jack, at times, puts paragraphs into his book by just speaking them. It’s called scholarship. Good friends, they share the love of old books and they both have the same favorite.

As usual in this column, you probably know the book Jack reads as his favorite. It’s a history book which goes back to the time before time. At the last chapter the book looks ahead in time to tell us history to come. Amazing. Some folks dismiss this book as fiction instead of history. Some people re-write it to agree with their feelings. Some people read it and see themselves revealed in it. It’s a real thriller, lot’s of intrigue and miracles. Whole nations becoming rich and powerful and then serious mistakes are made that destroy those nations. Tough people and weak people. People who put trust in pieces of trees (really!) People that destroy their own children for gain (sound familiar to the abortion industry of today?) Fierce battles, foolish kings. Prophets, people that hitch rides on flamed out chariots and valleys of bones turning into an army. The Earth turning backwards, complete burning destruction to cities and even a woman that turns into a pillar of salt! The whole story hinges on the hero of the book. It’s a young man from a crummy town that can heal people and give them the truth about themselves and all life’s purposes. He gives his life for everyone and promises those who love and trust him a grand eternal life. Oh yes, the hero dies and comes back to life! It’s the Bible, still the world’s best seller, available at quality book stores everywhere. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Surreal Vision

A very pleasant late afternoon driving home. Riding in the Gator sedan with Greta in the left hand seat, Jack as co-pilot. A little controlled breeze from the sunroof swirling as it exited a slightly open right rear window. Delightful.

An exquisite meal at Watershed earlier with communion. Chianti, artisan bread with the Baruch, Ashem, Adonai toast at the end. On the deck overlooking the Osceola Creek. The rapids burbling and rushing below. Perfect.

Gator and Greta dressed to the ‘nines’ and being themselves as they enjoyed ‘eating out’ with a bit more class than the nearby burger joint up the hill. A few conversations overheard as a gifted raconteur regaled his table well. Stories loud enough to somewhat enjoy. He was enjoying himself anyway. Don’t we all do that at times? Grace.

Driving home, commenting on the beauty of the homes visible. Two story with carpenters lace and porches, some with widows walks and many flowering bushes and perfect accouterments. A river town built right. There was a lot of traffic but jake braking was forbidden, the noise of the vehicles would just be a small rushing inside. They could envision living there but without the other buildings, the maple trees and gardens. It would not be the same. Next window neighbors is the price for being able to walk downtown for nice things.

As they drove by a Friday night concert in another town on the river, Jack was suddenly transfixed. There were a lot of people on lawn chairs, watching a stage below them. The band was just getting started as they slowly drove by. Heading north of highway 8 to their exquisite farmstead. The opening notes where immediately recognized by Jack as Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom prison blues’ As the first lines began to fade the transition to old memories and surrealism.

Stuck in a prison vs living in the lap of luxury and just enjoying an old ballad that was never and will never be part of those listeners reality. Home to toast and honey afterwards. Driving a car or truck home without fear and without the air on for a change. “what’s in the fridge honey? Or should we go out?” More pretty swell homes overlooking the river and soon after, a half dozen trucks with boat trailers at the landing. Nice boats on the river. Perhaps fishing or just cruising on a swell night. Are you getting the picture?

We are millionaires in the world’s eyes and are worried about our 401k accounts. When our brief lives end, there is the auction with collectibles and coins. Antiques and machinery of all sorts. Not worth as much as when it was purchased, but hey, enough to pass on to the next family collector of wealth. Usually. Gator is not ranting about our wealth, not at all. His family is ‘doing well’ or as the usual greeting: “Hey, how are ya? I”m good” The usual banter when often Jack cannot remember the person’s name. We are good. Back to the concert and the old memories. “Stuck in Folsom prison and time keeps draggin’ on..”

Jack was recently in a men’s Bible study with a couple of dozen men around the tables. There was talk of jail ministries and suddenly, Jack asked the men: “Any of you guys ever done time? Even overnight for a minor infraction or a mistake by the police?” Those guys looked at Jack in an interesting way. The way perhaps someone is gazed upon when they are not wearing the right clothing or none at all.

Jack spent only a half a year in a Marine Red Line Brig in Southern Spain. Hard labor. It had it’s moments. We all marched double time to the mess hall and one of the guys had to bring that ubiquitous metal tray with food for the guard on duty. It was covered with an identical tray to keep the food warm. All the guys flipped the trays when running. It was a way to get back a bit for a ‘dance’ in the isolation cell. It was really satisfying when the meal was mashed potatoes with gravy and shortcake. The term ‘Red line brig’ means if one of the ‘re-trainees’ stepped over the red line painted on the entry way floor, the duty guard was free to shoot you with his trusty 1911. No one tested the resolve of the door guard. Actually some of the guards were bored out of their gourd and would chat a bit. It wasn’t too bad, really. Southern Spain gets a little warm in the summer when your shoveling sand or running a swing blade. The sleep deprivation and water to wake you up every hour for three days and nights was a bit over the top too. Just a little welcome courtesy to show you around the place. And of course, put you in your place.

In some ways it made Jack have some empathy for the prisoners he would minister to much later in his life. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

A life Hidden and Seen

It was several years ago when the whole Gator family went to Washington D.C. They even took a friend with them. It was her first flight and she did the usual casual cool luggage rack and seat location. Gator had a little disagreement at the boarding ramp. The attendant told him his airline case for his viola was baggage and had to go into the hold. A stewardess for the flight was nearby. Jack explained to the attendant that the viola was made in France in the late 1700’s and it was not going into the hold. It was a bit of a standoff and the nearby stewardess told Jack to board the plane and she found a nice place for the case where the crew puts their stuff. Jack was thankful and very effusive with his praise of that crew member.

When the Delta flight began it’s roll out the friend that was with was a little nervous at the turbine noise and the acceleration. Like every first time flier, when the gear came up with it’s thumping and noise, she reached over and grasped Jack’s hand tightly. Every new flyer does it. Grab the arm of the seat, anything. When they arrived at the airport in Maryland, they rented a van and the best driver of the family took the wheel. If you hesitate for more than ¼ of a second off the line when the light turns green, you get the horn in back. Every time. Stijn, the oldest of the sons drove well and knows where the horn is on every make and model.

They found their rental apartment in an average city block which all their acquaintances who had been in D.C. Said was a neighborhood to avoid. Their host was very gracious, the stainless steel appliances were first rate and the first time they went to the national mall, a neighbor knew somehow where they were going and told them where to get off to catch the subway/metro. Nice neighbors in spite of the need for bulletproof glass at the local cafe. They had two tables and we sat at one. There were five of us. One of the cooks came out with an extra chair for Jack. Very aware folks in that neighborhood. It was pleasant. Our apartment was downstairs with a separate entrance. We could lean on the short chain link fence and chat with the sidewalk passers by. One gal from next door kept trying to bum a cigarette. Tempting to buy a pack across the street at the check cashing store, but our new friend on the bus said we would be out of cigarettes soon. None of us smoke. The lady was focused. Becoming city mice, the family took an Uber back to the AirBnB. Cheaper than the Metro and without the burned oil smells of the fast train. The acceleration of the Metro was nice for Jack and his young son. Old drag racer and his son that drives a ‘slightly’ modified turbo Saab. Strap hangers swaying with the close walls flashing by.

The Gators were there to protest abortion in a very unusual way. Each state had a tent on the national mall and there was 24 hour worship and prayer for our country and the unborn children. It was hot, it was crowded and it was wonderful. Got to see the original stars and stripes at the Smithsonian and there was the actual Apollo 1 capsule among Saturn booster engines and the like. Pretty cool. The whole mall was filled with tents, each one with a sign that said the state the worship team was from. Julie went up to the Washington monument and there was a Tepee there. She went inside and saw the drum circle. An older man looked up at her and firmly said, “You are First Nation” How do you know that? was Greta’s immediate question. “It’s in your eyes” was the immediate response. True. Her great Grandmothers name was White Feather.

After a while at home, the Gators went to visit Grandma and Grandpa about 5 hours drive to the southeast. After a scrumptious meal, Jack went into the living room and relaxed to the point of a bit of sleeping. A dream/vision swept over him. A young, pretty girl with dark hair ran up to him and grasped Gator in a strong hug with her head on his shoulder. She was about the same height as Mrs. Gator. Vivid dream, she was wearing a thick wool coat, it was tan and her hair was dark. Suddenly Gator heard a voice: “This is your child Greta who was miscarried. She just wanted to touch you and tell you it was OK. She is with Me now”

Startled awake, Gator went back into the kitchen and sat down at his place at the table and told the dream immediately. He believes he saw a glint of a tear in Grandpa’s eye. It was stunning really, the older man did not show emotion, ever. All conversation was covered with a salesman’s chuckle and laughter, as though life was some sort of running comedy. Not this time. Serious stuff, even he knew.

Gator loves to tell this story as it means a lot to him and Mrs.Gator and it plants the flag of stopping abortion clinics firmly and unmovable in his heart. There is life after death, we are ‘overbuilt’ for life as it seems. There must be more than this short life, it’s hard wired into us to wonder about, dream about and even write about. Why do some folks rail against these things? Denial of Spirit is hard to do.

Gator loves to quote writing and songs in his writing. He likes this one. “There’s something going on and you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones”1. Indeed. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator 1. Bob Dylan

Long May She Wave

The inspiration, a glimpse of Truth. The flag that Jack served under. Flying free from the fantail of his ship. All hands on deck. The enemy of our country aiming it’s guided missiles at him. Still the flag was there and it flapped off the fantail. Declaring we are the country of the free, home of the brave. A country that doesn’t give up when the odds and the enemies around us say we must quit, we must knuckle under people that don’t want those things, or worse yet, know those things and desire their own power more than the freedom we have.

We won all battles and we will do so again. These times, once again, will bring the true ruler into view. The only one that knows our hearts, sees our weakness’ and non-the less, loves us and heals us when we talk to him.

There are true lovers of the real power behind all things and these lovers have done, and continue to fight for the inalienable rights all men are endowed with. When told that all men are endowed with those rights,they pray for guidance that tells them how to honor all men and stand strong in their trust. Standing for that honor and knowing how to do so. The right ways to stand, the eternal rights given to stand. The knowledge that their hearts, given freely to their King, are guided and given strength. Enduring pain and suffering at times to do so.

You, reader, know these things. It was taught to us and if we suddenly realized that this teaching was right and true, there is no power on earth, no power of hell that can take that away. There will always be struggle to heal and be healed of hearts broken and at times, body breaking things to discourage us. It is imperative we do not give up nor give in to the weakness’ offered to us by evil and comfort offered. Judgment of our fellow man is just one of the weakness’ shown to make us less than what we are. C.S. Lewis, beloved author, suffered through two world wars and wrote great words that still show those truths to us. To no other man do I owe more for my ability to speak the truth. Sometimes I even listen and brought up short, I get back on that path of real life.

There was a time when Lewis was in a church service and he was critical of all the music he didn’t like and did not inspire him to love. He looked over the aisle and saw an old farmer, hands raised in adoration. A shabby old farmer with dirty boots, perhaps the only shoes he had. The farmer was weeping with joy and with his connection with God. Lewis realized suddenly he was not fit to clean and tie the laces of that man’s boots. Humbling and filled with the truth of his hearts emptiness, Lewis was transformed as Jack is when understanding how timeless and truthful that image is. Lewis too was nicknamed Jack. A good name Gator aspires to.

No one can denigrate the few men that saw these things, wrote these things and acted upon that truth. Our forefathers that open our eyes time and again. The constitution, the bill of rights. Inalienable rights to feel proud for the best things for us, here and now. It’s the good pride that sees beauty and love in others. Humbling pride that produces change in Gators heart. Change that gives great hope and real rest to him and all of us. We need to know the beauty of healing our hearts and minds together. We are broken and we must help one another to be whole. It’s the way of God. He gave us this beautiful way to stand together. No man is an island.

