Small Town America and the Loss of History

There it was on my desk. A letter from my editor. Very direct and manipulative and somewhat surprising, sort of. The letter was informing me, a columnist of 3 years or so, that my columns were now ‘too religious’. Already two columns of a pastor and a sincere Bible scholar were dropped as soon as the new CNO took office.

This newspaper is published by a well known publisher in a town of 1500 or so. A rural area and consisting of small business’ and farmers. Some commuters to the big city about 75 miles away to the perimeters of the freeways. Small town America, Farmers, veterans, shop owners and repair shops. Lately second hand stores that reflect the economy of our country. Good stewards of society. A few grumpy ones like me, but mostly kind.

A good library that is getting a bit ‘woke’ but solid schools that do not have special pervert readers to indoctrinate children by teaching things that do not adhere to the centuries old saying; Mens sana in copore sano. Healthy mind and healthy body. It is difficult to resist the latest ‘new thing’ when the ‘old things’ were perfectly sound and have existed for centuries. Certainly there are always inventions that are new, cell phones, computers and micro chips. That should change nothing of the civilization the western world has had for centuries. Solid citizens, eager to help neighbors and live with community values. Old Laura Ingalls Wilder columns reflect this life.

While we think of Harrison Bergeron as dystopian science fiction, it is effectively the end result of any social system which seeks to maintain (or even enforce) the fiction of absolute human equality.  A.

There is a degeneracy and weakness of our country today and it comes of the perversion that now, all of us are now equal. We aren’t. We were. All men were created equal but environment, immigration, crime thought has changed that equality into predatory mindsets. Fitting into society and embracing the values of it is now old fashioned and seen as restrictive. The new thing! That’s the ticket to freedom. Back in my 20’s it began with people such as Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary and new music that exemplified extreme change and destructive behaviors from rebellion against existing society and it’s success’ and failures. Western thought became corrupted in the reinterpretation of freedom. I can do anything I want because I want to. That attitude brought down the most successful nation that has ever existed, Rome. Centuries of Pax Romana destroyed by perversion, greed and separation of society between the have and have nots visible. When it got off track noticeably the rulers brought back from retirement, Cicero, to guide the nation. Our country did the same thing with George Washington. Both men accomplished righteous changes and when done, both went back to their farms.

Where are we now as faith and belief are not in vogue? I am not afraid to speak out with the beauty and power of the savior of the world. I have seen the miracles in my own life. Pulled out of the miry clay time and again. Filled with self loathing and then given purpose and faith that I am not worthless, set in place to glorify and serve the only righteous ruler. I was saved from self destruction in a miraculous way ( I have written about that too) Centuries now, this faith has risen in men to give us hope, generosity and a calm life that enjoys sacrifice and service to the one true God, Jesus Christ. It’s pretty good.. Jack Gator

A. the Neo-Ciceronian times

Tis the Season to be Jolly

It seemed like an incredible opportunity. Snow cones with jam and maple syrup. Enough snow for sure. At twenty cents apiece it would be thousands. Road side stand. That’s the ticket!

Perusing auctions about the state, Jack comes across a really practical item. Something that could replace his old walk-behind machine and make the long driveway and parking lot be usable.

A record breaking season of foot after foot of snow was getting a bit tedious as you well know up here in the North Country Fair. There were more than usual grumpiness and complaining in town. Strangers at the post office, smokers outside the bar. It got to be humorous with everyone. After all, Seven feet of snow was a record breaker for this area and up far north, it was more. A lot more. Lake superior was hidden by the huge mounds that only children enjoyed.

A lot of folks with the big F250’s and western plows made a decent amount of seasonal money. The problem with that approach was the tall mounds of snow next to the driveways and roads. You know how it was. Cautiously, creeping out to make certain there was no traffic coming. And the mess and eventually, no place to further put the snow!

Snow blowers, good ones, could throw the snow a ways and solved the pile problems. Not everyone had a machine that could effectively throw it that far. Especially the wet and often slushy snow or the ice that the slush turned into at night.

Then, there it was. A way to removed large swaths of snow. In one pass. A way to clear the snow from the roads without knocking over mailboxes and boxing people in at the end of their driveways. Visions of contracting to blow snow from township roads and keep mailboxes from throwing the mail out on the road before landing..somewhere.

How much to charge and how to contract townships for the tough roads through dense lake owners- properties? Fuel, time, repairs would be factors. Oh what a great job and clearing Jack’s snow with one pass, maybe two. Paths out to the barns. Throwing things that were forgotten in the fall. The rocks and windshields would be an issue too. Dream on Jack, it’s only a couple of thousand and you could easily make enough to pay for it. Fun for a child at heart. God made the snow. He can make a way if it’s his plan for you. He enjoys fun too. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Compost Piles and Commuting

Back in the old days. Hard work and lemonade on the porch. Long time ago it was a bit easier to live on the farm. Long time ago. Good health and incredible harvests without too much effort. There was a perfect farm and garden on the market for Jack and the price was doable. Jack learned about compost piles and feeding the crops. New friends that farmed.

All Jack had to do was work a ways away in the big city which meant driving back and forth every day of the week. In his case, the usual 70 to 80 miles. A common distance for many commuters. Jack’s job was heavy labor which seemed to be normal whether living in the country or living in that big city. Get a job when it was time in your life to leave home and go to work. You also could stay at home and go back to school for years and bypass the hard labor but not work in some ways. In Jack’s life the mandatory work in the military happened with the benefits of sudden death but with friends. The draft which did not stand for wind in your house or driving close behind tractor trailers.

Of course, living in the city eliminated the driving but there was little else to do after work except hang out with friends or go shopping to spend your money on needed supplies. Car accessories, Records of music ( on vinyl of course ), furniture, food and beverages. The latter was the easiest and most regular purchase. Available locally in your neighborhood, and you usually met a friend or someone about to be a friend at the store. Entertainment was at the store too and it was a relaxing place to purchase those beverages. These things were the sum of the young adults life after leaving home. It relived the boredom of television, drugs or studying/reading books. In Jack’s life there were these things along with playing bits of music on a guitar.

Living now in the country, there was always a bit of driving involved to acquire these two things. There was, of course, a third thing to do. Hard labor at home. As most youthful adults it seemed an endless round about of doing these things forever. Until marriage and a bit more money was needed and a lot more of everything listed here except the beverages and entertainment. Usually. If the beverage shopping got a bit out of hand there also were courts and even jail to fill up the time. Those unpleasant things led to boredom and necessity to start the whole thing over again. The commuting got a bit more complicated as there were no buses or trains to commute to the big city. For a while, driving was not allowed to commute, so local work was needed. Real local. Back to the old days of living on the land and trying to survive the expenses we all pay. Usually hard labor without the option of working in tall buildings managing the people that did hard labor.

As in the photo, the hard labor in the country often had rewards. The extra time not spent in commuting and working in the big city was eliminated . The best work was at home as blacksmiths, fixing other peoples machinery or recently, ‘working remotely’ with electronic communication. It wasn’t always like these things I write about. Quite some time ago, Jack’s distant relatives only worked in the garden and enjoyed companionship with the land owner. Jack doesn’t know how long this arrangement went on but as we all have heard, a distant relative of the owner who used to co-own everything, had a mean streak and convinced Jack’s relatives that they could own and design this incredible garden themselves! It didn’t work out well for all of us relatives and they got tossed out of the perfect garden and we had to ‘earn a living’ filled with sometimes unfulfilling hard,sweaty labor, pain and a great burden they could not pay off until a new contract was completed. This pleasant new contract is now with a very close relative. It’s pretty good. Jack

Why does Gator have to clean his Glasses?

Clarity of vision means a lot more to Jack than lens cleaner and a tack cloth. His glasses, which sit near him when he reads in the morning have smudges upon them and need to have his fingerprints from eating his morning cinnamon toast cleaned off. A lot more.

The need to be alone and clean the smudges of our world cannot be erased by a cloth or a bath and a towel.

We acquire the smudges from our clinging to to our loneliness. Attempting to have fellowship with others to distract or substitute the others for our loneliness. Thinking that the ‘fellowship’ with men will heal our core fears and lonely lives within us.

These thoughts, from Bonhoeffers “the day with others” relates our need to actually do what we dread. To be alone and seek true peace with solitude. This is not new wisdom by any means. We need reminders what the ‘desert fathers and mothers’ have to share with us. Wisdom and freedom from ourselves results from being alone! The very thing we fear to be. Alone with our world.

We seek escape from seemingly meaningless’ with quests of money, power, recognition and positions of seen wisdom. We still have fear of lack deep inside and other peoples seemingly ordered and safe lives are a torture to our perceived worthlessness. A quote from Thomas Kempis, five centuries ago, lines the cure out quite well and quite astonishingly. “ The only man who can appear in public is the one who wishes he were at home” Fellowship is spoiled when we use it to run from our issues.

Gator knows this feeling quite well. Origins of his fear of loss can be seen coming from his history. It’s not too hard for him to meditate on those things. Does it help him? Of course not. He just believes that others and their company will make a difference for him. It makes it worse often. People, friends, cannot cure our inner loneliness. Blaming fellowship for our own faults. “Judgment has been loosed into the community which never goes well” A.

Often the thought comes to us that this isolation and lonesomeness with God will do us well when we are removed from people. We are not created to be saved from people but for people. Look to the Psalms and prayer and feared isolation for the cure for fear of the world and fear from the striving for recognition and reward.

It always is the path to wellness and joy with our mentor and lover, Jesus Christ. He went away to be in communion with His father when His disciples could onlysee words of success were coming forth for their Lord and Rabbi. So, be alone with your Creator that loves to speak to us. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

A. Andrew Arndt lead pastor of New Life East.

Rituals in the Morning

Another early morning with sub=Zero temperatures and the house a bit cold, down to 64 in the kitchen. The radiators were on and the big wood stove in the parlor had good coals but needed a refreshing of some dry wood. Chores for the earliest to arise. Put away yesterdays dishes in the drainer, make the coffee and some toast. Then light up the monitor and take his pills with some juice. Always taking the anti-seizure pill as the first one. Washing the distasteful pills with orange juice. Every day this winter. It’s comforting to have a schedule.