There is no greater thing than to love our God and love our fellow man, our neighbor. Love them even more than we love our own lives. The best love, the kind that never grows dim and gives joy and trust in the good thing. Joy that never fades, and gives us courage to be healed and made whole again. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Rent Strike and the Betrayal

It was the early 70’s and Jack was a member of the New Riverside Cafe collective on the West Bank in Mpls.

There was a developer that wanted to flatten the whole 40 acres and build high rise apartments and ‘shops’ where everyone’s homes were. They also raised the rent on everyone’s house (they owned the entire neighborhood). It was an attempt to price all of the neighborhood out, and make everyone get out of the way of development.

A ‘rent strike’ was organized and it got a lot of publicity. Jack was living right on Cedar Avenue in an old brick house upstairs from the free store. There were 7 people in 6 bedrooms down a narrow hallway and the usual bathroom, kitchen and big living room. Most of them were musicians, some famous now and the apartment was just across the alley from the West Bank School of Music. Musicians were so prevalent that there were two venues on Cedar just for them and Jack. The Extempore and the New Riverside Cafe. Jack was playing folk and blues on his D28. He sang ok.

All of Jack’s roommates moved out to a reasonable home in South Mpls and Jack stayed on alone with his girlfriend from Slippery Rock. One of Jack’s friends advised him to quit working at the cafe and start with him at the Burlington Northern and work on a surfacing gang for big money. Jack took the job, got called ‘santa claus’ for his pony tail and long beard and got pretty muscular and fit shoveling gravel all day. He got a letter from the neighborhood developers increasing his rent to two weeks pay. Just to get him out of the building. The back stairway belonged in a bad movie and the rear bedrooms leaked rain water. None of the windows would open. Things like that. The cafe people were not rent striking like the neighborhood was, and Jack was in a bit of a bind. His friends said “don’t pay the rent!” “Go on strike!” and Jack decided to instead take an offer from the developers to move into a pretty nice small house they owned a few blocks away for less rent. Nice place. Now he had enough money to buy lunch for his dinners on the job from Byerlys and by this time he had a car that was only 20 years old.

Jack never went back to the collective people except to buy a bicycle and a chain saw from Durable Goods, run by one of the Cafe people. Jack followed his best friend (read motorcycle pilgrimage) and bought the little farm where he and his family still live. Jack went back to visit the West Bank and the house the developers rented to him was gone, as was a lot of the houses of his old friends. The old friends said hello and usually just walked away without conversation. Jack was a Quisling, or in English, a traitor. No matter how Jack felt it had to be done to move, he was persona non grata. He spent money as mentioned and contracted for an F style mandolin. Jack put all the money down and the mandolin was never finished.

Jack was very nervous and felt very alone up north of highway 8 on this 30 acre homestead. The VA loan helped him afford it and when he moved in, he went into the barn before going into his ‘new’ home (log foundation, a bit aged) Jack played a little fiddle in that barn and finally opened the front door and smelled an ancient oil stoves lovely odor and it took his cat a few days to get out of the moving van. It was April 1st by the way. It seemed foolish too.

It was a start, away from the rent strike and the neighborhood people that he let down. He had a good job, a car and a small farm all to himself. He still feels that friendship loss, and even to this day when he visits the Facebook page of the Riverside Cafe, he is not responded to or ‘liked’ for his posts. Still a turncoat of sorts and sometimes it weighs on him.

None of his old friends that he downed a pitcher of beer with at the 400 bar and made grilled cheese sandwiches for, have been in contact with Jack. It isn’t the thing we are supposed to do either way. Jesus tells us to forgive and love and Jack is trying to keep his promise to do so. It’s hard though, isn’t it? Jack has never heard life was going to be a breeze and filled with good things all the time. No other way to live, but it hurts to be seen as what Jack did, rather that what he has become. It’s pretty good. Jack

The Beginning and the End and all the Important stuff In Between II

The adults that can advise us on the tough questions I mentioned last time (part I) are ofttimes, a bit hard to find. There are many prognosticators that insist their opinions on life’s big questions are correct and it is not a good idea to be there when they say so. Gator has been in that arrogant position and it has not worked out well. I did not take my own advice because I knew I was right. Point taken. Mistake.

It’s the big questions that generate heat. The small questions about automotive brands and reliability are not hard to turn into gentle laughter and disagreement. The big questions about truth and evidence of it are liable to turn into a stone wall of pat answers and foolish catch phrases. On both sides. We who strongly believe our opinions of life’s purpose are true. Our opinions are based on facts and those who disagree with those facts are immature, foolish and ignorant, right? People like us that feel that way are even more foolish than we believe others to be. There is a moral standard we must not ignore. It’s not a law per-se, but goes much deeper. It is a standard perhaps referred to as ‘given a reasonable doubt’ or perhaps the example of summit talks. You can never convince anyone of anything by anger or name calling. It takes dialogue. I’m not talking about violence or armed combat. I’m talking about listening.

Opinions are like software, it takes time to write out the program and push the ‘save’ button. It’s there on your hard drive then,and re-writing that opinion isn’t easy or even desired. It’s truth felt (a lot of times it IS truth) but the discussion must be done honorably not with sputtering and bluster. Doesn’t work with me, so I know it won’t work for you. Another opinion. I have a lot of them.

I have a friend that is firmly convinced that the earth is flat, the moon landings were studio fakes, the end of our circular earth is guarded by the NSA. You get the idea (unless you believe such things) When we read about something, such as New Zealand, we know it’s there because reputable people show us maps, exploring stories and so forth. We believe that New Zealand is real. I told my friend about my experiences at sea with radar and first seeing antennas and masts before the ship hove into view. Micro waves do not curve. He wasn’t convinced. I was a liar or was seeing an illusion. Truth was not the operative in the conversation. Neither of us could ‘win’ We let it go. It won’t bother me unless he comes to me with another version of truth that isn’t. He’s not my first choice as a navigator at sea.

There is another truth that I hold onto because I have seen it and heard it. It is the presence, and in one case, the voice of the living God. I know He is real and I know He cares for me, saved my life with His voice. Could I convince you that it is true? Maybe. In some cases, words fall short on a story, only the gentle passion for truth along with gentleness and patience will carry the message. Truth has another dimension. Telling the truth is akin to gardening. Seeds are planted. If the planting is true and the seed just and true, the fruit of the truth will blossom within. Cultivation with patience helps. In some cases the large chisel drag or plow is overwhelming to the seed and the soil. A good gardener listens and gives encouragement to both sower and sown. Spoken and written truth follows the same path.

It is not a coincidence that the ‘in the beginning’ story starts with a garden. Our seeds were sown there. A lot of weeds showed up around a tree and we have had to pull weeds ever since. Gardening and fruit To be an adult takes time and care and a lot of help. I am getting better at being an adult. I am learning how to listen and speak less. Perhaps I will be listened to when I tell the truth as it has impacted my life. An evangelist does not have to shout, Just tell the truth as best as they can.

It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Open Windows






It’s momentary. A brief, but time stopping moment in your daily flow through life. An opportunity given without our knowing how it happened, a glimpse of what we all long for. Something more real than our lives seem to be.


Perhaps, reader you are a particular type of artist that is focused on your art. All of us are ‘artists’ in some way because art is a longing for the real reason we are here. The big longing. Why am I here and how am I here?
One of the authors that Jack knows of, has had that reality vision is George MacDonald. A book he wrote, ‘At the the back of the North Wind’ has a sentence that explains the path to the connection to the author of all beauty. All Art. The reaching out to us by this artist of all that was, all that is and all that will be, MacDonald’s story says: “Why are you closing My window? There is no window here! I did not say, a window. I said My window”1.


A reach, a willingness to reveal ourselves. That is the the hardest and most rewarding decision we ever make in our lives. His window can only be opened from the inside because that is where the latch is.
You may certainly ask at this point; how is this done? It sounds pretty swell but is it really? How hard is ‘the hardest thing?’ That is another hard thing for Jack to explain because his fear of not being understood.


There are groups of people that we find ourselves in now and then, sometimes our decision is to be there with them. It immediately makes Jack a bit wary because he has a tendency to open his window to his heart as a way to show it can be done. Awkward and fulfilling at times. That is the reason this column is written for you to read. Jack hides behind his nickname because revealing his heart to strangers is difficult. He says things are written this way to protect the guilty. An unexpected shout of judgment from one of the hidden Sanhedrin can be unpleasant when truth is spoken by Jack. He was shouted out of a room when he revealed his stalking a rapist decades ago with a nine millimeter hidden at his back. “Murderer!” was shouted several times and could not be quelled or explained as this was an open window to Jack’s heart. A teaching and revealing moment was unheard.


When Jack is speaking to Greta, his wife, the windows to her heart seem to be always open. Jack has to work quickly on his window latch to be of use to her. He’s learning. A bit of anointing oil applied earlier to the latch helps a lot. That oil is hard but good work to obtain and the pun is: ‘ It is always Three in One’ oil. Prayer.


You can always tell when someone has an open heart. Believe it or not, it’s your choice to look and see. Once you have been with Jesus, the master carpenter that has made those windows in there. The ability to touch that heart is yours. It’s a great gift and is offered to one and all, even me, the broken story teller.


‘No body knows the trouble I’ve seen, no body knows my sorrow’ Old blues song by Louis Armstrong.
He knew the deal. No body knows the trouble you’ve seen, no body. There is a man, alive today and willing to listen to your trouble. He will tell you things about that trouble. Things made just for you to do. Often, for Jack, things he doesn’t want to do. However, that open window blows in a refreshing breeze and those things Jesus tells Jack to do or say become refreshing and right. It’s a decision for us all. Open His window which He alone has built into your heart or not. Always our choice from the very beginning of the world. Choose love, really, it is the only choice we have to make, have always had to make. It’s pretty good. Jack


1. George MacDonald ‘At the back of the North Wind’ 1871 isbn 0 85421 753 3

The Best Advice, the Hardest to Do

Al Quie

Chuck Colson

There is a man that Jack trusts. More than any other man Jack has ever met. I’ll tell you about him in a little bit. There is another man, Jack talks to him less often, but the trust bond is there as well. This other man tells the truth to people. How many of us have a job like that? Tough job, really. Lot’s of training involved, study, college and ‘ample’ on the job training as well. The part that may confuse you is that the this man’s desire is to tell stories about the other man! Oh yes, truth is absolutely a job requirement for both men as well. Character, discernible, is a gateway into seeing these things. Usually, the eyes are the first indicator to character. You may do this without even knowing that you do so. Eyes that look into you as you look into them.

Gator has spent a lot of his life looking away, fearful of what he might see or be seen. You also know this without it being something you think about when you meet an old friend or are introduced to someone. When the eyes, portals into the mind are not giving information, Gator usually forgets their name as soon as it is said. This may also due to short term memory function a bit lacking. There are tests for this, usually avoided if possible. Who would want a total stranger telling them they were old ten years ago. “get used to it”

The second man has a lot to say to Gator and often, in a room filled with other reptiles, Gator will notice an unease in some as what this man has to say is a bit disconcerting and perhaps even confusing to those of us not used to communicating deeply. Questions are raised, sometimes boldly seeking some other fine point of the this man’s spoken words. Good questions, even encouraged and Gator has questions but usually holds them back because he is aware of an awkwardness of focus to others.

Gator would rather be silent and let the talk by the second man sink in a bit deeper without a distraction of speaking aloud. There was a man that did this speaking better than anyone since. He is long gone from us unfortunately. His name is Jonathon Edwards. A standard to which most speakers of truth aim for. There was one ‘speech’ that Mr. Edwards delivered that was so powerful and so convicting that a room full of ordinary listeners fell on their faces. There really was no other response that could be made when hearing the most important and life changing truth for everyone within hearing. A long time has gone by since that original speech but it remains powerful, convicting and stunning still.

The bold and inescapable truth taught was how bad we really are, especially if we think we are OK and are pretty nice. Compared with ‘those people’ we are in the ‘swell’ zone if there is a measuring device that could do that. Actually, there is a ‘swell’ or ‘free of faults’ measurement and on the other side of the gauge: ‘Bad and Wicked’ There is a thumb on the scale however and surprisingly, it’s our thumb. I leave it to you reader to decide which measurement the scale defaults to. Every time.

The revelation of who is first man is now at hand. He has many names that are used by many people to address Him. Somehow all those names are powerful nouns and are recognized easily by people that have met Him. Some of them are: Yaweh, Lion of Judah, First and Last, Beautiful, Shiloh, King of Kings, Everlasting, I AM, Chief Cornerstone, Teacher, Dayspring, Son of Man, Prophet, Alpha and Omega, Bread of Life, Savior, Light of the world, The Word, Branch, Good Shepard, Jesus. Those are just a few of his names.

As an illustration of what the first man does for those of us who look to Him for help, Gator will use the story of Al Quie and Chuck Colson. Many of us remember Watergate and Mr. Colson was convicted of conspiracy. Minnesota Governor Quie, quoting an obscure law, offered to serve the remainder of Mr. Colson’s sentence. Chuck did not take him up on it. The offer was real. Look it up.

Quite a bit of time passed after that before the Al Quie center was built at Lino Lakes prison. It was for the prisoners there to study Jesus and hear sermons from dedicated men that wished to serve. Gator was part of this ministry and was always told to give the sermon on the wrath of God. It was hard for Gator and he suspected the ministry leader was giving Gator an honor to select him for the task. Think about teaching a room full of prisoners about wrath and judgment. A challenge for certain. Gator has finally found out about God and His wrath. We deserve it but the first man has taken it upon Himself. All of it, for all of us. Impossible we say, but it’s historical truth.

There are many incredible stories about this first Man. No one is like this, no one will ever be like this again. Now I am flat out preaching and it feels good to do what my friend does for me. “There is something going on and you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?” Bob Dylan

It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Baptism

When you love somebody, it is no longer yourself who is the center of your own universe.

It is the one you love who is. You forget yourself. You deny yourself. You give of yourself, so that by all the rules of arithmetical logic there should be less of yourself than there was to start with. Only by a curious paradox there is more. You feel that at last you really are yourself.

The experience of salvation involves the same paradox. Jesus put it like this: “He who loses his life for my sake will find it” You give up your old self-seeking self for somebody you love and thereby become yourself at last. You must die with Christ so that you can rise with him. It is what baptism is all about. Frederick Buechner,

A thing that seems strange to the world but was the beginning of Christianity itself. There is a lot of that word, that impression that is integrated into life in our world here in the United States. There are church’s that are named as such. Some faith streams have new born children baptized to ensure they are ‘good to go’ You can think about that and make your own conclusion. Gator has concluded that issue himself. Judgment, Gator is good at that too.

So, another ‘in the beginnings’ story which intrigues everyone. A story that is lightly touched in the world and not really taken to heart in many ways. Not a simple story either. A phenomenon seemingly caused by a man that dressed as though he lived quite a ways ‘north of highway 8 ‘ and had a reputation of eating June bug sandwiches for lunch. An odd fellow that had people enthralled a few thousand years ago. People walked out to see him as he stood in a river. He was very adamant in shouting at them about coming into the river with him. There was also a bit of a decision one had to make before joining this man in the river. Repentance. Not a word used lightly these days and what did it mean to them anyway? Back in those times people were very wicked and did things to one another that were not very nice. Not much has changed since then either. It is a burden for Gator himself to think upon things he has done, thought about doing and things he once thought were pretty good to do.

Back to the story. This man in the river would then ‘help’ the people that were convicted they were a mess go under the river water and ostensibly, help them up. This was called baptism then and is still called that now.

This man called John saw his cousin coming to him to be dunked and cleansed and was astonished. His cousin was at that time a man of no reputation but John knew him well. John also knew his cousin was the creator of all things! The living God, Jesus. John, felt a bit overwhelmed it is written, and said that his cousin should be baptizing him. Nonetheless, he did baptize Jesus and the voice of his cousins father came out loudly proclaiming a father’s great pleasure. (That was God by the way) It got even better for all of us afterwards as well. There was a month and a half of fasting and being tempted for this man Jesus. The things we are tempted with only on a scale of eternity. Ultimate power over the world kind of stuff that we think would make all things right if we had it. We can only imagine the appeal of these things to have, with one caveat, sharing with the tempter this power.

Jesus told the tempter to leave in no uncertain terms and Jesus went on to be seen as King of all things, for eternity. For us.

Baptism. Jack was baptized a while back and the man of God that did that for him looked into the water at Gator’s face. When asked what he saw, he replied “I saw a dead man” Things got better afterwards. Still tempted but now aware of it. Not made right instantly. Quite a ‘bit longer than 40 days’ but a Gator being rebuilt in the spirit. Now knowing a bit about repentance and his weakness, there is great hope and trust emerging in him.

It’s pretty good, Jack Gator

Game plan





Gator 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 Gator. 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 Gator 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 Gator 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 Gator has been told to do things, say things perhaps or just go somewhere and quite a few times Gator argues with the Living God. The Lord is gentle with him but very insistent. Patient.


Gator’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 Gator can see anxious people in many different circumstances. Driving, shopping, manning a public help desk, many other places where Gator has contact and influence to help or hinder. To understand the game he was playing was dominating every thing he did. Gator’s obsession with efficiency now has become his delightful ‘game’ of seeing 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. Gator makes plans still but they are short and usually simple. Shopping or writing. With the often gentle presence of the Lord, the plan is His. Gator feels the difference when it’s Jesus’ plan.


It’s a real ‘game changer’ for Gator. Seeing the string of headlights behind him in the morning’s commute path, Gator now adjusts his velocity to enable a perfect ‘string of pearls’ behind him. Little taps up or down on cruise control to match the vehicle in front or in back of him. A dance on the highway. A dance down the long curved hill to the river that reveals behind him perfectly spaced headlights moving into the day ahead without hindrance or anxiety.
Gators’ 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 Gator is then asked “how do you know?” “Because it shows” he answers. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

A Perfect Triple

A great quote from Francis Schaeffer: “ Everyone matters or no one matters” Gator was at the big box, getting the usual things. One thing from the far Southwest end and another two from the far Northeast end. Special stuff with all the right names and contents. It went very well, a perfect match to the pictures on his cell phone.

The store was packed with bad drivers of a certain genre. Fast moving carts darting around with determined pilots at the helm handles. Dodging and weaving. A familiar looking woman called out Jack’s name and since the seizures, her name was unavailable to Jack’s memory. She filled Jack in when gently told why he didn’t recall and the memories came flooding back. This has happened many times. There is a pathway that was closed to this type of recall but a detour can be available. Patience. They chatted for some time, it was very good.

Jack and the older friend began chatting and exchanging catch-up stories near the avocados and plums display. No matter which way they parked, it seemed they were ‘in the way’ but it was OK. People seemed always in a very big hurry somehow. A delightful conversation and it was time to check out in the under 20 items line.

Hustling the cart out to the car, Jack thought he recognized another old friend chatting with an older woman with swell round glasses and a classy blouse. Jack put the groceries in the car, carefully putting a wool blanket around the refrigerated items and then, patting his pockets, he realized he did not have his phone.

Jack hurried back in and went to the customer service desk. There was a woman with her boys ahead of him putting change into a large bowl to be counted. Rolls of coins. Many rolls of coins. Jack just waited until another friend behind the counter called him over. Jack was just blurting out “Has anyone found a cell phone?” Within a second, not longer, a woman walked up to the counter and declared she had found a phone in the meat section.

It was Jack’s. He thanked her profusely and prayed for her and her boys. Told her to keep listening to the small voice that directs us to serve one another. Jack was overjoyed at the timing.

Leaving the store for the second time, phone in hand, Jack went to the woman he recognized in the parking lot. She had the hatch open on her van and they smiled and said each other’s first name as a greeting. Another conversation that was a real ‘ catch up’ type and she began on a subject of pulling the bad things we harbor in our spirit by the root. Jack told her: “be right back!”. The newspaper he bought he grabbed and brought it back to her, pointing out his last column.

The exact phrasing, ‘pulling bad things we harbor out by the root’ It seemed appropriate. She was so pleased at reconnecting after ten years had gone by since they had been in a church fellowship together. Jack was overjoyed at the timing again. She prayed for Jack and for those weeds in his spirit to be pulled out for good. The weeds seemed to be a lack of trust in the Lord and, of course, trust in anyone else.

Some folks refer to that type of thing as ‘faith’ One of Jack’s mentors said he threw out the faith word in conversations and replaced it with ‘trust’. If it works for you, great. Otherwise bypass that direction. Trust me, it’s OK.

Driving home, somehow fulfilled to the brim, Jack realized that his best friend Jesus, had hit a perfect infield triple. Three people blessed Jack, three people interacted with perfect timing to get on base. Not really a game, of course. This was the first thing Jack imaged when he reflected on what had just happened. Doesn’t happen very often in baseball either. Timing is the key. The lord who created time (first three words of scripture: “In the Beginning”) It was incredible.

Jack has been digging at the root of not trusting for a long time. Too many disappointments in his life. Too much trauma. Too many bad things Jack let into his spirit that generated a lack of trust. Again, in the words of Mr. Beaver in ‘The lion, the witch and the wardrobe’ “Is he safe?” asked Peter in the story. “Of course He’s not safe. He’s a lion! But He’s good!” The Lion of Judah. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Quisling

Perhaps it was too easy to fall for the money. An outside source came hove into view and the world became new before this traitor started his work. His new companion fled to another town till the dust settled and his plan was completed. Or not. Serious outcomes and it did not end well. Selling out for power and money is never a good idea and eventually, comes to a bad end.

The local people were powerless because of paper documents and agreements were written with the ability to fight the invasion disabled. Written out from other politicians with pocketbooks enhanced by associates and directors of power. No one initially knew what to do. An outcry became loud and many signs started appearing in front of homes deriding this plan.

War came, it was inevitable. Statesmen and politicians wangled and maneuvered in their own interests. Quite a few of them actually. They were wrong to do so. The people knew and did everything they could to contest the takeover. The fourth estate did not want to take sides, after all, freedom is all about open dialogue. True for the most part. The betrayal by the Quisling was over the top and even the ‘Hard leads’ in the paper began to strongly favor the people. Oppression began to the opposition. Name calling and ‘straw man’ arguments were put forth.

There were many periodicals written about this taking place elsewhere. They spoke truth, clear truth. Of course the freedom of expression began to take a rather nasty tone and adjectives usually reserved for reprehensible criminals started flying about from both sides. It began to get ugly, somewhat distasteful.

Hidden underground groups began to strategically gather information and also began a straight forward campaign to make things right. Their freedom of living was threatened by the Quisling who should have been tried and jailed. High friends with deep pockets prevented that. For a while. It got expensive for everyone.

The lines were drawn and the battle began in earnest. Power with reward vs individual rights and freedom from oppression. It’s an old and repeated struggle throughout history. Control of the land and control of the law to make it possible has always been a hinge point of history.

The Quisling in this story was Vidkun Quisling. A military man. An officer that embraced the Nazi regime and sold out the Norwegian country. I can imagine your thoughts, dear reader, as you envisioned other men in the similar position in our day and age. In our neighborhood, in our government. Men and women with money and power supporting a vision of more of the same.

Quisling. Winston Churchill, H.G. Wells and George Orwell used the term in their writing. Vidkun’s last name was immortalized in history. Traitor, betrayer of position of authority. Remind you of anyone in particular?

Jack Gator

YOU’LL NEVER MAKE IT II

Three boys, and they doubled the size of the house too. ‘I don’t deserve this’ Jack says and knows. Jesus tells him that is correct but there is another ledger that says it’s OK . Forgiveness for Jack and Greta’s ‘checkered’ past is a big part of responding to the call of life with Jesus. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

(to be continued)

But what is the call of life? Now Jack is doing well and still, there is something beckoning him. Peace is evasive. He feels isolated in the crowd. Prosperous but bankrupt in spirit. The bank account said he was prosperous but the personal piece part was not there.

So Jack found himself again, in the family garden, working hard. Sweat is stinging his eyes in the heat. Jack asks, “why am I so consumed with this beautiful creation?” The answer comes swiftly. ‘Pull the weeds Jack. That’s what you are called to do’

There was a garden long ago. It was a place of incredible beauty and there was real prosperity and personal security and peace. All was as it should be and no one could be more fulfilled then in there.