Now, for a reading choice. David Hume’s ‘The standard of Taste’ or Suess’ ‘The birthday bird’ (perhaps Snetches) as a continuation of Hume’s opinion of the Koran.. .Maybe just check email and watch a movie about a Japanese bullet train intrigue. Perhaps completing editing for the umpteenth time of his book with compilations of these columns at the end.

It is a good clear morning as Norm extinguishes the lights and watches the American flag and the wind advice. Step out on the porch for a few pieces of dry wood and try not to wake anyone up with the clack of the living room door. Snow piled up feet high this year. Carefully grab a few logs and check to see if the cats have slipped out to pursue the mouse family beneath the pine bush, next to the porch. Wave goodbye to his son while standing on the porch around 0500. He waves back and then extinguishes the interior lights as he drives to work.

These rituals are stabilizing and a mantra of sorts. Get the keurig going too and make a somewhat decent cup with the added ½ and ½. Put the coffee on the left side of the desk and the warm toast with cinnamon on the right.

Are you getting the picture? Is Norm a leftover Asperger survivor? Norm’s favorite movie, ‘The accountant’ featuring another ritualistic man with a gifting of oddity. Especially the part of sniffing his fingers just before he does his deadly work. Autism spectrum’s are similar but also include difficulty in language retrieval. Not the case with Norm. He did have a problem relating in childhood and still uses fabric to stimulate calmness and concentration. It’s complicated, an old friend called it ‘pointing’ and that’s pretty accurate. Ask Norm if you are interested. Julie, his wife is completely at home with it as is his youngest son who does a similar thing.

Perhaps now Norm will start on a column based on Hume’s razor sharp analysis of Plato/Aristotle but that seems a bit foggy until the second cup of java has been drunk. The readers will either enjoy the writing or get confused a bit as Norm was until he read those books for the third or fourth time. His newspaper editor will delete it as a possible column. Hard to understand at the least. Not interesting, “I really get the paper to see the sports.”At least that’s what the paper’s opinion is. They are probably right. Norm tries to give the impression he is a classicist.

Jack has been called an obsessive reader with nearsightedness in several ways. He likes to refer to this as entertainment and stimulated analysis. His family just rolls their eyes and are used to it. If you find this particular column a bit familiar, perhaps you are ‘normal’ too. Psychiatric pigeon holes have to include the roost for the pigeon and the newspaper on the bottom of the cage. If you understand that analogy you are more akin to Norm than you think. Ritual is stabilizing and necessary to this world’s ways. Grounding might be another way to describe it. It works. It has been a part of his life since childhood and there is no ‘cure’. There are some side effects which can be dealt with through advice from professional counseling. Fear and rejection of perceived threats is one of his old path decisions. His analyst taught Jack how to read the fork in the road signs.

Norm hopes this column is illuminating someone’s self behavior and at least, illuminating their friendship with him. His family is very gracious with him and this is indeed, a gift from the Lord to give him a family that will put up with him. Life is good and his best friend (Jesus) understands everything. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator.

The Importance of a Face

There was a photo on the cover of a DVD that Gator picked up from the local library. The photo showed all the characters in the movie and it was the first one made of a comedy series with those actors. Startlingly, one of the actors face had intelligence, warmness and composure. The actor’s role was just the opposite, and in other comedy movies and series’, he was portrayed as a low IQ goofball. A comedic shortstop that set the tone in various scenes. It was Bob Denver that played Gilligan on the island and Maynard G. Krebs in the Dobbie Gillis series. A face can show a lot of personality and feelings.

With the recent public orders of wearing masks, Norm resented the lack of those sings seen. A lack of smiles given and even compassion and knowledge shown forth. Akin to the actor’s photo, hidden in portrayal of the real person. Some friends that have totally bought into the extreme danger of public life, not being told by authority that germs and aerosol microbes are fought with our immune systems. But even with the mask, you can see their eyes showing fear and isolation. Also judgment on Norm for not masking up. He smiles a lot and seeks faces that smile. Norm and his family also have good immune systems. Comorbidities play a big role in death from the vaccine and infections, as Norm’s doctor tells him. Hospitals were told to write Covid on the death causes.

So Norm and his family have all had ‘the disease’ and Jack’s short term memory has gotten worse. Is that one of the byproducts of the bad virus? Possibly. Norm is getting close to 80 and the memory issue is his past duel with seizures that wiped out a portion of his minds Rolodex for a few things. Some names, some old events that usually allow his family to tell the stories. Not bad actually, Norm can then pull the memories up from a different approach in his mind. He calls it his goggle search engine and works in the background when he surrenders for a short while. Events and names what he wanted to remember. “Ahah! His name was Edwin!” This is common with aging. Memory has always been depicted as an issue in the elderly as we remember the distant past and not more recent times. “ Excuse me: what was your name again?” He knows this is happens with everyone. Still, it is irritating. Short term memory is irritating as well. Why did I go to the fridge just now?

Norm creates mnemonics to remember names. A story that triggers the name for good. ‘He looks like an Englishman, Mike, a pilot in the big war and his wife, Vickie, is a derivative of Vickers, an engine in some of those fighter planes. Things akin to that. Try it sometime! It works to places, names and other memories. Some folks really like it when explained to them. Everyone has trouble with names that are given for the first time. Faces are triggers for all of us and when you can only see the eyes, the mouth and smile are gone and makes it harder to recollect them. Some memories such as Quadratic equations or solid geometry are pretty faded but Norm remembers his phone number and city address from seventy some years ago. Jackson 9-6604 and 4208 Russell avenue North. Minneapolis 12. His ham radio call sign and the ones of his friends that he tested for novice licensing. That too is in a different location inside his mind and a lot of aged people have that ability. Perhaps if Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses could be resurrected, most likely he would remember his adopted son, Moses. Of course, the Smithsonian would really rally around that miracle. Norm saw Ramses when he was in Washington. The body looked a little worse for wear. “Hey son god, what do you recollect about the Red Sea?”

Norm wonders about what it must have been like for the family around Lazarus when at the dinner table as he remembered dying and wondered about those three days of inactivity. That detail has not been clarified. Since it was Jesus that resurrected Lazarus, there is no doubt it was complete. Saying“Lazarus, come forth” was necessary for if He had said “Come forth” there would have been a lot of formerly dead showing up.

While Norm was in church in Grantsburg, his Navy friend Chuck died in Maryland. He died at the same time Norm saw and heard him. God gave Norm a small glimpse of eternity for Norm’s witness and delight. “ It’s better than you said!” His best friend said that when he appeared clearly before Norm. He often wonders about that. What did he say to him when he saw him just a month or so ago. What was God doing, revealing eternity to him? It’s OK to write off Norm’s experiences from your own views of life. It’s a lot to get hold of. Norm was there, he knows it’s true. As Jack always says, “it’s pretty good” Jack Gator


A request was before Jack. “Come with me and help pray for those that need it”. Not the usual request to ‘pray’ for someone with a few other people. Unknown and never before seen by Jack. He said ‘sure’, Jack likes to pray.

Jack rode with a new friend. A man that Jack instinctively referred to as his brother. A stranger weeks ago at the next table at a coffee house who asked who the two of them were. Jack and Bryan had been reminiscing about an astounding local man and the woman was this man’s mother. A response to a simple request by a stranger that in some way, wasn’t. It felt right to Jack and Bryan. They now refer to each other as brothers, indeed.

A man of faith was Jack’s new ‘brother’ and as it turned out, a volunteer at a church gathering around 50 miles away. A rather large church that broadcasts their ‘services’ worldwide for worshiping people. Jack and a double handful of neighbors had been watching these services and were intrigued by them. It felt right and good.

A month later Bryan drove Jack those 50 miles to the church to help in praying for a few people that desired it. Jack had no preconceptions about the building (campus) and when they got there it looked like a parking lot filled with vehicles akin to the areas airport. A thousand cars perhaps? The church building was immense and yet warm and friendly. They went up to the second floor and Jack was given a lanyard that had ‘Prayer’ on it.

There was breakfast laid out and coffee. Everyone in the room was a volunteer. It was the first service and it was on monitors and speakers throughout the two story lobby. Bryan bought Jack an Americano and they went up to the volunteer room for the breakfast offered. The prayer team welcomed them and soon, it was time to go down into the sanctuary to pray for people that desired it.

The first thing Jack noticed was there were about a dozen people arrayed as he was with “Prayer” on their lanyards. The service ended and the preacher said anyone desiring prayer to come down to the front of the platform. Astonished, Jack saw the people line up in the aisles. Perhaps a hundred or more, waiting for him and the team. He had no idea of what to do but he had been given a small bottle of anointing oil and did not know what to do with that either. “Anoint them on their forehead if they wish to have you do so.” A quote from St. Augustine: “For it is one thing to see the land of peace from a wooded ridge..and another to tread the road that leads to it”A.

Jack looked at a man looking for direction and Jack smiled and nodded his head. The man, smiling, stood in front of Jack and immediately Jack asked him if he would like to be anointed. Yes was the answer, on the forehead was his preference. Jack daubed a bit of oil on his forefinger and put in on the man’s forehead and stated that this was baptism of healing and asked the man what he would like prayer for. He stated his wife thinks she is ugly and after briefly praying for her hope of a woman’s beauty, Jack told the man that she would see her beauty in his eyes when he came home. It was totally spirit spoken and it was right and good. They both cried a bit and the man hugged Jack after asking if it was OK. It was indeed welcomed. After the second service it was similar.