There were no things that were not planted by the Gardener. It was perfect and makes the word prosperity not applicable there. All was as it should be. It’s the oldest and most truthful story of the beginning, within a garden. Just for us. No weeds, just beauty planted with great peace and the best romance story ever.

So Jack is sweating in the heat, getting the weeds out and thinking: ‘what are these weeds to me? Interlopers that need to be dealt with.’ Pull the weeds Jack, pull them out by the roots and gather them up. Take them away to the pile. That voice in Jack’s core. Dig deep and pay attention to what is going on.

So now is the time in the story that makes a clear point. There is no prosperity in money. It is found in a harvest of peace. Jack knows somehow that most of the weeds must be removed with their roots. If the root breaks off, a tool must be used to go deeper and get that root remnant out. The weed will just come back if not done. With the weeds removed, the garden is seen as the real prosperity. Fullness and beauty longed for. Suddenly there is a glimpse and a vision. Jack takes a sharp intake of breath as another vista hoves into view.

There are roots that go deep for all things. The gigantic Chinese Elm in the side lawn must have roots very deep to hold it firm and strong. Jack’s emotional and intellectual mind has weeds in it. Fear, condemnation, and most of all, pride. These things finally seen and known to have deep roots too. We can pull those weeds out for a time but if we don’t pry them out and ensure the roots come out, the weeds grow back strong. That’s what weeds do.

Jack has a special tool that is sharp and shaped to pry weed roots and it takes effort and commitment to use it and use it well. If the root snaps off, the thing that must be done is go deeper and get the root all the way out. It may appear the weed is gone but it will come back, often stronger and larger. There is also a tool that Jack has and he must be reminded that he has it to dig within his spirit. Let the real roots run deep and strong. The planted ones.

The special tool is prayer. Asking confidently and earnestly for help in going deep and removing the root of his weeds that appear again and again. You know how it goes. Be determined and get those roots of pride out for once and all. The root that the Master Gardener has the tool to deal with. Mercy and forgiveness. Let Him go deep within. The garden will burst out in the beauty it was planted for, true prosperity. The promised peace, truth, freedom, love and beauty in the harvest. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

You’ll Never Make It

Forty years after opening it the shop is booming, and Jack’s oldest honorary son took the helm. He is also an amateur radio operator that has machining skills and is as brilliant as the best men. Also, he was a bit difficult for Jack because Jack is also ‘difficult’. A lot of grace, some great counsel and the shop, now twice the size it was and heated with waste oil. Many upgrades to the tools and infra structure were done. Upgrades to both the inner men too.

Jack and his family are doing pretty well. And the blessings and amazing changes continue to happen. The youngest son has built a wood shop where his skills are very evident. The usual upgrades that come with time.

At the beginning of Jack’s life on the old farm, it was early and Jack was just getting ready to drive to his job at the rail yard. The day before was rough and he could feel some pain already. When Jack sat down, he fell to the floor in agony and could not get up. His back had ‘gone out’ He was trapped on the floor and the nearest phone was a new one up on a shelf by the bed. Jack crawled back in the living room and wondered what to do. After a time, he began to read the newspapers by the wood stove. This went on for a few days. His thirst began to be an issue. The cat water in the kitchen helped for a short time.

Only reading the Sunday comics would take his mind of the images of a bad end. His favorite comic was Zippy the Pinhead. Jack had a great idea. Taking his clothing out of the bottom drawers, Jack made a ramp to roll up to the bed and grab the phone. Help came and a time in hospital got Jack on his feet. L4 and L5 seemed to be in poor condition. His nerves to his feet never recovered to this day. At least the hospital bill was paid and his new foreman got his comeuppance for the way he abused Jack with impossible work. Jack has had to deal with thoughts about that man.

It was logical, Jack had to get a new job or create one. After the railroad injury, there was no going back to the job of shovels, sledgehammers and spike mauls. There was a little bit of workers comp, but it wasn’t going to last long and the mortgage was looming every 1st of the month. Food was OK and the power was still on. Phone was iffy but still had a dial tone. The locals knew what had happened to Gator, and there was grace in this rural area. Even from supposedly hard nosed utility companies. One of Gator’s new friends climbed the power poles for a living and he knew what had happened. People stopped by to see if there was something they could do for Jack. Meals, friendships solidified and new friends even brought Zippy comics to show they knew the story. Jack was amenable to a roommate of a local fellow. That smiley, pleasant man now lives a few miles away with his wife.

Those are some of the reasons why moving to the area was attractive, and scary. The VA loan was the first big loan that Jack had ever had. His new friendships made it work. Wood heat, gardening instructions and help for Jack, a converted swampy. Jack bought a bicycle to exercise his injuries. On a trip to the big cities old neighborhood, Jack got hit by a car in a crosswalk. Spun him off the bike. Rehab setback for a bit. Somehow that neighborhood had lost a bit of glitter for Jack. It seemed Too busy and now the constant roar of traffic was heard. Nothing had changed but Jack. Back home with the old blue 1941 Ford that Jack had put a new engine in with a friend and a chain hoist on a tree. The usual activity for a Jack Pine Savage. That’s how the locals refer to enthusiastic young people. (Jack pines are real trees and there are a lot of them 15 miles north of Jack’s place.)

Living in an old farmhouse was ‘challenging’ Another new friend installed a masonry chimney and Jack got a chain saw for the firewood. His back was healing and it was time to work on rural survival. Splitting mauls, an old Ford pickup and firewood permits up North in the state forest. Plus the dry stuff on the 30 acre farm.

Wood heat was better than the fuel oil heater but the cat water still froze to the kitchen floor when it was a bit cold. The old well in the barn and it’s pump jack did pretty good as long as it was protected from cold. It did not freeze like the cat water did. Hay bales around the foundation worked a bit and the cat took care of the mice. The workers comp and a small settlement from the railroad were running out. Jack got hooked up with a local country western band. Playing fiddle in a four piece band in most of the bars within 40 miles. Some of the gigs phone notes from the band leader are still visible on the kitchen cupboard uprights. Jack was in a hurry and scratchpads had not been invented yet. (The Bakelite phone was on the wall next to the cupboards.)

A new job was needed, a career. Gator decided to open a foreign car repair shop, right in his garage. Jack was told more than once; “You’ll never make it!” foreign cars in this part of rural America was a non-starter. Perhaps an old VW bug or transporter was part and parcel of the local transportation. It seemed a nitch to exploit and Jack opened shop. The old garage with sliding wood doors, and no heat, and pathetic electric power were a few obstacles to deal with. The local tool truck guy gave a proposition to Jack. “Rebuild the engine on my Nissan 280Z and I’ll give you the tools you need to do it.” It was a beginning of sorts and the word got out of Jack’s confidence and skill. After all, Jack is an amateur radio license holder and electricity and wiring diagrams are not too intimidating. Slowly things began to come together for this independent Gator and updates for everything began. Setbacks and Updates seem to be relatives.

Decades afterward, Jack met his wife on a bicycle as Jack still rode for fitness. She heard about him out in Washington state at a bar! The bartender was an old friend of Jack’s. She tossed the bartenders note when she got back to the area and a local pastor that Jack rode with, met Greta on her bicycle when he was out riding. Seems like bicycles had a part and parcel in their lives. Jack called Greta after the pastor told him about her. He told Jack she was a good rider and rather attractive with a good smile. He also said she only lived a few miles away at a church camp she managed. Jack picked up the old black wall phone and called, her number was easy to find. She answered the phone with an astonished, “It’s that guy!” They arranged to meet riding towards one another and they met at the driveway of the bartender’s Grand parents. Just another ‘coincidence’ in their lives. As the saying goes, it was Kismet. They like to refer to the marriage broker as Jesus stepping in with undeniable direction. It was years later that Jack realized his role in that fulfillment, for a life that brought joy. Jack and Greta began chasing after this incredible man that created all things that were created. Jack’s new job is working for this man when asked to do so. Jack and Greta both talk to Jesus a lot. They sing and play to him too, more joy!

The parking lot has doubled in size as has the repair shop. Beauty abounds around them and it is so beautiful, the Gators realize that prosperity has landed upon them. The opportunity to work, for all of them. Gardens overflowing with good veggies along with machinery inherited to maintain it all. They are not so much gifted in Gold and Silver. Just those aging colors of their hair and Jack’s beard.

Three boys, and they doubled the size of the house too. ‘I don’t deserve this’ Jack says and knows. Jesus tells him that is correct but there is another ledger that says it’s OK . Forgiveness for Jack and Greta’s ‘checkered’ past is a big part of responding to the call of life with Jesus. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

(to be continued)

CHOSIN RESEVOIR

It was sort of unexpected. The usual surprise when the phone call came. The funeral is up north where he lived.The smiling in-law and survivor of war and crime was being ‘put to rest’ next week and “could you come?”

His pain is gone, but the ‘rest’ part seems a bit pretentious to Gator. As though death was a train station you just sacked out in, waiting for the eternity express to rumble in. Sort of like the one in the movie ‘Matrix’ for those of you that have wondered about that place. What’s on the ticket you have in your hand? They always say Judgment seat next stop. The ticket also says ‘payment pending’ Better get on the train and get a good seat. Might be a slight delay at the Judgment station. The conductor says there is a bit of a crowd there. He also says ‘today’ with a slight smile. If you know what is coming, it gives you a bit of a sharp uncertainty, everyone does it ‘they’ say.

So with this imagery in mind, Gator softly walked into the church building and took a pew seat towards the front. The front rows had the soldier’s sons and the family. It was a different ceremony, a different faith stream but with the same feeling. Gator did not know the drill, so he just read and reread a passage in his NKJ Bible. Matthew 22: 32..”God is not the God of the dead but the God of the living” Eternal life.

At the end of communion, the Priest requested the eulogy to be given. The sons looked at each other and then turned and looked at us. I took my Bible and ascended to the pulpit. I read, almost from memory the few lines of scripture I had read over and over. I finished the short reading and then began to honor the fallen Korean war vet.

I could see the VFW guys in full dress and the colonel and the bagpiper nearby.

I thought about the time when we asked him to turn down the TV for our young sons sitting with us. He replied in no uncertain terms that we were in his house and would do what he pleased. A little rough language tossed in for emphasis. Visiting, years later, we all went the VFW Post and played pool. Young Gator made a pretty good bank shot and Dad-in-law offered a fireball shot of whiskey to him. Young Gator was then about 15. These images were set aside as Gator eulogized about the fallen soldier as a man of bravery and honor. A Chosin reservoir survivor in the Korean war, followed by decades of police business in Milwaukee. It felt right to bring those things to light.

We followed the casket behind the Piper and experienced the seven men shoot blanks three times. I thanked the Colonel and then went in for the lunch. The Priest was walking next to me and I said: “Father, thank you for speaking of our savior” He turned to me and said: “Yes! It’s all about Jesus!” Gator will never forget that.

There was a proposal by his sons to give the VFW a budget of a thousand dollars for that days bar tab. We said OK but did not attend the after funeral gathering there. Soon afterwards it came time to go back up north and figure out what to do with the estate. Mrs. Gator’s brother handled the record keeping and we all spoke up for what we wanted. The sons wanted the vehicles and Gator wanted the man’s sidearm, an Ithaca 1911 .45. The Grip handles were well worn and there was some cleaning to do. It appeared to have been used somewhat.

Other things were attended to and it was pretty equitable between the six of us.

The house was cleaned and Gator got some Pendleton shirts and some slippers. The freezers were emptied and there was quite a bit of steaks and roasts to be salvaged. Gator also spoke up for the powerful garden tractor that was top of the line. Stuff like that, most of us know what it is like.