The other people that came to Jack’s eye connection received what Jack listened for from the God that whispers truth to him. Many tears and quite a few strong embraces came with that given truth. Jack was astounded. Never had this happened to him so many times, with so many eager with desperate needs. The honor of conveying the blessings of the Spirit stays steady with Jack. There will be more blessings to convey. It’s pretty good. Jack

A. St, Augustine Confessions, VII, xxi

Jesus on the West Bank of Minneapolis

There it was, there it still is. A two story mural depicting Jesus with his hands open to all who would come to Him At the intersection called Seven Corners, visible plainly from Washington Avenue.

Norm and Julie have just seen the movie about Jesus. It was held over at the Falls theater in St. Croix Falls.

That mural was painted there some time ago, it was there when Norm was working at the New Riverside Cafe back in the very early 70’s. Several columns in Gator’s Grace Notes have been printed in various newspapers about those times. ’40 Acres of Musicians’ is one of them. (It’s at if you are drawn to the writing of the Gator.)

Seven corners refers to a major intersection that signals the end of Washington Ave and Cedar Ave and an on ramp to the freeway, Highway 35. Perfect spot really. “And there shall be a highway and a Road and it shall be called the Highway of holiness”

Norm was a hippy at this time and he was happy, sort of. Living in an apartment on Cedar Avenue a few blocks away, 605 ½ Cedar. It was a hotspot of the musicians in the city as was the New Riverside Cafe’, referred by the in crowd that worked there as simply “ The Cafe” Pronounced as ‘the Keffe’ by these in the know and we who staffed it. Ground zero for Norm, fresh out of the Navy and growing his beard and hair as fast as he could. Lots of bean sprouts and other veggies as the Keffe’ was vegetarian. Cheaper and better for you and the neighborhood. The favorite menus item was soup and grilled cheese sandwich. We fed the neighborhood, most of it pretty poor folks and even a couple of them that spent all their money across the intersection of Riverside and Cedar, the 400 bar. For quite a time there were no prices for food there and a pretty hefty price for the world class music in the big room, overlooking Riverside Avenue. The entire neighborhood is now Somali and the business’ there all have NE African names, and the people are pretty friendly. The buildings are still the same but none of them have old hippies staffing them.

We worked a miracle in urban development then. Stopping the development of Heller and Segal’s dream of “A new town in town’ A rent strike and political rally’s and the help of the local Anglican Diocese was the protest plan. A lot of publicity in the Tribune and it worked, sort of. At least most of the west bank that was left stayed undeveloped into high rises. Since the West Bank was so close to the Mississippi, it housed a lot of northern European immigrants and became known as ‘Snus boulevard’

The movement of America’s Revival, the Jesus movement was in full swing and their headquarters was right at the building where the huge mural was painted. Everyone who worked at the Cafe’ was not interested in Jesus, except for Father Teska, the Episcopal priest that helped fund our food ‘ministry’. It worked. That diocese was very helpful for Norm. They helped with the legal issues he was in with the military after discharge. Norm’s GI loan came through to buy his small farm in 1976. Thirty acres, buildings and house for $26,500. It has increased a bit after paying off the loan. Paradise in it’s own rolling hills valley with a private beaver lake and a prayer cabin overlooking it. Beautiful wife, two boys and indeed, blessings that just came. It’s pretty good. Jack

John the Baptist and the new Covenant

There is more good reading in this season. It is a great excuse to sit with a fresh cup and a comforter (or a cat) and dig into Philosophy or History. Perhaps legend combined with Scripture. Lot’s of time as Jack occasionally glances out to the field and the steep hill east of it. Last nights snow was almost weightless and with every breath of wind from the north, the pines shed the smoke of snow.

Jack is pondering on the promises of the old testament and finding no reference to eternal life from faith and following the precepts of the Lord. None. Follow the Mosaic law then things will go well with you. The prophets are another thing. Jack enjoys Isaiah and the clear foretelling of the Messiah. Still, no paradise unless one reads the Song of Solomon a lot and sees the battle between the watchmen and the beloved. I am my beloveds and He is mine. The funereal spices and sudden awareness at the door. Prophesy analogy with couches and sheep teeth.

None of the big time religions we have come close to Christian values except Hinduism and the Tao. Really, it’s a choice between that and Christianity. Jack learned that from his favorite author, C.S. Lewis. The old myths are close with Balder coming back to life or the logic of the disguised Prince winning the heart of the heroine before she knows who he is. In that story, the bribe of wealth and treasure cannot come first. Show us a miracle and then we will believe! I will die for my beloved . Today you will be with me in paradise.

For many people (in cluding the Gator) proof of the Lord must be seen before belief occurs. It is a conundrum as many say “You must have Faith to Believe” while others say “You must believe to have Faith” Just one paradox that logically goes nowhere. Throughout the expanse of civilization God has spoken to us at many times and in many ways, but now He speaks through His Son.

John the Baptizer, Jesus’ cousin knew of these things. He and Jesus met before they were born. They danced for joy in their separate wombs. John knew that the era of heaven coming down was upon him the word. Again as logic and a grasp of our thoughts tell us we dislike this world but why do we look for a better one? Men who are not good at following rules. Jack raises his hand at that declaration. Sixty years after Jesus sacrificed Himself for all of us. All of us Saul of Tarsus encounters his creator. The old song, “I was blind but now I see” fits the new man, Paul. We can only imagine the conversation between him and the Christians he put to death. “Repent and be saved” as the Baptizer declared. Saved for what? The religious leaders knew nothing of eternity and resurrection. That’s why they were sad you see. They were the poor in spirit that Jesus came for as well.

Why do we fight it so much? “my, how time flies” It seems like just yesterday you were a child” “ Saving time” We yearn for what men have always yearned for. Timeless beauty seen and felt. We doubt it could really be true. All of it. Even John when he was wasting away in prison ached for the Word to touch him. “Tell him the blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” John, doubted Jesus was the Messiah. Perhaps fear of his impending doom. Even the “greatest of all men born of a woman”said Jesus of John the baptizer. He had doubt. This gives me great encouragement. Doubt is not condemnation. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

No Tresspassing

It’s a sign we all see about in our townships. POSTED or the above about Transgressing. Jack’s favoirite is PRIVATE PROPERTY. ‘Keep away’ was the playground game. You can tell that a transfer of land has been done to someone, a city man perhaps. Afraid of finding a two legged predator on ‘their’ land. It happens a lot around here. Hunting and just exploring is natural to break the restrictive bond of living in the city, in a house with next window neighbors. Freedom from the small lawns and sidewalks.

Property lines are in dispute at times however. After years go by, the barbed wire is tangled and sinking into the ground in places. Just above ground anough to trip you up. The property lines get a little vague and once in a while a neighbor gets disturbed about their rights and taxes. It happens to all of us in some way.

For Jack, it always seems that the neighbors land goes back to the civil war when the present owners great great grandparents received their land for homesteading. Big places. Hundreds of acres in the family and with signs often stating a ‘Century Farm’ They say: ‘ I am special, we are special and you are probably not as special as us’

The way our country has headed with bureaucracy telling us a phrase from Orwell’s Animal Farm. “ you are special, some pigs are more special however” Nothing new really. A side note: the word bureaucracy derives from the French word for ‘desk’

Earlier, when Jack was new to his property, he was walking about the south west part and he came upon another hunter behind a small hill. The hunter got rather irritated and asked Jack what he was doing and Jack replied: “Ahh, we are standing on my property” The man promptly walked over to the south fence, climbed over it and turned about face. Jack extended his hand and said “Let’s start over, may name is Jack and I’m new to this place. Who are you?” The man had the same last name and they chatted a bit about land and fences and somewhat arbitrary property lines. It was a good beginning and there were no posted or private property signs installed on the perimiter by either man. No need really, it is just safety in the hunting season to be aware of people, buildings and livestock that are within range of a shot. Neighbors are to be treasured, not judged. There is a new contingent of new neighbors that build cabins that are the same comfort to them as living in the big city. They are only around in the summer and it’s best to make a good effort to meet them and extend your hand. It makes them feel welcome. A lot of full time neighbors don’t like them. But of course, they are just as worthy as we are. Love always wins.

The same signs of no tresspassing are put up during conversations with known and unknown people. The quest or not of seeking another soul that also desires encouragement and recognition for who they are. There is nothing more perfect than asking someone their name and quickly asking them to tell you about themselves. This is key to relaxing for two ‘strangers’.

A woman that had accidentaly slipped her boot onto her accelerator pedal from the brake pedal, had run into the back fender of Jack’s car. It was in a big parking lot at one of the box stores, 20 miles south.She stuck around and was glad that Jack was not angry with her. “My brakes failed.” Jack promptly said he would ensure the brakes were safe and found a good response at the brake pedal. “Slipping off a pedal happens now and then to everyone”.” He told her that and said, “It’s safe to drive home, how far do you have to go?” Not far she answered. Jack also asked if she was OK to drive.

They exchanged the usual information. She was gentle and Jack told her, “you’re a Christian aren’t you? No one else would have waited for me as you did” It was true. She was delighted that Jack saw her faith. Her insurance eventually took care of the damage of course. She even called Jack later that day and told him her address in case he needed it. She lived only a mile away from that parking lot. The most pleasant accident that Jack had ever had. Both of them learned and they had a conversation, a good one.

Relaxed conditions and genuine curiosity can engender quick approaches to friendships and even shared backgrounds and life experiences. This type of conversation can be easily done in common locations. Places like houses of friends or worship centers. Relax, you don’t have to give a big hug or even shake hands right out of the gate. (unless they are a relative or someone you have completely forgotten that you should remember)

How can we approach this relaxed and surprising interest, genuine interest in another? It’s not easy for those of us that have No Tresspassing posted in our eyes. Fear of revealing ourselves with emotion and reactions to a recent event. The easiest one can be a sermon directed to everyone in the room, everyone. Ask someone by conveying your genuine interest with eye contact. You can do it, trespassing allowed if you desire more of life than a quick how are you doin’. Tell them the truth and the truth will make all of us free. You can do it, it’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Training Ground


It wasn’t too bad, looking back. The success’ outweigh the tough parts. That’s the way it looks now anyway. Like boot camp for everyone on the planet, you’re drafted and you have to do it. Just show up and survive. Some don’t survive, some don’t even show up. The draft notice doesn’t come in the mail, it’s not on your email or Facebook. It just comes and it’s pretty obvious what it is.