We have all been through this and Gator thinks what it will be like when his unneeded precious instruments and other stuff is given to the family and friends. None of it will pay that ticket we all get when we get on that train for the Judgment station. We will tremble and yet look forward to our friend that has spoken to us many times in different ways. There are some tickets that cannot be paid and then there are the rest that will say ‘paid in full’ The next stop is eternal joy but the unpaid tickets will have to go on for the Perdition station. ‘End of the line!’ Lets talk about that ticket payment sometime, it’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Expiration Date 8/6/2014

It was in Gators twenties when he found an apartment that fitted his mood. Recently discharged from the military, Gator was going to art school. The apartment fit the inherited car from his Grandfather, an old, square shaped Buick sedan. It wasn’t Gator’s last car, the British Racing Green MGA with the real knock-off spoke wheels and Pirelli Cinturados and the Derrington wood rim steering wheel. No, It was the car of his discarded Grandfather, now passed down to Jack. Discarded because the once strong fireman was not useful anymore.

Grandpa had killed Gators cat when Jack was young, just because it deserved to be discarded in Gramp’s opinion. It felt sort of right too that Gator’s family sold his precious MGA when the draft came in with a whirlwind of death harvest for Vietnam. Jack signed on first before he went west to the jungles. He went east to the Mediterranean sea instead. So Jack sold the Buick right away, traded it actually for an Austin Healy Sprite. Felt good to be in a roadster again. Made up a bit for the Green MGA and the cat.

Jacks apartment was a dump. Second floor above a Sherman Williams paint store on the wrong side of the tracks. Corner store, separate entrance. Jack had a neighbor who was down and out and bummed

smokes from Jack. When Jack would ask him how things were going, the neighbor always said: “just take me to the dump” It seems that the latest attitude we all have. “It’s at the end of it’s service life” or “that old thing? Too expensive to fix, toss it” “ You’re what! Pregnant! Git rid of it, You’ve got your whole life ahead of you!” and our favorite: “Heck, he’s over 80. Forget that cornea transplant. I mean really, how many years does he have left anyway?” “Put her in a home, she won’t notice anyway” And so forth.

Feeling useless because the popular philosophy now is Existential in nature. One man in particular, a philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, went insane in the most beautiful country in the world, Switzerland. He came to the point of knowing the tension and despair for the loss of meaning in his life because of the loss of a personal God. His words are profound: “ But all pleasure seeks eternity-a deep and profound eternity”. Our country has found itself discarding our God of Creation perhaps because He is inconvenient and is sort of a kill joy because of all those rules he has. “I can’t follow all those rules in the Bible!” Of course we can’t, that’s the point of the rules. We need Him.

So we discard what we feel and know is not worthwhile to us. An old car, out of date food and personal relationships that are used up and don’t make us feel the way we want to. Or the way we feel we are entitled to perhaps. We have so much ‘stuff ‘ that it gets in our way when we don’t like it or need it. Broken things, old things past their expiration dates. Things that we don’t even remember acquiring. And so it goes on and on until it becomes easier to discard than repair. “That car, it was getting old and anyway, I was tired of driving it” How much different is it when it comes to this? “He was getting on my nerves. All this talk about going to a church marriage counselor! It was his fault, so I divorced him”

It seems prudent to us to just put it in a blue plastic container and park it down by the end of the driveway every Tuesday. ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! Throw out the tub too!’ I can do what I want, that’s what the world says. Another philosopher, De Sade put it well: “If there is no standard, no real moral base, then that old woman walking down the road can either be helped or run over. No difference if there are no moral standards” (set by an eternal infinite loving God who knows us and desires us to love him with the passion he loves us with.)

So, it’s our choices, the small ones that make a great impact on everyone. Should I discard this friend? This inconvenient baby? This old fashioned religious teaching? This God who never did anything I asked Him to do!

Always, always our choice to build, repair, embrace and seek truth in the eyes of the Man who is more alive than any man who ever lived. Jesus, the master repairman of old and stressed lives. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Faithful lovers of Music

What a gift to have met and then be offered friendship with the beautiful ones. Living in the Forty Acres of musicians neighborhood, Jack found himself with room mates that still astonish him decades later.

Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson took Jack under their wing and taught him well about music and love. The romance of Kismet. Poets with guitars and a mandolin, Coleridge and Tennyson did not anticipate these two.

A gentleness with much laughter and brilliance. Together they astonished people coast to coast. The little coffee houses, the folk music cafe’s. Platforms and postage stamp stages. It was the same show every time. The musical score was different from place to place, but the humor and duet solidity was always the same. They got invited back all the time. It was a dance with romance that never grew old, for all of us and them too.

Jack was invited along on a road trip with them, way back in the early 70’s. That’s a bit over 50 years ago in the last century if you like doing math while reading. Small town colleges were a significant place to perform on the trip. From Indiana to Pennsylvania and then way up in northern New York state to finish off. Four of us in the old four door. Gator, Mike Cass on dobro and pedal steel and Bill and Judy. The trunk had a few small packs of personal “stage clothing” (no cowboy hats) and a few changes of underwear. The rest of the trunk was instrument cases lined up. Fender to fender with guitars, mandolins, a dobro, several fiddles and a pedal steel.

We ate at Campus’ lunchrooms (Wittenberg in Ohio was the best) and made do with sleeping quarters. Often the sleeping bags were used on the living room floors of the friendly families that arranged the bookings. No extra money for a motel. Airbub was not even a concept and hotels had good water pressure with room costs to match.

It was a grand time and music poured out like anointed oil upon this rag-tag quartet. Gas was cheap and the car didn’t use any oil either. There were tips from impromptu sidewalk venues and generous amounts of coffee and sandwiches from club owners. We ate well and for the most part, played well. Plenty of obscure folk and country blues songs that resonated with us and the young folks that go to those sorts of places.

When Bill was dying at the VA (he was fluent in Japanese. Hush hush stuff) I stood on his right and Jim Tordoff, an excellent banjo player, stood on his left. We prayed and told him, if it works this way, we would like him to meet us when it’s our turn. Meet us with that Lloyd Loar Gibson with gold tuners.

We can then go worship the risen Lord forever together. Kiss the son indeed. We loved Bill and Judy, still do. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Beginning, The end, And all the Important stuff in between. 1.

Everyone, I mean everyone had to learn the basics when we were children. It’s obvious even to an old Reptile like Gator. Riding a bicycle for example. Did anyone climb on to a 10 speed racing bike and right away began strongly climbing hills with it? Of course not. So how did we get to that point of an understanding and skill to pull it off (starting with a smaller bike with training wheels of course) There had to be a teacher, an adult with knowledge and strength coaching, encouraging and helping us do so.

Another example: Writing and understanding language that is written. No one, not even Einstein, could do so right out of the gate of childhood. First huge flash cards perhaps, gentle words and skill as a teacher-parent to help. The the writing part (Gators handwriting could use some improvement) but as sloppy and ill formed the letters are, imitating the adults writing words to teach. Maybe even holding the child’s hand to help. It works, it’s the way things are done for every child ever born, even you.

As adults, we still need this training. Some call it school or primary, secondary, college an upward learning which still needs an adult with knowledge and skill to ‘hold our hand’ to continue learning. As an example: Gator now plays stringed instruments, another reptile friend plays a percussion instrument. A side note; the piano is considered a percussion instrument! How did I and they learn how to do this? Another Adult who knows these things. In Gators case, even bowing the violin while Gator attempted to finger the notes. Such off key and bumbled sounds caused the ‘professor’ to wince but so did Gators learning bicycle riding. At least Gator did not fall off the violin. ‘So easy when you know how’, is said. These are simple thoughts that I am just reminding us of reality, perhaps so obvious, we do not even have it cross our minds. Even potty training. Teaching is a skill not all of us have but potty training is a skill that all parents realize they must do. It’s one of the first classes along with eating spinach.

When we are all grown up adults (except me who did not want to grow up), we seek a purpose and a reason we are alive. It’s the big question which opinions abound to answer. Often as we are dying we get serious.

Some of us do not want a complex answer. We look to an older adult that has some answers. Why are we here? How are we here? There even is a book which starts with those very words! Here is the the name of that book which many dismiss as ludicrous. The Bible. As Gator has stated before: It is a book that is written by adults and if you don’t want to read it, please don’t dismiss or talk poorly about it. Read it, ask questions and understand what it says. It’s the only explanation for why we are here.

There are also many other books which address the reason we are here and what to do about it and Gator has read them. Many of them say we are here because of a random event that occurred long ago and we are also a result of randomness. These too are books made by and for adults to read. They are made up stories that are fun to read. Like most really intriguing fiction that engages our imagination. Many of them, tell us there is no purpose to life except to enjoy it and die. What’s the point of that? We hunger for meaning to our lives, not oblivion.

The Bible tells us The God of all, created us just to give us the choice of loving Him or not. After all, Love cannot exist without a choice to love. We question the Bible, some dismiss it, some read and understand it. A book that shows us why we are here, and how we got here. At first reading it can be challenging. That’s the best part! You will read it over again. You can start anywhere in it. This book tells us the real meaning of life and why we are living. An old book,written by many authors, and they all have the same subject, and the same Hero.

Darwin and Dawkins and other writers and philosophers, desperately write fiction to assuage their fear of there actually being a God. Not a big firecracker from nowhere that created them, but a God that created them to love Him and one another. Easy to say that, the hardest thing Gator has ever tried to do. It’s pretty good. (To be continued ) Jack Gator

1. Thanks to Gregory Koukl

Run Into Fear

Always, the phone call from the hospital. Telling Gator’s mom that his dad had been taken to the big hospital downtown. Again. The downside to bravery at the Fire Department. Running into yet another fire, burning building to rescue someone. Now and then a fellow fireman overcome while manning the nozzle. Dad always said that the warehouse fires with cardboard were the worst. The flames roaring up all the small channels in the boxes creating an incredible firestorm.

It was from Dad Gator that Jack learned the way of life to conquer fear. To run towards it with determination and the shield of honor. Jack’s Grandpa was a retired fire chief and it had taken a toll on him. Reticent and very somber and unapproachable, Grandpa Gator was the walking wounded. Too many men lost. Too many people caught up in tragedy that could not be rescued in time.

The old manhood of Firemen and Policemen. Serving the city by putting their lives on the line. There was, of course, rivalry and pretty good natured for the most part. Name calling in humor: ‘Hose stretcher!’ ‘Meter maid!’ Things that men do to create a bond with one another in dangerous jobs.

So Gator learned early what facing fear looked like. His dad was wounded too with all the adrenaline rushes at two am as he geared up and hopped into the back wheel of the big ladder truck. Out of the fire barn and the siren wailed down the empty streets of the big city. It popped out at home at times and the big city guys used alcohol to calm down. Gator’s dad was unavailable emotionally for most of Jack’s life. A fireman that was burned out.

Much later, Jack found the lessons from his Dad valuable. Run towards fear, give no quarter to danger of any sort. Be bold and put it all on the line. Calmly telling that big thief in Oakland that fighting to the death was the only way Jack would allow the theft. Replying to the big prison guard that ‘dancing in the isolation cell might be fun’. The time the small town toughs came after midnight and Jack walked side by side with his best friend towards them with their tent poles disguised as shotguns.

Stay calm and mean it. Jack had a dream of walking by a town that had a big gateway over the road going down to it. He could hear screams and awful danger coming from below in the town. The urge to run was strong. Jack turned around and ran down the road to the town. It was just a dream but it felt like a test he was going through.

Later in life, Jack had to face his own fears that were now, just reactions with no basis in reality. Now he would run away from conflict thinking he would be killed by a runaway railroad car (another true life situation) or worse. Complete and utterly false perceptions of his family and friends that was very confusing to everyone, including Gator. “Too much Trauma in your life” the therapist said. He taught Jack how to discern reality. Six tenths of a second reaction time to decide what is almost always false. Shut down the escape. Move forward. Jack was in a battle with himself and he had to run towards the battle within. Not easy, necessary.

Now, Jack lives within his destiny. Always looking towards the one thing that gives him strength to be the Gator he was meant to be. The living God that invites Jack into the secret place, the garden of love. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Watchmaker In Paradise

Jack always wonders at what we say about ‘going to heaven’ for ourselves or others. He has been told people that he was with during their last days or hours, that if possible and permitted, that they might meet him when he ‘crosses the bar’. (old Navy term) Seems reasonable. As though we can figure out what eternity is like and can make requests to arrange things. First class comes with perks after all. We all know who is in that club along with our dear friends. (not relatives mostly)Eternity is not just a long, long time. If you cried one tear every year in paradise, you could eventually have enough water to cover the earth. ‘ In no time at all’ How about walking to the crab nebula at a really fast pace? Just to take a look and wander about. Billions of years which of course, is a time measurement and is meaningless.