Report to recruit depot and get prepared for the toughest, most interesting time of your life. When it’s over, you can stand tall and be someone that did the right thing. Fall out, get your uniforms and find your barracks.

“What is Jack talking about now! It sounds like going to basic training”…yes?” Basic training for all of mankind and there is nothing harder nor more rewarding. Jack has been taking a University Class on Philosophy and it approaches him in strange ways. The last lecture was on Emmanuel Kant. He stated that the greatest example of Moral law was someone sacrificing for another person. Not a cause. Learning how to embrace that concept and make it our operational motive is very hard and can be the only thing we have to decide in this world. A moral decision. Akin somewhat to the decision to lie to a Nazi guard looking for the Jewish man hiding in your home. Do you lie or do you tell the truth which is a basis for moral decision? Of course, telling the Gestapo the reasoning behind their miscreant behavior would not go well, even though that itself would be telling truth.

These are basic things for maturity, to wrestle with our reasoning. To seek out a ‘basic training’ that will tell us a way to think and act that fulfills, founded in a moral law. A law of civilization. Some folks will say it is tied to survival to assure survival of community and family. Sounds reasonable. Define survival, that’s all that’s required. Evolution aficionados like to use the old tooth and claw to describe survival of the fittest.

That sort of evolution works for watching trees fall when dead and what happens to the surrounding forest.

Seems rather random to most of us. What if it isn’t? The old silly question: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, is there a sound?” What a ridiculous question! As though sound were a philosophic decision. Can you discern the timpani of that statement?

There are decisions that echo throughout our lives. Often seemingly small decisions. A friend of Jack’s, a very good fellow writer put it in 20 words: ““What can I do? What should I do? What is God telling me to do? What am I willing to do?” Pretty astute. How indeed do we know what God is telling us to do? It’s a thing that we are taught in basic. Simple in some ways. Keep our mouths shut and pay attention. Don’t call the sergeant sir and don’t embellish the tasks you have been given. That’s boot camp. Now, we are out of boot and aware that survival depends on paying attention to everything around us. That is key, not fear of the unknown, awareness of who you are, where you are and what can and should you do. At this time the communication is critical. Jack knows these things as he was communications man/radio operator. Handy skill to help him listen. Some of the important messages had such weak signal strength it was listening intently that made it clear. Shut out the static, the thrum of the ventilator fan and the hatch noise. Stop listening to the ‘world’ and be still.

As is taught in scripture, it’s not the thunder, the wind and the earthquake that our Lord uses to speak to us. It’s a still small voice and as though you are remembering a conversation you had 15 seconds ago. “Turn left up here” “keep your eyes open” “go visit him, you have the time” “walk slowly and stay alert” These are a few that Jack remembers. Falls in the category of what is God telling me to do. It usually begins by believing those faint messages are there for you. You alone. Keep listening. He will tell you he loves you right here, right now. Often He will tell Jack to do something that either seems imposible or simply, Jack does not want to believe what he just heard. It’s ok. The Lord is patient and kind. We can hear Him if we want to. He isn’t going to tell us to go to Africa (usually) and it’s things that we can do to make things right. He’s pretty good. Jack

Intimacy and Prayer

There is something special about Gator’s living room chair. It is very comfortable and with a quilt, precious and defrayed sleep arrives. A book by Jack’s favorite author is icing on the relaxation dessert. A delightful meal of home grown baked chicken.

Home grown cauliflower, rice and squash accompanied by family grown heritage wheat baked into flatbread. A bit of cranberry wine and the Friday Shabbat with candles and a blessing and a toast to the King of the Universe. A worthy communion every Friday (not religiously but joyfully) and the family digs in around the table. It is more than sufficient to get Jack’s nose out of a book and into the kitchen.

The rest of the week can vary from the ‘smash and grab’ style from the fridge to a giant pot of rice and vegetables flavored with Tikka Masala and Bragg’s salty sauce. Food, it brings people together to feast and relax. Perhaps it doesn’t explain the lone man, sitting on the counter stool eating breakfast. No one to talk to except the wait staff.

A nice slow breakfast with perhaps a newspaper on the left side of the plate.

Often, that is Jack sitting alone, munching his exquisite designer cinnamon toast and drinking the best coffee he can make. What is it about eating either alone or with loved ones that satisfies? Sharing favorite food with people you just know will enjoy what you have.

There is a similarity with attendance at the ‘church’ of familiarity or new. The term church refers to the people of the world around us that profess a Christian faith, not a building perse. Names are used from scripture to make it easier to find the buildings and tell others were you go to be in fellowship. You know them, most of them. Of course, being used to Jack’s penchant for oddity he wonders why certain names, scriptural names are not used.

The first church of Long suffering perhaps or the church of Self-Control. Jack likes the church of fruitfulness.

An expected and surprising fact is that intimacy with our Lord Jesus and intimacy with one another usually begins with shared prayer. Jack and his wife have found great freedom and developing relationships with small groups of people that pray audibly with one another. Most, if not all gatherings of worshipers on Sunday do not know each others spirit intimately nor pursue it. Praying for one another engenders another level of pleasant, fulfilling growth with fellow believers. The size of the congregation seems to not be a factor in the amount of people who join together for prayer during, before or after ‘services’ (an annoying word for Jack. He associates that word with plumbers or oil changes)

Julie and Jack find themselves drawn to prayer groups anywhere they go to. In small gatherings and huge ones of ten thousand. The interesting fact is that the number of people who do this intimate praying seems to remain the same no matter the size of attending worshipers. Around five to ten people are drawn to pray with others in the time that everyone gathers. They were concerned when they visited a pleasant and very large mega church that has sattelite viewing locations. About ten huge buildings within the metropolitan area alone. All of them linked to the main campus for the message.(Available on the internet for anyone as well.) What will it be like? A revival such as the stadiums filled with Billy Graham speaking? It was impossible not to visit and see.

A gathering they went to a few years ago on the National Mall in D.C.was an intimate group of a dozen or so in one tent. They sang and prayed in for 24 hours. In one tent. There were 50 tents on the mall. One tent for each state. It was a huge event and it also encouraged small groups all at the same time. A vast majority of people are not drawn to pray in small groups, out loud with one another. Puzzling but familiar to Jack and family. Intimacy with Jesus engenders intimacy with believers. It’s always fear of being exposed to another, a stranger. So no matter the size of the ‘congregation’, prayer teams stay the same size. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s perfectly OK and expectedly normal. It’s hard to have an intimate relationship with large numbers of people. Mega churches no longer look intimidating to Jack. Just the parking and if there is decent coffee available. The priesthood of all believers is an old perfect term for Christian gatherings. It is how it was done in the first century. No Wi-Fi hotspots in those days.

Intimacy with Christ is an easier task with shared prayer however. The world now has a fear of being ‘exposed’ for the weakness we all have in our life. However also being exposed with Jesus’ spirit living inside. Jack is learning this about himself. The hard life and the wounds he has had have actually made it easier for him. Hunger for real life. Hunger to speak and hear from our lord and Savior. Jesus gathers those prayers in a bowl in the heavenlies and hears them all and never forgets any of them. He showed that to John on t he island of Patmos a few centuries ago. He wrote it all down for us. What he saw and heard.

It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

New and Old friends with Ephesians 2

A friend. A man that Jack went to school with back in the sixties in Minneapolis, his name is Ken. He calls Jack now and then and they meet once in a while. The distance between their homes is a lot and it isn’t easy to meet in person. They met again recently at a restaurant in Minnesota, one of the those bar-restaurants with good rail scotch and passable food. Ken got there first and pretended to be passed out at the reserved table. First sign of humor. Those things really appeal to Jack. Humor is mostly laughing at ourselves, with good reason.

It was with surprise that they met as each one of them had so much in common and yet, did not recognize one another. The voices and the eyes were seen by one another as to their identity. There was no question of how old they were and there was evidence easily seen of the decades they share. Wise and wrinkled as badges of honor The two of them knew one another decades ago in a passing way and knew mutual classmates but did not have any memory of anything like a friendship. This was nice and different, world wise they are now. A shared faith and now a bond of strength between them. The fellowship of the cross.

Many of us have this possibility laid before us. It takes the determination of one person to begin the sharing and it’s through faith, the very gift of God. Many of us can be blessed and bless in this way, but it takes courage and determination to do so. Jack and Ken know this now, and and you, reader, can know this too.

Ken is a hidden writer in ways, and his written questions stunned Jack with his friends vision and ability to share it .These words are of great value and Jack wrote them down quickly, fumbling for a pad and pen while still on the phone. Hold on Ken, I gotta write this down! Those 21 words are:

What can I do? What should I do? What is God telling me to do? What am I willing to do?”

He told Jack of a motorcycle club he belongs to, ‘Bond slaves‘ and they have colors and go to the rally of bikers in Sturgis. They are respected there and with Jack’s old biker experiences, it seems right and good. Jack rode out to his adventures in 69 on an Indian-Enfield with his ponytail streaming and a guitar, bunji corded to the sissy bar. Jack likes to think of now riding a BMW R69 with a sidecar {with full leathers and a good helmet). Ken, said he rides an old Harley. A duo glide or a pan head. An older model that Jack does not remember. Older bikes are pretty swell. Jack rode a flathead 74, chopped, in those shared high school years. It was loud of course.