Gator once asked his Lord when flying over the east coast, how can you count all the hair on everyone’s head? I can see for several hundred miles in each direction. A lot of lights, millions of people. The answer was swift and humbling. “Easy Gator, it’s a finite number’ Oh yes, forgot about that little detail.

So if we are going to live forever if we have been saved from the Father’s wrath, what are we going to be doing eternally? Sort of the same thing we spent our lives doing so far? Gator gets interested when he thinks about worshiping with music. There are times when worshiping that are transcendent and stunning. Music then seems a reasonable eternal life style. Gators back aches at times when he stands and plays. Ensemble worship teams that really only last a short ‘time’ are tolerable. With a new body and an incredible vision before him, Gator figures it might be the best gig ever. After all, the hours are good (forever), the pay is decent (deliverance from eternal suffering and hell), and the flaming sea of glass with the elders sounds like a cool platform.

Eternally gazing upon the face of God and His Son would be the picture in a dictionary describing ‘Estacy’

What about writers, cab drivers, laborers and medical people? What are they looking forward to with this Eternity promise? Gator, of course, doesn’t even have a clue. He has visions as above. Exploring creation. Macro and micro. Living forever? Are there restaurants in Heaven? Perhaps asparagus with butter and salt on the menu along with German Chocolate cake.

All these pleasures of our life now seem fall back images for eternity. Gator has nothing to compare his life with the thought of eternity. C.S. Lewis has written a few stories that describe hell and escape. The endings leave you hanging a bit, of course. Riding a powerful white stallion into the mountains of eternal beauty sounds good. I assume saddle sores are not included and the tack never gets worn. Is there such a thing as boredom there? That might be a clue. Gator gets bored easily. What if eternal fascination is completely encompassing. Forever.

The watchmaker might be assigned orbital mechanics and timing for the world he just left. Asking his Lord, Why me? “I know you would enjoy it” the answer. So, Joined with Copernicus and Kepler and others keeping the whole show on track. Making certain that the interiors of the suns are at the correct stage of nuclear fusion (hell’s locale?) No office cooler seen either. Being a useful servant feels really good. Jesus knows all these things.

It’s impossible to know Holiness from our position. It’s a Nice thing to contemplate however. We sing about the Holy one and give Him praise as we can. It feels right, it feels eternal. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Mr. Smith goes to Washington

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON

A great movie coming to a government agency near you! Some of us remember the movie but this is a powerful remake. The plot is basically: A semi-secret agency in our nation’s capital has made moves initiated by insane people acting on their odd convictions and they are using political power and their captive fourth Estate (look it up) to promote, indoctrinate and mold public thought. It’s against the constitution in many ways but the First amendment states freedom of speech for us. ( Not freedom from religion but freedom OF religion) Debate, thought and discourse cannot change this basic right.

Already that article of freedom was trampled in 1962 which removed the foundation of this beautiful country. A lawsuit by a known atheist successfully removed any mention of faith, the Bible or anything pointing to our original pledge of allegiance, and the universal statements of our founding fathers and our first Presidents. You perhaps have noticed the words ‘Under God’ have been dropped in some public pledges. Gator is certain the next move will be removing “One nation under God” from our currency. Gator looks at the twenty dollar bill and President Jackson has a serious expression. Perhaps seeing the way things have gone with the God haters and proponents of decadence and oppression (in the name of freedom of course) Of course, we don’t have the freedom to disagree. ‘Haters’ we are then.

Gator has watched these things escalate, political correctness is the insidious phrase used to alter the past, wipe out books that say things truthful. Science! They shout, it’s inhibited by Religion! Read Plato’s logic which is one of the solid philosophy truths we know. “If there are no absolutes, the the individual things which are about us, have no meaning” The particulars, the individual things that are about us.

At that time, thousands of years ago, very wise men spoke these things to one another about reality and reason. People like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Even Paul went to Mars hill and was asked to speak about God. They did not have him arrested because he talked about our God of creation. We can still talk about Jesus now, how long it will be ‘legal’ to do so? Or worse yet, preach about the ‘historical Jesus’ as a good man, a poet with ethics, a pantheistic Jesus. This ‘theology’ was put forth by Albert Schweitzer, Karl Barth and existential philosophers.

The absurd begins to be the cause of nodding of heads when the talk of banning great childhood books that are accused of having ‘racist images’. Also Books of great scientific knowledge that state men and women are created by God and they are created as men and women. A recent quote seems to fit an absurd thought: “I was trapped in the body of a woman and then my mother gave birth to me” Good sarcasm. Perversion is now taught in our schools and any mention of truth can get you fired as a teacher. I wonder now what biology class’ teach? “It’s not my fault, I was created that way” But it takes sperm and ovum, a womb. A Man and a woman. A medical exam can tell which we are. Thinking we are someone else is a definition of insanity.

The thought police are hard at work to destroy us and put us under their control. George Orwell put it quite well (look it up if you are interested, or write me) New think, tear down the statues of history, rewrite or ban and burn books of truth and also history. Of course, this is a simple path to fear of being politically incorrect. That can get you into trouble and get you reprimanded by the ‘woke’ people. “We need a leader that can finally be firm and tell us what truth is!” Never works.

Give homage to Pharaoh as a god, worship Cesar, worship Adolph, worship Mao or the police will have your name. Not pleasant. Best to float along with all of it as long as we have our personal peace and affluence. NBC, CBS, CNBC, FOX, they all have your best interests in mind and they always report ‘real’ news! Awaken my beloved friends and ones I have not met yet.

Be free to disagree with me and use logic to speak to one another, not propaganda. ‘ a shirt says: “What is printed on the back of this shirt is true.” The back reads: “What is printed on the front of this shirt is false” It could also be printed on the front and back pages of the big guys of the fourth estate.

It’s pretty good. Jack

If You come to a Fork in the road, Take it.

There you have it, an old saying just modified a little bit. There is truth behind this. There is no longer any option to travel. One way or the other, left or right. Up or down, etc. Having a good map really helps when this happens. That’s why we have Alexei in our GPS apps to tell us which exit on the roundabout to take. Of course, it gets confusing a lot with those choices and names. At least you can go around for another shot at it.

So it goes with travel. An old Scotsman farmer remarked to a lost tourist. “Well, if I was going there I wouldn’t start from here” So where do we start with other forms of travel such as serious choices? Which way to turn? Travel is a multipurpose word. It can also mean our lives as well traveled or not so much. Of course, if one is of a mind to be blase’ about life in general, turns and forks just mean another adventure. Gator has lived like that for a great amount of his life. The buzzwords were: Karma, or life path. No choice involved, just what was lined up for you. Studying chapter and verse on such worldviews was a path to meaninglessness. The standby word for unexpected paths was “whatever.”

C.S. Lewis’ writing on these things is succinct:”The road to hell is a gentle slope, soft underfoot. No warning signs, no signs or turning.” There is the thought of my master in writing. That there is no fork in the road once you decide to pursue it. When Gator was on his ‘walkabout’ on his Royal Enfield, he knew the destination but took a few forks in the road on the way. laissez faire sort of travel, led to all sorts of adventure. There was a map on board but the dominant thought for Jack and his best friend, Frank, was the unknown path. Mistakes were made, ones that were ‘challenging’. Jack and Frank had recently been discharged and it was nifty to choose your own path.

There were plenty of forks in the road in the early days, not even seen as decisions that had to be made. Just ‘chance’ or ‘luck’ or ‘destiny’. There weren’t any warning signs either. A simple ‘rough road’ or ‘falling rocks ahead’ would have been enlightening. Gator is not certain that forked decisions are destiny or foolishness. After all, if you can even hear the screams or explosions, it would seem prudent to go some other way or just do a U turn. So, random fork choosing can be fun, dangerous, thrilling or destructive. How can you tell which road or path is correct?

There is perfect advice available and it isn’t Map Quest. Consult the map maker himself, He will advise and tell you of the choices. You decide. That’s called freedom. One fork will lead to a fulfillment destination and the other one will lead to eternal captivity of an unpleasant type. The Map Maker will even tell you which fork in the road is good and correct. If you choose to listen to Him. Take the wrong turn anyway and you will not be saved from falling into His Father’s wrath. That’s right. He will save you from His Father.1, That’s what salvation means. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

1. Gregory Koukl The Story of Reality

BEST FRIENDS


BEST FRIENDS

The search we all have. The hunger for that special someone that will look into our eyes, ask questions, and send a text which just connects us together. ‘Lets have coffee’ ‘This a photo I took yesterday when we arrived at New Delhi’ ‘How are you doing this morning?’ Simple things. Daily events that strongly indicate relationship.


We all yearn for it, most of the time not concentrating on a communique that indicates friendship.
There are not a lot of people in our lives that connect that way, usually only one that responds or reaches out to us. Many disappointments along the way, the rejection of a simple offer to talk and be available.
Gator has had several ‘best friends’ in his life. A few of who were, and have had the annoying habit of dying when Gator needs a best friend desperately. Gator cannot create a best friend but he can try to reach out to a good friend. After all, one is the best and as the old Sears and Roebuck catalog rated things; Good-Better-Best is the standard. A best friend is concerned, available immediately often when you don’t even ask them to be by your side.


Gator has tried recently to acquire a best friend by doing the obvious things, but things that one does to a best friend you already have. Gifts given in hope, received casually and sometimes with puzzlement. “I was just thinking of you today” True statement. Not the hope the person will reciprocate with a gift. Not with any thought of cultivation, just a good thing to do which can develop into something deeper is not the operative. Just a good thing to do. Love your neighbor as yourself.


But the signs of that best friend can occur, not common, again not expected. Perhaps that invite a week later for that coffee at the shop of good taste. Natural events that resonate within us. A growing desire that ripples the stream of consciousness. It overcomes the rocks and hard paths of a canoe shooting the rapids. Surprise for them both that a love of friendship is blossoming and a “Lets meet again, I feel you understand me!” It was good and those intimidating rapids are gone and the trip of moving downstream is right and easier to see.


Often, but not always, a shared interest can lead to close friendship. Subtle at times the interest can occur to be mutual. “yeah, you did mention an interest in very old musical instruments! How about we take a road trip to Philadelphia to hear the Wanamaker pipe organ!” Easier done if relatives or other friends can be visited on the way. Day trips to hiking trails, collector car shows, old military fly-ins. Perhaps an auction with special guns or collectible German figurines. It happens more often than not that these connections are made.

A real test of this friendship is conflict. Not if, when. Something said, something old, something new.
something unpleasant that is said about you.

How you and I deal with this forthrightly, honestly and above all, with forgiveness just waiting in the wings. Eager to come out to the play of life, beckoned by words, gestures of a short lifting of the face and a smile. The beauty of the breath of love appears and the audience, filled with joy and pleasure, breathes that breath upon us.

A treasure that is priceless and without a sales slip. The cost of the treasure cannot be calculated. You know the cost is only given freely. The cost is indeed all you have and when you look up, it is given back. Often twofold.

It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

THERE ARE NO LITTLE THINGS

THE LITTLE THINGS THAT ARE ETERNAL

But we live in a world that has lost its appreciation for small things. We live in a world that wants things bigger and bigger. We want to supersize our fries, sodas, and church buildings. But amid all the supersizing, many of us feel God doing something new, something small and subtle. This thing Jesus called the kingdom of God is emerging across the globe in the most unexpected places, a gentle whisper amid the chaos. Little people with big dreams are re-imagining the world. Little movements of communities of ordinary radicals are committed to doing small things with great love.

…Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006 p 25

And perhaps, as those who do not turn to God in petty trials will have no habit or such resort to help them when the great trials come, so those who have not learned to ask Him for childish things will have less readiness to ask Him for great ones. We must not be too high-minded. I fancy we may sometimes be deterred from small prayers by a sense of our own dignity rather than of God’s.      