This is how true friendships begin. Not so much with initial similarities or even histories but with good and surprising things and faith that neither of them knew of each another in the past.They didn’t know those things then either. A delightful surprise for us all it is certain. You can tell if someone is a Christian by the words they choose and a confidence in them. Jack likes to tell people that he sees they are Christian. It’s enjoybable

The other conversations with classmates at the restaurant were dissapointing. As worldly, we are driven to show how our lives are now. With photos and children and exotic trips and possessions that bespeak of good taste and wealth. Jack doesn’t have many photos and he had no concept of bringing any of the ones he does have. His photos are next to the staircase with memories of beauty to see the savior that created all of it. Sometimes Jack feels like George Bailey in Bedford Falls. He was Mr. Potter for a while. But, ‘He made me alive when I was dead and raised me up and seated me with Christ. And It’s by His grace that I am saved, and it’s through Faith, the very gift of God.’A. The fellowship that goes back a few thousand years for us all. It’s history. Read all about it. We did, not looking back. Jesus is solid as a rock for us all. Just ask for that beauty, Jesus knows you and loves you right now. He made you and you are worthy to behold Him It’s pretty good, Jack Gator A. Justin Rizzo

‘The gift of God’

The Deaths of precious Family Members

It was in the spring when Jemimah, the family Brittany spaniel began to exhibit some odd behavior. She had been with the family for over 10 years and Julie had trained this extraordinary dog with many commands. H, speak,crawl, roll over, and a few others. She was really good at begging for food too. Many a meal around the oval oak table would have family plates the focus. The pooch would be on the floor gazing with a fixed stare at those plates. Jemimah loved chewing on ice cubes and when Norm would clink one or two in his favorite glass, she would rush in to the kitchen. Just in case one cube would fall. Norm made sure that would occur.

Jemimah’s odd behavior was physical and worsened rapidly. The DVM was puzzled but saw on an XRay a strange thing with her heart. There was an antibiotic already being used and it seemed to help but one morning the dog could not get up, could not eat nor drink. She would wag her tail lying down whenever told her favorite words: “good dog, good girl” that was all she could do now. She convulsed several times and it was decided to have her “put to sleep” When Julie and Toby came back from that event, the whole family lost it. Crying, sobbing and praying for release of the anguish of loss. Surprising emotional collapse really, Jemimah was loved by many friends as well. She had a way of staring into your eyes and then shutting them halfway when scratched just so: under the collar or in her ears. She was buried that evening up on the hill overlooking the home and a small lake on the other side of the ridge. Impossible. Sweet pain,with her favorite rope toy in the blanket as the small handfuls began gently dropping down into the grave. The next day, Norm took a big load of rocks to build a cairn and put grandfathers rock in the middle with some astounding blue and white wildflowers just picked nearby. More tears as they sat on the hill below the grave.No one really slept well. Most of us know this experience. It comes to us all.

The family wondered why there was such a strong, palpable grief with all of them. It seemed it perhaps was the first time that the loss was a loss of total love and surrender. More than all the loss’ previously of people. Stunning and healing beginning of broken hearts among them all. Realization of what total devotion and love really looks like. Decisions to close off their hearts in the past and then being delighted that they had indeed opened their hearts and it was once again, possible. A parting gift from a devoted companion. Loving and loved.

Why is this memory and grief not felt when a sometimes a family member, a father or a sister not felt the same? There were several deaths in Norm’s family, one fairly recently of his sister. The relationship was broken some time ago with her. She was deeply offended when Norm and Julie last saw her. She felt judged and perhaps thought she was less loved. The only memory that Norm has of that decades ago visit was the presenting of the truth to his sister. by Norm and his wife, Julie. They remember that there was a very brief moment of mild flirtation that sis gave to Julie. It was apparent that Diana had embraced same sex attractions and relationships. That’s a mild way of expressing it. Politically correct in these times. The rulers of Sodom now our rulers.

Later, when Norm worked hard every week taking care of their mother there was little communication or any kind of support from Diana. The usual winding down of a life; assisted living, nursing homes and funeral. A funeral that resulted in Norm becoming a Christian man. Property given and sold and a splitting of the money. Sis was living far away on the west coast and could not help with these things. There was bitterness conveyed over the phone and eagerness to get ‘her share’ of the sale monies. The loan mom had made to Norm for a needed mound system was not quite paid off and sis dismissed it as “that’s your deal” Payment to a merchant that delivered food to mom was still needed to be paid.” If they didn’t bill you for it, then why pay it?” she also said. Anger came from the phone when sis stated she had been cheated when Julie told her she had been overpayed a few thousand more. Sis demanded Norm “Stay away from my kids!” and she also wanted ½ of Moms’ ashes.

Puzzling, astonishing and anger. Just before these unpleasant rages, Norm had embraced Christianity and it was apparent that sis had rejected it. Years later, unable to discover where his sister had moved to, Norm got a Christmas card from Dianas kids.In one sentence of the card, there was mention of the death of Diana and also of their precious dog as ‘difficulites’ they had gone through recently. It was shocking, and yet, a communication between Norm’s and his nephew’s family. It was a start of truth revealed to Norm’s family. The same way Norm was notifed of his father’s death. The postal service bringing news. An extreme feeling of rejection that was apparently a family tradition. Greetings from Diana’s son, to her brother and my uncle. Seasons greetings. You are worth a few words of events of perhaps some importance. The death of our precious pet and your sister.

These days there is the decline and immenent death of Julie’s father and all Norm could think about is the inheritance which would help his family survive their financial decline. The recession and reliance on loving sons and their social security to endure the times. Remembering the truth of life and the giver of all things brings him back from fear of loss and he is realizing the world’s fears of loss and destruction. An unexpected vision which gave him release. The photo of her dad embracing their first son, Bjorn, was the only time that Norm had seen love from her dad. The vision of her dad on death’s door being able to embrace his grandsons and know what was happening would be more precious than gold, more precious than silver. It would be enough for Norm. It would be enough when Julie’s dad passes into eternity.

Something similar happened to Norm in a dream.He was with his father. There was Norm’s dad on a subway. Norm was seated and dad was a straphanger right in front of him. Norm asked, “have you seen the boys?” With a smile, a big smile that had never seen by Norm, his dad nodded yes and it was beautiful. It made things right.

Norm has been given the ability to forgive along with his family and that is the stong assurance of Christ who lives in them, Julie and their sons. Also in their oldest’s wife.There is now a glow of forgiveness does not come with forgetfullness but it comes with Grace and peace and comes with assurance of an inheritence. The teasure of life eternal with the creator of all things. Norm and Julie are praying and thanking for that Holy embrace from Jesus. That promise has indeed been given to their family. It also was spoken by Norm’s friend Chuck.when he died. Thousands of miles away. A treasure to him that endures and that event is told to many who desire that testimamony. It was indeed, a gift of God. Eternal and beautiful. That assurance is a guidepost that Norm’s family can remember and grounds them on solid ground. Blessed assurance, gifts from God are pure Love.

In the end, it’s pretty good. Norm Peterson, the Gator

The Importance of a Face

There was a photo on the cover of a DVD that Gator picked up from the local library. The photo showed all the characters in the movie and it was the first one made of a comedy series with those actors. Startlingly, one of the actors face had intelligence, warmness and composure. The actor’s role was just the opposite, and in other comedy movies and series’, was portrayed as a low IQ goofball. A comedic shortstop that set the tone in various scenes. It was Bob Denver that played Gilligan on the island and Maynard J. Krebs in Dobie Gillies series.

With the recent public persona of wearing masks, Gator resented the lack of personality seen. A lack of smiles given and even compassion and knowledge shown forth. Akin to the actor’s photo, hidden in portrayal of the real person. The folks that have totally bought into the extreme danger of public life, not being told by authority that germs and aerosol microbes are fought with our immune systems. But with the mask, you can see the fear and isolation. Condemnation perhaps on other shoppers for not masking up. Jack smiles a lot and seeks faces that smile. Jack has a good immune system. Comorbidity play a big role in death from the vaccine and infections.

Jack and his family have all had ‘the disease’ and Jack’s short term memory has gotten worse. Is that one of the byproducts of the bad virus? Of course not. Jack is aging and the memory issue is his past duel with seizures that wiped out a portion of his Rolodex for a few things. Some names, some old events that usually allow the family to tell the stories. Not bad actually, Jack can then pull the memories up from a different approach in his mind. He calls it his goggle search engine and works in the background when Jack surrenders for a short while. what he wanted to remember. “Ahah! His name was Edwin! Maybe this is common with aging. Memory has always been depicted in the elderly as clearly remembering the distant past and not the more recent ones. “ Excuse me: what was your name again?” He knows this is more common with everyone. Still, it is irritating.

Jack creates mnemonics to remember names. A story that triggers the name for good. ‘He looks like an Englishman, Mike, a pilot in the big war and his wife, Vickie is a derivative of Vickers, an engine is some of those fighter planes. Things akin to that. Try it sometime! It works to places, names and other memories. Some folks really like it when explained to them. Everyone has trouble with names that are given for the first time. Faces are triggers for all of us and when you can only see the eyes, the mouth and smile are gone and makes it harder to recollect them at all. Some memories such as Quadratic equations or solid geometry are pretty faded but Jack remembers his phone number and city address from seventy years ago. Jackson 9-6604 and 4208 Russell avenue North. His ham radio call sign and the ones of his friends that he tested for novice licensing. That too is in a different location inside and a lot of aged people have that ability too. If Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses could be resurrected, most likely he would remember his adopted son, Moses. Of course, the Smithsonian would really rally around that miracle. “What do you recollect about the Red Sea?”

Jack wonders about what it must have been like for family around Lazarus when at the dinner table he remembered dying and wondered about those three days of inactivity. One of histories stories that has not been clarified. Since it was Jesus that resurrected Lazarus, there is no doubt it was complete. “Lazarus, come forth” was necessary for if Jesus had said “Come forth” there would have been a lot of formerly dead showing up. Maybe all of them. Jack has heard that voice. seen his best friend when that man had been dead for a few minutes or hours perhaps. Jesus giving Jack a small glimpse of eternity and for Jack’s witness. and delight. “ It’s better than you said!” Jack always wonders about that. What did he say to him and what was Jesus doing, revealing eternity to him? As is written in Ephesians, “it’s through faith..the very gift of God” Jack likes gifts from God. As Jack always says, “it’s pretty good” Jack Gator.

The photo of myself that I used at the top was my official Census Badge face. Serious with the hint of who I really am.


Jack was up early and attempting to still his mind and just look at what he could see. It was dark in the living room as it was around 6 am in winter. Looking up to the library windows on the second floor, Jack saw the moon. It was a clear day unfolding and there was good light from that close orbiting flashlight that reflected on the snow.

‘What’s it worth?’ It’s too far away to be any good to anyone and besides, when a man finally walked on it anyone could see it was a dump. No atmosphere, lots of sand and rocks with craters that came from meteorites slamming into a small planet that had no protection from friction of an atmosphere. Great. Nice view of earth anyway. Dangerous trip and extremely expensive as well. NASA was so ecstatic about success of the ‘mission’ and it was a bit dicey getting back as well. Was it worth it? Scientists were pleased and evolutionist thinkers were waiting for fossils and evidence of water. A later trip to Mars was of the same ilk. Prove evidence of life billions of years ago to show the random worthlessness of life itself. Including themselves of course. No astronauts that time, too far. They used robots that NASA controllers fell in love with. Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosty and Perseverance. They eventually ran out of power and died. No two dollar stores there to get spare batteries either. No fossils but some evidence of water. “You need water for life to evolve!” And so the charade went on. It takes approximately 26 minutes to communicate with the robots for commands and then get information. Long phone calls.“We are sorry, due to the high volume of calls…etc. Please leave a number where we can contact you”

The rovers resembled the robot R2D2 somewhat. Very expensive and they are still there. Not working and dusty.

The moon looked good from Jack’s chair but there is enough dust under his desk. It inspired him to focus his mind on a simple word. Worth. What do we have that is actually worthy? Good question and at the time, rather significant. The moon is only handy for tides and that flashlight when it is full. The lonely man in the moon.

No subjects were coming to becoming a ‘worthy’ column and that is why Jack left his desk to just sit in the dark and not think. Just look and listen.

What are we pleased with as having worth? Casual scanning on his computer of on-line auctions reveals life stories. Collections of soda bottles and fancy tables to put them on. Old tools and machinery to fix. Jackets and shoes and all the things we fill our homes with.

Worth a tenth or less of what the previous owners paid (estate auctions for folks no longer able to gaze upon these things) What are they worth now? Bid on them! You may win and then have to go and pick your treasures up 100 miles away. Is it ‘worth it’? Our spouse may have a different opinion. “What on earth is an old wooden turnip twaddler good for?”

As morning went on, Jack’s view of their small farm hove into view and as Jack was now close to 80, perhaps everything he was looking at would be in one of those auctions too. The land is beautiful and the American flag hanging off the porch beam reminds Jack of the flags fluttering from the fantail of warships he served in. That seemed a worthy memory . Thoughts cannot be sold unless written about. Is there anything within view really worthy? The sounds of the family awakening are rising like the dawn and Jack finds that leading to worthiness. His wife and his children. What is it about them that is worthy indeed? Even the dog and cat’s that live with them. They all are worthy and why so? There is love intertwined in the family of life.

Those things cannot be sold. Love cannot be sold, it is priceless and worthy indeed. Most likely as Jack awakens, the whole focus of life itself. Love one another, love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love the creator of all these things seen. The creator of love and a man with fire in His eyes that loves Jack and all people for eternity. This is worth. Jesus is worth it all. He told us this and is always among us to speak life and worthy things to us. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator.

I Was Made Alive when I was Dead

Photo by Julie P.Peterson

It was the aftermath of below zero nights but with sunny days. For a week it had snowed, steady and it began to pile up a bit. Mounds not seen for a decade and the blinding glisten was welcome. Visions of sledding and skiing were replaced with roof raking and blowing snow with two machines. Cleaning up at the mailbox far down the driveway after the plow truck came through..again. Shoveling to the wood shed for wheelbarrows filled with wood for the porch to be fed into the parlor stove. Shoveling the dog kennel and clearing a long path to the chicken coop for the daily harvest of brown and green eggs. Cars disappeared along with other objects of worth and need. The good alcohol free fuel began to disappear as well. It never seemed to end, Waving our son off to work with his all wheel drive station wagon and then do it all over again after the night’s snowfall.

This must be what Sigurd Olsen was writing about. Our quest for being in a place that the desert fathers wrote about was given free reign. Another quote to augment those thoughts from Vincent Van Gogh: “ There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passerby only see a wisp of smoke coming through the chimney, and go along their way”

Jack find’s it difficult to silence his voice within. So many things ‘come to mind’ The latest disappointment or betrayal by those who have power over him. Frustrations, failures, puzzles and a perceived loss of some sort.

Pastors and ministers know this well. They have pursued passion and found some, but cannot express it to inspire with yet another sermon. The inner voices of the parishioners demand attention. The loss of listening occurs quickly when the minds voice flows out of our mouth. The only feature of our head that puts forth rather than takes in.

An amusing but accurate situation is when a speaker of wisdom asks for the hearer(s) be silent and contemplative. “How long is this going to go on?” “I wonder what’s for lunch” “is scratching my head a break of silence?” We cannot do this for long, we need to talk or at least think about how much gas for our truck is going to cost just down the street. Often we think what is needed is for our thoughts to come forth.

Rare but remembered with longing is a room filled with silence and dazed countenances that hint at eternity.

When I find myself, at last before my creator, what can I say or even think? A word that falls way short of that would just be ‘thank you’ Is it even possible to ask, “Great! What’s next on your agenda?”

Silence is golden it is said. Why do I have so much trouble with that? It is not silence of speech, it is silence of thought. There is something someone said about taking every thought captive. Try it sometime. Just look out of your favorite window, wrapped in a nice quilt. Perhaps in ‘your chair’ Everyone knows which one it is.

Don’t even think about what you see, just look and perhaps listen to the silence overwhelming.

Jack loves to talk. He is what is known as a raconteur. One who loves to tell stories, mostly about himself. A much better way that he is discovering is to write about them. Listening well to the quiet voice of God is so much more fulfilling that seeing how his stories fall upon listeners who hardly believe them. Fascinated by our own excuses of life, success and failure. All of it meaningless says the Psalmist. We wax and wane in and out of season, but the intensity of silence and solitude generate stunning reality that transcends our ego.

Again, Jack knows the wisdom of his track laying days. STOP LOOK LISTEN. Perhaps we didn’t know that early railroad builders knew a few things about silence leading to wisdom. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Laughable News

It was in the evening, Jack was preparing to retire. The room was cozy with a very nice fire.

Jack had just seen an important official that wore strange attire. .

He was a high government official and a man to be respected.

But he dressed as a woman, his identity Jack quickly rejected.

He appeared with long tresses, and claimed an impossible way

that before what he was a he, he had changed DNA.

Professor McFarkle was presented with his incredible machine

That could change anyone’s sex to the opposite one seen.

The social implications were strongly attested

by government laws he officially invested.

McFarkles invention was loudly applauded, with the greatest success,

to create bearded women that could be wearing a dress.

Young children were shown by men changing to women and opposite when,

it was as taught quite natural they could change pencils to pens.

Quite a few parents got angry and did not comprehend, why their children had to listen to a perverted cause,

but then found themselves opposed by new government laws.

Insanity is rampant in society today, and no one seems to know how it happened this way,

but all scriptures will show that it will be happening, and many people will say,

Jesus shows us His way, the way we must go,

for the Bible tells me so. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Christmas Feast

There it was, indeed a table set for family and a few friends as well. The exquisite food, paid for by a relative in advance. A wise and generous relative, gone on a Christmas day past. Loved and missed at the table now.

The family, gathered in Jack and Julie’s home, every Christmas Eve to eat well and satisfy the gathering with exotic things. Brie, Lingonberry jam, Home baked bread out of the farm’s wheat. Tasty nuggets of chocolate treats and cookies made once a year. Treats, some pulled from the larder that are saved for this time.

There is a Christmas ham in the crock pot that simmered all day and filled the house with it’s savory smells. Appetites were honed and sharpened as the winter of winters was preparing another snow storm. Already the new sidewalk was drifted half over from the bitter sleething of fine snow. The wind had not abated much from the night and the drive home from a delightful worship service was fraught with drifts on the rural highway. Narrow triangles of show, now created by the dry snow the county plows had just cleared that day.

It is perhaps the only time that snow is seen as beautiful and appropriate. The old images of sleighs to visit. Pulled by a team of Percheron horses. The blankets and even a few hot bricks tucked in to be heated up again for the ride home. Wood cook stoves and wood or coal parlor stoves that worked pretty well at heating a home. No worry about the pipes freezing because there were none. The Gator’s have a painting of a sleigh heading for a church but the horse looks fake somehow in mid stride. Tough to convey motion in a painting. Jack thinks maybe a slight brush stroke of snow behind an upraised hoof would have done the job. Art critic.

Candle light services with luminaries out in the snow to entice and welcome. Classic songs to be sung, you know the ones. Everyone has them memorized. The big round wood stove in the corner (should be in the middle of the aisle thinks the same art critic) We all have these memories of times past before we were born. Stories passed down by past generations that had to walk miles uphill in heavy snow. To school as well as church.

Another image that Jack has is the short peace in the midst trench warfare in France. Soldiers apprehensive and then hearing the opposing army singing Silent Night in the enemies language. Slowly rising up from the trenches and walking towards one another, perhaps with a bit of whiskey or brandy to share. Impossible to contemplate with the guns and cannons silent the enemies meeting on no man’s land. Men’s vision to be truthful. The Man full of grace and truth who someday will come for you. This is the reason the fear was pushed aside. We have all been afraid a long long time, but Papa is here and He will take the fear away.

There is impossible joy in the midst of the world’s battle for many things. Power, possessions, and dominance.