… C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), Letters to Malcolm, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1963 p 23

The smallest things become great when God requires them of us; they are small only in themselves; they are always great when they are done for God, and when they serve to unite us with Him eternally.

    … Francois Fenelon (1651-1715), Letters to Men and Women, P. Owen, 1957 p 55

We bless the life around us far more than we realize.  Many simple, ordinary things that we do can affect those around us in profound ways: the unexpected phone call, the brief touch, the willingness to listen generously, the warm smile or wink of recognition.  We can even bless total strangers and be blessed by them.  Big messages come in small packages.                                                                             …Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., My Grandfather’s Blessings, Riverhead Books, 2000 p 5

The true Christians are the true citizens, lofty of purpose, resolute in endeavor, ready for a hero’s deeds, but never looking down on their task because it is cast in the day of small things; scornful of baseness, awake to their own duties as well as to their rights, following the higher law with reverence, and in this world doing all that in their power lies, so that when death comes they may feel that humanity is in some degree better because they lived.

…Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th U.S. President, The Strenuous Life, P. F. Collier & Son, 1900 p 272

  IT’S PRETTY GOOD. JACK

NECESSARY CHANGE

An analogy, inspired by an author that Gator owes a greater debt than anyone for language. Imagine that there is an automobile that is sentient. With it’s own thoughts, desires and purpose. Then you own this automobile and are constantly tinkering with it: Redoing the paint and finish. Taking out critical things and making them better and more powerful. Putting the engine right with better pistons and timing components. Literally ripping out the seat coverings and replacing them with better fabric and even airflow types. Better mirrors to see what is behind and clear glass to see what is ahead. The basic model now being turned into a high performance one that is seen as needing these things. Not things the car wants to be done to it, but things the engineer knows will bring it closer to the ultimate car.

What would that tearing apart and scraping and stripping be like for an automobile that is aware of itself? The first thought would be “I could do all that is needed before! I could get from place to place in a reasonable fashion. Why make me go through all this painful change?”

And so it is with us. Our Lord and builder and designer of us has plans to improve us now that we have the ability to do our own modifications which are not part of His plan. The changes are only powerful and go deep if we connect with Him and then begin the process within us. Gator goes to a church meeting at least twice a week.

Often it is if I, desiring physical healing, went to a lecture about medicine.

All the good intentions we have are just that, thoughts. Our inner core cannot be changed by good intentions. Cannot be changed by a good friend telling us what is wrong. Worse yet, the good friend will usually tell us to ‘just stop doing that!’ As though a leaking faucet can be fixed by giving it good advice to stop dripping. The faucet needs a good plumber and I need our Creator.

He is The one that knows me and would love me to change. The change cannot be done by reading the instructions I am given by loved ones. The change comes by me opening my heart to the only one that can actually change me.

I can change if I finally realize I need to. The creator of all things and us, could fix me in an instant if He wished. He knows these things but I must discover how to find this Creator and ask Him for help. There is no other way, no other path, no alternative treatment, no two for the price of one. Spiritual duct tape that will not do the job. I must die to my raging, often wounded, basic core and ask for the warranty that is offered for my spirit man, my heart, my soul. Whatever phrase works for you to realize how much you need change and are willing to go to any length to do so.

I must answer the gentle knock on my door and accept the life offered. He could blow down my door if He wished, but the change must come from my desire, my surrender, giving up my love for the wrong things I have thought were right and the way I accomplished them.

My Creator knows me and desires me to know Him more. I talk to Him as often as I am able to. The way He showed me how to talk to the Father, Prayer, it’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Walk and Keep Your Eyes Open

There once was time, long, long ago. Nope, sounds like a fairy tale. In a place far away, in another town. Nope, sounds like a small version of Star Wars. No reward was promised, but the path was finally seen. Nope,sounds like the screenplay of a spaghetti western. It IS a true story and it was a mystery however. In retrospect, it is perhaps like sneak preview of a really exciting war story.

Jack was finishing up a 2 hour prayer meeting and was going to drive to an appointment about a mile and a half away. The meeting was just between Jack and another man in a small building right on main street in a small town almost ten miles away from the Gator ranch. The prayer room building was in rather poor shape. Roof leaked, heating system was WWII age and the bathroom was down a stairway and had a mirror that was hung on a string in it. The bathroom was adjacent to the collectible antiques ‘storage’ area. Lionel trains, cupie dolls, and of course, the furnace.

Upstairs in the prayer room, it was pretty swell. Cursive wood scripture here and there on the walls. An enclosed drum cage, mics, electronic keyboards and such. There were chairs for visitors and a big flat screen for beaming in other prayer rooms. Internet access was available from the bar next door (yes, they asked them) There was a soft light in the entry room that was on all night. It seemed comfy and welcoming with a couch and more inspiring cursive writing. All of the remodeling was done by the Gator family and they all prayed and worshiped every Thursday night too. It was intimate and public. Town folks did not know what it was. A free clinic of sorts?

So when Jack was walking out to his car, he ‘heard a voice’ in his mind. Akin to remembering a forgotten chore. The strong voice of someone in the family. Undeniable and at times, something Jack did not want to do.

“walk to your appointment” ‘No’ “It’s a very good day for a walk” ‘No’ again. “There is a very nice trail to your right!” ‘OK, I will walk’ Three times he refused to obey. The soft voice then said; “keep your eyes open” Jack thought of treasure to be found and he began walking, now somewhat eagerly. Nothing was seen except trash and waterlogged cigarette remnants. “Cross the road” was now ‘heard’ Jack obeyed. Immediately, after crossing, Jack saw envelopes in the grassy ditch. Many of them and amidst them, a small broken wood box.

Jack began gathering the envelopes. They were all addressed to the same person in a town 20 miles away and all were postmarked with a military return address, Korea from 60 years past. Jack opened one and a soldier was writing home. Touching base with simple questions: “How is the combine working?” Farm things. The few dozen envelopes and the busted box were easy to carry to Jack’s appointment and he brought them home.

The last name on the envelopes was familiar and Jack and Greta called. A young woman answered and told them that the letters were all from her Grandfather and his home was recently broken in to. Jack instantly knew the thieves had thrown the box from their car, seen worthless to them. The woman came right away and thanked the Gators for the small but significant treasure returned. It felt very good to Jack and Greta and then, Jack knew who gently insisted he walk the day before. It was their best friend that the family talked and sang to in that simple but beautiful prayer room. Four years now and forming them to be obedient and at many times, given great comfort and joy from their best friend who was always there with them. Jesus. It’s pretty good, Jack Gator

THE STREECAR, THE DENTIST AND A VIOLIN

It was in the middle of the last century that young Gator was given the task of taking streetcars to the family dentist. I know, it’s sounds like a long time ago. It was. Streetcars were the way to get around town. Everyone knew where they went. As the buses that replaced them, there were placards in front telling destination and the routes were memorized by all. There were transfer tickets, if you asked for one, that enabled the ride to go a bit further in a different direction perhaps.

Gator was five or six years old when he could go by himself downtown and further. The only street gangs were young kids that would roll a big snowball onto the tracks. Sort of the same thing as throwing a penny off the top of the Foshay tower downtown. It was the tallest building in town and is still there. Now it’s the smallest tall building in town. Word was if the penny hit someone it would go right through them! Terminal velocity of a coin that weighs the same as a hummingbird. The elevator was free but you had to use a coin to use the telescopes. Or just throw one. It might have been a nickle which is much heavier but could buy candy as well. A conundrum to a young anti-social Asperger genius. Three Musketeers or a Butterfinger. Tough choice.

So, onto the trolley (which had to switch the electric pickup mast when a change of direction had to be done) the conductors had neat uniforms and a coin box with a little chrome handle that would be constantly twirled to sort out the coins dropped in. Still remember the sound. Right hand, kachinka, clatter, kaching, etc. Get off on Hennepin avenue and walk down about six blocks to Washington avenue. There was a newsstand on the corner and they always had the latest science fiction magazines. Later they hawked Mad magazines along with newspapers from all over the country. Next trolley would take gator to the dentist. Great, fun trip before Novocain was used. “Tell me if it hurts too bad” Judgment call for a brief hiatus from the smell of burned porcelain and agony. Cotton stuffing and Ether for the tough jobs.

It was much later in the end of the century that Gator was shopping for his first fiddle and a friend in the string instrument world steered Gator to the dentist! It seemed the delicate skill sets were just the thing for success.

Gator bought one and his girl friend bought one too! They called them by a special name and they aged well.

The dentist was listed in instrument circles and the choice was good and neither of them needed dental care at that time. There was no Novocain for their wallets either. The bow cost was even higher. Good advice to do so.

The streetcars are long gone, along with their tangle of electric power wires overhead. The tracks are gone and recently, tracks got put back in for fast and quiet..streetcars. Metro transit. Every one misses the ding ding bell and the rattle of the glass and chrome change hopper.

The fiddle of Gators is so loud that a microphone is usually not needed in small venues. It’s a beauty. Another ‘coincidence’ in Gators life. That still small voice telling him to be a patient patient. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

SEAPORT

After several years at sea, expectations were always high with Gator when a seaport was coming into view. A place where the ship could anchor out and liberty sections were announced. Sometimes, Gator would have to man his station so other men in his division could go ‘On the Beach’.

Every seaport had a flavor, remembered by the salty ones. Izmir was known for pushy vendors trying to buy your pants. Odd to everyone on board. Just for the materiel of the wool it seemed. One could not imagine a Turk wearing a pair of Dress Blues. Malta was odd with many tobacco shopswhere Gator bought a clay pipe and some pipe tobacco. Rhodes was only remembered by the absence of the Colossus at the breakwater. There were other images which Gator has decided at this time to put on the back shelf of memory. Villa France, Palma De Majorca. Home port was the best as that was where Gator had a small apartment and civilian clothes.

Decades later, Jack and Greta went to a seaport that was a bit over a hundred miles away from the home ranch.

Big ships coming and going and the big air horns blasting the letter G (dah dit dah dah) with thrilling low bass notes as they hove into view. Gator likes that sound. Akin to the big bass notes at the largest pipe organ in the world, run by air. Similar to the EMI magnets which Gator also enjoys, which astonishes most everyone.

At the local seaport it was the same thing Gator experienced decades ago at sea, but with a complete satisfaction this time. He and Greta were broke when they left the seaport but very pleased at the experience. Breakfast with linen and several courses of souffle and perfectly baked rolls and new forks after every course. Ocean front views from the sumptuous room and a steam bath in the bathroom. Unbelievable water front gardens and gracious servants and hosts. Expensive.

A short walk to the port itself with more things to buy and shops eagerly extending welcomes at their Doors. Glassblowing, exotic ice cream concoctions, carriage rides and fountains akin to Trevi in Rome. A violin shop in a large building with expensive instruments and a very erudite and friendly proprietor. Excellent wares and again, money given with satisfaction by Jack and Greta. A very nice instrument built with Spalded wood that Greta was eager to play.

The best part was when Gator began to connect and experience God’s presence among the throngs that were present when a ship bigger than Gator’s Navy ones was leaving port. Close up at the seawalls at the canal as the ship slowly steamed by. Watching the churning aft as it headed out to sea. Sea gulls circling for the anticipated food preparation aftermath. Of course, there is spilled popcorn near the breakwater too.

It was pleasant with the crowds, the best part was that Jack recognized people that were in love. Something about them would prompt Gator to boldly approach these strangers and state: “You love Jesus, don’t you!” One hundred percent response that day. A small sign, even a cross seen or the glimpse of a lingering smile. The upturned cheek line perhaps. Mostly a prompt from the Holy Spirit to tell them. Several older women remarked; “How did you know?!” “It shows” Gator would respond. There was audible delight as they would turn to a companion excitedly and begin smiling as they talked.