We all know the story, even those of us who think the story of Christmas is only about being rewarded because we have not been naughty. We all think we are on the ‘better be good’ part of the perceived equation. It’s not any of those things. The reason that Christ’s Mass has the impact year after year is because the story is true and the good news is impossible to explain with only words. It is indeed a feast. It is felt and it is known by all men. It is joy and the present of good news that cannot be earned. It is indeed a Christmas present that must be opened by everyone that sees it and know what it is. The only present that still surprises with astonishment. Every time. It’s pretty good. The feast of life with Jesus Jack Gator

Open Doors

there is an excess of words in Jack’s life. Reminded by a slightly older wise man of that situation. A rabbit trap is meant to snare the rabbit and once it is caught the trap is forgotten. There are fish traps that once filled with fish are forgotten. There are words that lead to the vision of the Lord’s heart and once we touch that real world, the words are forgotten. The wise man wishes to meet the man who has forgotten words. “He is the one I would like to talk to”. a.

We are surrounded by words in this loud world. It is worth our thoughts to put ourselves back a hundred and a half years or so. Travel on ‘roads’ with horse and buggy or wagon headed into a town a short fifty miles away. How many words would it take? Possibly a dozen or so would be seen, perhaps none. Silence of vision with the steady horse sounds and the creaking of wood spokes tuning on metal spindles. Sitting on the bench with reigns held loosely and the large brimmed hat to stave off sunlight. Silence with thoughts abounding with the oneness of life and it’s wonders and work. Talking to God.

Not Buy this, eat this, gamble here, listen to this or come hither and enjoy. Jack’s favorite is a company that buys ugly houses. That one has moved on and replaced the cave man image with a man ready for crucifixion. His arms wide out stating they too, buy houses. Smiling lawyers who are hungry for an injury lawsuit. Next exit Vanity Fair.

We use words to fill in the potholes of our empty thoughts that do not need filling. We talk, learn and teach with so many words that after a bit we wonder about the whole thing. “It’s not important, it’s just words” A lecture in a school of any grade, a presentation at the local library featuring a ‘well known author’ who has many words on their credit account. Just waiting for those words to be redeemed. Jack has had many an internal chuckle as he is asked; “how many books have you written?” A wordsmith indeed. Fresh words, created new words hammered out on the old Smith Corona and dipped with steam into the cooling trough to give them a patina or strength of quenched steel. Hopefully words that turn into visions of the real world that usually is painted, sonnets and concertos performed and sculpture created. Jack had no words when he looked up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s sculpture of David was seen and Jack was glad there were places to sit and gaze upon what was before for him just words in a textbook.

Education in monasteries or seminaries for ministers or pastors used to be the way it was done. Quite a bit of silence and contemplating one’s heart movement being exposed to the palpable presence of the Great I Am. Words can lead a hungry student of faith only so far with the highest ones. The Word itself which is beyond awesome has lost it’s meanings in our world of words. Many discussions, many languages and interpretations of words can lead to …more words. After all, Jesus was called The Word in scripture. Jesus creator of everything that was created was the ultimate Word which needed no additional words.

The best words Jack has found that lead him into silence in the presence of God. ‘Help me’ or ‘heal my heart’ ‘I love you’ nothing fancy or made up complex and awesome sounding words. Jesus’ sermons were mostly short and usually filled with action instructions. Go and do the same. Many times in Jack’s life with five words: “Life or death, choose now” or “Walk, keep your eyes open” “It’s better than you said” Not wordy is the Lord Jesus in Jack’s life so far.

Jack gives the stories behind those words if asked. Those short sentences were all the words Jack has needed to seek the Kingdom of God. They weren’t needing translation or long wordy discussions. Sermons from those words somehow have more impact then a half an hour of pleading with pleasurable and comforting words.

We are weak and overwhelmed with words in our times. We don’t get it when the spoken word leads us to silence. If a minister of the Word asks for a moment of silence we get antsy and cannot wait to talk and think ‘ how long is this going to go on!’ Solitude spoken of as we are pilgrims. One of the desert fathers, Abba Tithoes once said, “to be on a pilgrimage is to be silent” The apostle James stated “Every one of us does something wrong, over and over again; the only man who could reach perfection would be someone who never said anything wrong—he would be able to control every part of himself” Solitude and silence is a gentle and sure path and the safest way to stay away from sin. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator a. Chuang Tzu

Three Years ago on Christmas Day

The cold Christmas clouds, chasing us down the big 4 lane expressway. We are slowly closing in on the big city hospital where sadness is dispensed in hallways upon hallways. Knowing nods of heads as civilians pass by one another with palpable misery and fear.

Finding the room in the maze with a beloved one, wounded on the battlefields of suburban America. Laughter turned to stunned silence as the soldier of God gets hit with a stray round of arterial death. Not quick enough to the medics, and valuable thoughts and memories die in her mind and the watch begins for her loves, standing stunned as the irreversible wreckage lies before them.

Eyes that seem to see and scripture and spontaneous love sonnets are spoken to those soft eyes. Jack reaches out from the foot of the bed and slowly strokes Grandma’s forehead down to her nose. She briefly closes her eyes and Jack knows she is there still. Jack says the words he must. ” You’ve been afraid a long long time, but Papa’s here and it’s ok. He will take the fear away my little one. This day the man of truth and light, He will make all things right, my little one”

Hearts break at the crushed beauty and tears as they turn away, never to see those soft eyes again.

Today the day she leaves our time and enters into an astonishing new life. Sitting in a very nice chair in front of a just right fireplace fire. The gentle host across from her, completely understanding everything. Children,playing outside, seen through the floor to ceiling windows. “Not yet. We have to wait a bit till you are relieved of your last residence, home and tent. Then we can go outside and join the other children.”

The most comfortable chair, room and host ever. No clocks visible nor none needed, it is clear. Soon the best mocha will be gone and it will be time to rise up and explore outside. Through the door to meet the children playing and eager to embrace one another and finally, be home.

These words found in Jack’s journal of three years ago. So many changes, so many challenges and loss with gain too. The family keeps moving along and the Christmas candles and the lights on the railing above. Wound around the railing, lighting the many book shelves under the majestic window on the south wall.

There are all the seasonal treasures, brought out from storage in the new building and wood shop. A Manger scene on the table next to Jack’s rocking chair. The almost invisible string of tiny lights in the story and a half rubber three, now lit for the season of light.

A beautiful small quilt that has stars sewn into it that light up with a couple of triple A batteries put into the holder and switch. Made for us by Grandma. It greets you as you walk into the entryway. The candles in almost every window on timers for nighttime. Jack’s favorite candles high up on the big half circle window, above the library. They flicker as real candles do. The real candles being readied as more get made in the kitchen. Bubbling bees wax and the wicks all cut with weights tied on their bottom. Dipping them one at a time and hanging them on the rack. Clamped to the kitchen counter with newspapers spread beneath. Teamwork of delight for Jack and Julie.

Memories of the boys beloved Grandma on Christmas day as she passes into the presence of our beautiful saviors home where it is always Christmas and love fills the room from the light of our Lord.

It’s pretty good. Jack Gator.

Hey Preacher Man

Right out of the gate we start with a startling quote from Henri J.M. Nouwen: “It is becoming increasingly obvious that those who avoid the painful encounter with the unseen are doomed to live a supercilious, boring, and superficial life…Pastors who see this feel more like circus directors than leaders to a new life”. b.

In other words perhaps, a lot of people that attend meetings about spiritual matters about God (out there or up there) instead of God within us, become part and parcel of that superficial life. As Jack has written before, the casual and totally insipid greeting of “how are you doing” countered with “better than I deserve!” is also boring and superficial. ‘You have no idea of what you deserve,’is Jack’s immediate thought. Either the greeting is met with confusion or a laugh. Jack tries with “I recognize your voice and your face but the name section of my mind was wiped out by the seizures I had years ago”I’m Larry!” is followed by a little laugh and glance elsewhere in the lobby and the encounter ends.

Sigh. Another encounter light,much like most of them at church. Jack is another one of ‘those’ people perhaps? Always looking for something, hand extended with a curious look. What’s your name? Who are you? eventually.

Close encounters of the non kind. (another column with Jack observing most of us are trapped in our own little existential world ) It’s easier not to go there. It’s easier to look for that Lazy Boy chair out in the sanctuary and watch the Bible on the cell phone (lighter in many ways and easier to carry) Nothing gets in or out is the lock down. It usually begins and ends with our mind focused on what to say as someone is speaking. Jack does not listen well, at least he knows that weakness of his.

I so want to get to know them. I like his/her face and I can see curiosity and perhaps an open depth that is obedient to the spiritual lock down a lot of us have. It’s safe and in some ways, reassuring that the odd ones, (like Jack) don’t get past the door. So close! Maybe this time I will find a soul that is curiously seeking as am I. Eager to explore. To hear someone else besides ourselves pontificating in some way. After all, aren’t we all more brilliant than most? It stuns Jack to realize that lie is about himself.

We are told to rise for the intro of the excellent music production and Jack dutifully gets up and instead of singing, opens his Bible and reads in a Sotto voce voice. Jack is a musician and also doesn’t like being told what to do. He can be irritating. Usually, the scripture Jack is reading is interestingly in harmony with what is being sung. Just Jack, he used to lead worship in other places and never said ‘ please rise’ Another rebel, nothing important to you reader, really.

Eventually, the sermon is presented to the room. No one rises. It is much easier to follow along with Bible in hand and for some, much easier to journal. The pastor/minister/priest gives a dissertation on the scripture at hand, in a few cases with interpretation in original languages. Greek, Hebrew and Latin. Jack likes that, illumination and thought provoking for certain. Exegesis of The Word and the scholarship of seminary shows forth. Brilliant really. Sort of like reading an excellent book about his wife. Or her reading one about Jack. Intimacy is not brought forth by words. Love letters are in the Bible and that’s better. Still, talking to the one you love and hearing back leads to an intimate relation.