It was easy this time, the place was full of believers. They were Just experiencing the joy of spring and a lot of freedom. Faces exposed now and read with joy by Gator. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Sliding down the Brass Firepole

SLIDING DOWN THE BRASS FIREPOLE

There was a swelling of pride in Gator’s dad. His son, in the firehouse, sliding down the brass pole he had come down so many times before. Seeing all the turn out gear below him, Gator Jr. made a few adjustments to his drop and came down right by his Dad. It was an old brick firehouse in the cities. Located just south of ‘The projects’ and ancient by today’s standard.

A ticker tape in the office transmitted where the fire was and there was a very loud bell that rang to awaken the men upstairs and also signal how many alarms the fire was. Two or three rings meant a big one. Gator’s dad was a ‘smoke eater’. Apt nickname as this was way before Scott Air packs. They men just had some sort of filter box and a hose to a mask. Sort of like having a T Shirt on your face at a campfire. Not too effective. Many were the calls late at night to Gator’s home telling them Dad was in hospital again with smoke inhalation.

Like most city men who put their lives on the line, the firemen were hard drinkers. Sometimes they even drank with their brothers in arms, the cops. Rivalry and military barracks demeanor. There was already trouble brewing in the somewhat fashionable stucco home the Gator’s lived in. Jack adored his dad, even though Jack would get ‘whipped’ now and then with a dowel rod from Dad’s basement workshop. Much later in life, Jack realized his Dad loved him too. There were just too many half empty bottles in the joists above the basement shop that helped ease the pain of Dad’s life. One night there was a scream that woke Jack up. Dad had made a mistake with the gate on his table saw and cut off a couple of fingers. Another trip to the hospital for a firefighter. One of Dad’s good friends was a neurosurgeon and Dad got the fingers back. Working.

Gator got into Ham radio rather young, fifth grade. Dad, the old ladder climber, put up a “long wire” from the roof to a tree out on the boulevard. Jack contacted Russia one night and had his room’s south wall covered with QSL cards. Neighbors were a little prickly about the standing waves coming off of the antenna. Their Jackie Gleason program got scrambled. A few semi-polite knocks on the kitchen door from across the street.

Jack and Dad went up north to Wisconsin now and then. They built a cabin on Gull Lake and except for the resort next door, it was the only cabin on the lake. Fishing was pretty good and Jack would row out to the edge of the Lilly pads and using a popper on a fly rod, limit out on big sunfish and paper mouth’s. Twice a day. Lunch and supper. Dad Gator was really good at cleaning and Jack loved the sound of a swirl at the edge of a pad.

Dad taught Jack how to survive a fight and at fourteen succeeded in Knocking Dad out for a minute or two. Special move when grabbed from behind. All in all, Jack and Dad had a good time there in the woods. One time Dad sawed off an end of the ridgepole and it dropped down on Jack’s head. “Are you OK?” Jack was OK.

A few years later, Jack’s mother had an affair with a city fireman that lived nearby. Different firehouse. There was a bit of a battle one night and soon after, Dad came down from upstairs with his suitcase. Jack ran into the bathroom and sobbed. His mother and sister were laughing with joy right outside the door. They didn’t know how much Jack loved his Dad, they didn’t know this imperfect man like Jack did. The other fireman soon moved in and he wasn’t much fun. He smelled odd and didn’t belong in Jack’s life. Never did.

Jack found his Dad out in California after the Navy. Jack was rescuing an old school bus after putting a new piston in the engine. Dad’s neighbor adjusted the valves while it was running and the neighbors in the ritzy neighborhood were not thrilled. Dad was overjoyed to see his son and it went well. It was pretty good. Jack

MISSION FIELD

The missionary, out in ‘the field’, we have all heard the term and some of us have been one. There are so many ‘fields’ in the world. Gator has an image of this field as wading through a jungle or trudging about a very different terrain in Africa. It seems everyone that has been asked, suggested to about this field, thinks of deepest, darkest Africa. Complete with Indiana Jones types and indigenous people that can kill you in many various ways if you make a social faux pax. The favorite one seems to usually be a blowgun dart or a bent tree branch with spikes. An occasional deep pit with the same spikes from the local spikes and thorns section of the local Fleet of Feet store.

But, there is another mission field, and it does not usually require a stand by ticket. Of course, flying on the frayed cuff involves sleeping in various airport terminals in various positions. Pulling chairs together or dreaming of a quarter activated storage locker that slides out about six feet. Those dreams can come unexpectedly while sagging between those chairs. There are also predators in the terminals which could sweet talk a Chicago cop into taking a limo ride to a fanciful and benevolent location with soft pillows and a mint on said pillow. The world needs missionaries in many locales, not just in far away places. Right in one’s own neighborhood actually.

The Gator family created a mission in their area of the world that gave families a bounty of food for ten bucks.

There are professional food gleaners that acquire food from distributors. Food that is out of date or about to be out of date. Some foods too that just don’t move as fast as thought. Pickled eels, fresh Beetle juice (two stars for that one), Dried mushroom flour, things like that. Gator has a ‘best by date’ that indicates he is prime for sale as well. About ten years ago. The food in reality is good fruit, veggies, breads and often meats as well.

The best part of the ‘Feed The Meek’ mission was the two Gators (Mrs and Mr) that held a meeting before the food was set out on tables. In another room with chairs, filled with people with shopping bags, carts and cardboard boxes. Eager at times to hear what these intriguing reptiles had to say, they listened. There was nothing else they could do. Sort of a standby terminal for flying into the next room and getting your ten bucks worth of good stuff.

So, the Gators talked to the room about how the food was obtained and why the volunteers showed up to help. Even carrying out the bounty to trunks and back seats parked nearby. Skycaps from a different sky locale.

Mr and Mrs Gator earnestly talked about the King who was nearby and had talked them into starting the mission and how the roomful of people could talk to this King themselves. He even touched some of them who had various physical and social ills with the ability to convey a feeling of worthiness. Often these people would be astonishingly healed of these ills. Returning recipients of the bounty had good stories to tell and it enhanced the expectation of extraordinary results. It also brought the King into sharp focus and reality. Truth.

A mission field right in the same country the Gators lived in! Only ten clicks away from their modest ranch and it felt good and right. They even got some of that good food too. So, you see, the mission field can be across the planet or in your own neighborhood. The key is to be available when the King lets you know of an opening that requires some one just like you. A special person that is perfect for the job. You. Completely unique, one of a kind and the mission can involve hundreds, thousands of people or just one. You. It seems the King is not interested in numbers of served or servants. His standards are just and true, just for you. He loves it when the ones he whispers to or writes love letters to, answer Him with an eager ‘Yes!’ Listen for His voice. He speaks softly and at times speaks right into your soul, unmistakable, and exciting. You can say no of course but the task is suited for you and the rewards are simply the Beloved Kings to give. Jesus is the King. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Fletching and the Arrow

There is an often neglected or perhaps, unseen part of almost everything we see or do. A critical part that is absolutely essential. It was when the Gators were having one of those intense conversations in the comfy living room or the Gator habitat. Home. Both of them were struggling to find a deeper meaning to the intensity of their lives. The seemingly insignificant impact they have on truth and the revealing of truth to the world. “How can what I have done be of any use whatsoever?”

Gator suddenly remembered a musical incident, decades ago that he treasures but didn’t really know why. The incident was in a crummy and run down city neighborhood, up on the second floor overlooking the main street. A very famous band was in town and the place where Gator lived had a living room large enough to encompass half the neighborhoods up and coming musicians and the band. The band arrived as the word was out in the whole country that this apartment was a Mecca for music skill and release among peers of that skill.

The band casually set up a few guitars and the local musicians began arriving after their gigs and a few bottles and hippie combustibles were handed around. A circle around the famous ones formed and one of the neighborhood pedal steel players, clueless, asked the famous band leader; “Do you guys sing?” “ Sure” the band leader replied. Why don’t you do one of your songs the steel player said. And, the impromptu orchestra began to play. It was a bit loud with about 15 or so playing and Gator was in the circle doing what he could. A bit intimidated by the fast picking and skill of the others for sure. One of those skilled guitar players just stepped in front of Gator and began furiously playing 5 notes a second in a brilliant bluegrass style. Gator moved back and put his guitar back in the case and just listened to the crescendo.

A while later after some imported beer from Wisconsin, the famous band leader sidled up the Gator and asked him to go with him and the band back to San Francisco. “Why me?” Gator asked. He knew he wasn’t the caliber of the room full. “ I like what you added” Was the response. Jerry Garcia asking Gator that question was any of the rooms players fondest hope. Having just come from Berkeley and a narrow escape from death there, Gator said “thank you, but I can’t. But why me?” Jerry answered: “The few notes that you played made the song richer” Stunned again, Gator thanked him and Gators friend, the well known disk jockey, was standing there besides them. Alan Stone. He reminded Gator of that brief conversation years later when some reel to reel recording was done of Gator and his close Army vet. The recordings have been lost since, but the stunning invitation has always given Gator a sense of worth in music.

Gator still tries to play the fast stuff and gets a bit awestruck by the speed and skill of a music major that he plays with now and then. Just a few notes, Soft sometimes. Lingering and bringing a bit of what Gator hears to the ensemble. In a very similar way, a few words of declaration, a witness to one person by you is just as valued as a stadium filled hearing a healing message. The value is not in the size of contact, It is in the accuracy and the intent of the message. Much like an arrow, shot from a powerful bow with a razor sharp point. The target will be missed because of the lack of a small part. The fletching on the arrow. Even one of three of them.

The Lord of all we see, hear and feel tells us our uniqueness and how we fit into His plan for Him. The point of His plan and of it’s destination is of eternal value as the accuracy and beauty of it.

Value is indeed, in the eye of the beholder. You are precious and well known. Jesus loves you, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The music of the Spheres

There is one thing for Jack, only one thing that he has embraced within since he was ten years old. It is seven musical notes that urge him on to seek more notes like that. A musical pathway that opens up into a canyon of music, ringing to Jack with the release of beauty sung or played.

The seven notes are the beginning notes of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. When Jack could play the piano, he would play that piece after lunch at home by himself. It calmed and washed all the grade school confusion away. He would then walk back to school and often, the neighborhood bully with the odd Croatian name would push him around a bit. Like most bullies, he was afraid of Jack and probably would have made a good friend if Jack had known how to do that. A learned skill for life, realized much later for Jack.

The music that stuns Jack when he hears it or plays it, suddenly makes him shiver with delight. “Oh, it’s You!” It draws the Inventor of music to share the wavelengths of love with Jack. Feels good.

Jack’s favorite author, C.S. Lewis, describes ‘the Heavens’ filled with planets and stars continuously singing to us. It’s in his classic ‘Out of the Silent Planet’ series. We don’t listen because it’s always there.

It happens unexpectedly which makes it even more enjoyable. Music is THE transcendent language. Anyone or anything that has hearing can understand that language. But here isn’t really a series of books or classes that can teach us how to do so. Jack likes the way the music can catch him by surprise. A bird of impossible clarity singing the sun up. A two bit country band starting up a Bob Wills waltz in some forgotten venue. Jack hit the first three notes with double stops and cannot stop hearing them some half a century later. A worship set that ended with a guitar playing harmonics along with soft brushes on the trap drum. There are so many delightful surprises in music that go far beyond any expectation. A lot of them are totally for that moment, mostly teamwork unrehearsed. A ‘band’ sort of wading through a piece they have worked out. Suddenly Someone else sings and plays and the music swirls like a surprise wind. It catches the top gallant of your joyful sail and heels you over with a shout and speed.

‘Music, it calms the savage breast’ when nothing else can. Sunsets, shooting stars, an eclipse or two can be seen or painted and captured. The rush of breath of the stunning scene usually doesn’t come with a photo of these things. But The immediacy of music, fading as soon as it’s played and Our minds are caught off guard like an unexpected camera flash can do. What a language! Speaking in the tongues of sound indeed!

It is the voice of our Creator whispering those notes. He is worshiped for eternity with singing and instruments often heard in the minds of musicians being gifted suddenly with that music. “If I could write down those notes, A man just reading that score would never grow ill nor die”1.

So, that’s Jack’s fascination and he suspects there are many others that experience the same thing. Satellite radio? Music of the Sphere’s indeed! It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

1. C.S. Lewis “The great divorce”