Not enough though. Most ministers are told to concentrate on “large scale church attendances, getting people together in churches, schools and hospitals” b. Quite a few times Jack has heard what he came to hear. Passion, exhortation to go deep, deeper than we think we can go. Dive into our heart and meet Jesus there. Listen to Himallow Him to speak and guide us. The ministering gives us the opportunity to move in the waters of life. How deep under the water with Jesus do we want to go? Let that sink in. The minister is not a social organizer, he wants us to awaken to life itself. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

a. Eddie the laundry worker in the movie ‘Time changer’ b. Henri A.W. Nouwen

Song of Solomon

It is a book that is either devoured or skipped. Misunderstood on the surface and dismissed with all those images of sheep teeth and couches and dark tents.

It is another book, written by the wise one, Solomon. He wasn’t just writing about worldly romance and the flesh longings. Why is it in the Bible anyway? It is there to show us who we should be, how we can see our time here as a great battle for our hearts. A battle against the world and it’s blindness’. A battle against our own weak love.

Solomon 8: 6-7 as a starting illumination. “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave, it’s flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised”

How about this line: “I am my beloved’s and his desire is toward me” There are many such allegories in this book and a lot of them have been dismissed as even pornographic or lusty. My oh my, again why would this be in scripture? In my limited study and instructions I have found Jesus in every book, every prophet, every word from Genesis to His revelation. Indeed He is mine and I am His. I have searched for him without even knowing who I was searching for. The ‘watchmen’ have beaten me as they did Him. I have indeed heard His voice right outside my door but I opened the door and there was no one there. I was blind and could not see but I could hear alright.

Think about these things in every book of scripture where Jesus is revealed time after time. Could this be yet another book of revelation? Of course. Jesus shows up and is given a tithe. The name given is Melchizedek. He shows up under that name a few times. Just to ‘prime the pump’ of man’s astonishment and wonder. The questions, the queries and the exegesis begins when ‘Mel’ shows up.

Another name of the reason for living, the creator of living and the totally righteous one. Jack’s favorite name. Moses asked who shall I tell sent me? “I am” Tell them that.

Actually, a beautiful song written by Misty Edwards uses the exact words of the song mentioned above that starts in Song of Solomon 8:6 Perhaps not comprehended by congregations but Jack has learned it and it indeed, is a powerful image of truth. Since Misty is part and parcel of iHOP it may be discouraged from being sung on some platforms. Some like to judge the sheep because they don’t Baa the way they do. It is another move towards the heart of Jesus to me. I am His and He is mine. Talk to Him without thinking of the next thing to say or proclaim. Yes, He is creator of anything that was made. Ask Him why he made you. He will tell you if you listen. I try to ask him questions, not “lift up” someone he made. He knows these things. Ask Him for faith an truth.

Regards, Jack Gator

Photographs of Religion

Many discussions and serious ones as well. What indeed is the sticking point of religion that so many people point out as pompous or even offensive? Gator included. Perhaps a reason for not attending any services anywhere?

Incidentally, Jack could not obtain photos of the Sistine chapel or the Vatican with out paying a royalty. Why? Jack was in there when he lived on the street in Rome. The Swiss guard just let him in the Vatican. An urchin seeking Jesus maybe? But it was art with pompous robes, sashes and headgear. The Pope with a good laundry for all that fantastic white clothing. A far cry from the cement scrub tables at Camp Nimitz. Boot camp in San Diego.

Starting with names of church buildings. Jack does not have anything but good to say about the body of Christ. The word ‘church’ was formed and used a few thousand of years ago to be specifically referencing believers in the risen Christ, Lord, Adoni, Messiah. Choose at least one of many descriptions of the word church. It’s the people gathering to honor their King of kings.

Several years ago, when Jack realized what the word church meant, he approached one of the village elders and asked if they could delete two letters to the large billboard on the edge of town that says: “The churches of Frederic welcome you” to, ‘The church of Frederic welcomes you.’ The suggestion was shrugged off as coming from a fool or a fundamentalist with an agenda.

The most irritating language is the inclusive word ‘First’ used before the particular flavor of the gathering one prefers. Never seen ‘Second church of Anything’. Why is this so? If it indeed is the second or third established in the area of the ‘First’, then an alternate word must be voted upon.

Something that sounds holy or such. Using perhaps the gifts of the Spirit in scripture! However several of those gifts remain unused. ‘Patience, Long suffering or Self Control’ to name a few. Not even self control. Can one even imagine the conversation with a prospective board of directors to suggest one of those scriptural names of our behavior to seek among the brethren?

No wonder that the world scoffs at our stiff necked (another scriptural description) society insisting on proper protocol and high language. Then there is the business structure of our gathering places. Hierarchy and a path to the top of the ladder, or at least close by. Most of us are referred to as the laity. The peons, or the initiated strikers to use a navy term of promotion and intent. It’s control, it’s PR, it’s been that way for…well..a long time! “we are Paul’s church or we are Aquilla’s church” was written for us to discourage those sorts of things. Do you think we would survive Gator’s thoughts? Probably not, but they are at the least, amusing.

It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Prairie Life Near the Twin Cities

It was subtle and it was a destroyer of families. Work for the men in tall buildings, not within walking distance.

The new city age of commuting, milk men down the alleys and trolley cars. The fifties, when Jack single digits old. It was subtle and the beginning of an ending. The most important thing of all disappeared. Intimacy.

The way things used to be, such a common phrase indicating nostalgia for the ‘good old days’. It is much more than that. Jack’s father worked as a fireman and Jack’s mother eventually worked downtown as a secretary for the public schools. Gone was grandpa’s little farm and both families living close by to one another. A neighbor near the farm complained that Dad was supposed to live in the city to be a fireman. The move to the city was inevitable and plans were made to buy a nice house in the north side of Minneapolis. The country life was comfortable for Jack. The creek down the hill offered fishing and adventure. Life was the smell of good earth.

“Hey kids, tomorrow we get out the rock boat and get the rocks out of the main field.” Groans from Jack and his sister but with memories of Grandma’s supper with the fresh doughnut holes with chicken dumplings and real mashed potatoes. The ‘boat’ moved slowly and Freddie, Jack’s friend nearby, joined the ‘party.’ There was always a bit of humor that came forth too. “Hey, that rock looks just like Mr. Mosher!” Grandpa laughing from the old International also saying that’s not the way to speak of him. Guilty as charged, but still snickering when we looked at each other. Working the land together as Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about in her newspaper columns.

Not long after those halcyon days of laughter and sharing in the good times and difficult or even sad times, it ended. Gone,the best days of Jack’s life. The fire department was a good job for Dad. Secure income.

They moved into the city as Dad could continue working for the fire department, and in order to be able to afford the nice city house, Mom had to work and leave Jack and his Sister alone at the new home. A lot. The one room school house a mile away was not the way things were done in the city. There weren’t any potato fields or big vegetable gardens either. The biggest loss was the absence of parents when they were needed. Not being available at home when bad things happened. Jack was lost in the waves of change. Waking up at Bunyan’s Vanity Fair. The cute girl next door was a forbidden friend for Jack. She went to the ‘wrong’ church.

Make your own lunch and wait after school for Mom or Dad. Alone in the house. No more family games and no neighbors or relatives coming by. The big church downtown and bullies at the neighborhood school were incomprehensible. No one seemed to care about children at home or at the next door neighbors. Gone were the sights of a broken piece of equipment on a neighbors field. “I going to go over to Rick’s place and see what we can do” sorts of things. Day cares started up and everything had a price. From workers of the soil to wage earners surviving in toil. Children did not understand this. In a child’s eye it was abandonment and loss.

And so it goes as progress turns into regress for the new price of hearth and home. Jack’s home now had a fireplace in the living room but it was never lit. The big coal furnace in the basement provided the heat but the hearth never provided a family room’s comfort. Now the gathering of family was the flicker of the black and white television set and intimacy was knowing the names of the characters on the screen. Substantive life became substitute life and families losses were substantial. Children became actors in the play of city life. Do well at school and play with the strangers and you might make friends if you don’t cry. First grade in the big city.

Gone the instantaneous comfort of a mother’s loving touch, the guiding hand of a father as the soil turned rich under the plow and disk. Love for neighbors seen and demonstrating love for everyone. Gone was “It’s been a good day, let’s read that book! Who knows where we left off?” Instead, lonely days. Akin to a room of the house suddenly disappearing. But dad and Grandpa were good carpenters and could rebuild the loss . There is another carpenter that will restore all our loss. He is the best restoration worker in the world. Jesus, He will make all things new. A perfect man with wood in the shop and wood on the cross. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Continuation of the Golden Calf

An old story that still rings as true as in the days that it was written. There was a lot of people that had a leader. Millions of people with one, highly respected leader. He went away and those people went astray. He wasn’t gone for long, a month and a third roughly. Five weeks it is said. Not long in our day either. You could walk to Kansas City IF you walked 25 MPD. That’s pretty good walking. Non stop all day, munching at the Two Dollar stores on the way.

So, that leader went walking up a mountain to talk to God. By himself. God reiterated what he had told this leader about life and he wrote it all down by hand so the leader could walk back to his people and have a solid and readable ‘book’ of instructions to a good life. After all, it was the least God could do to help those people live as they ought to. As they were made to. An owners manual in the Holy Glove box to look at and get some quick answers to complex life situations. Things like hatred, greed, anger, lust and fear. Look at the index, it’s all there.

Not long after their leader left to get that manual of life, the people got antsy and full of themselves (just like we do when we think we have been left alone) They decided to look to that leader’s brother and get some answers as to what to do. The brother, second in command, offered a solution. After all, any problem we have can be addressed and fixed by the Government.

That man came up with a solution to the peoples anxiety. He made an idol. It’s what all of us do when things don’t go as we wish. “Give me some peace! Show me Something substantial that I can grab onto!”

We do exactly the same things. Nothing has really changed at all. Our leader tells us he has the cure for what ails us. We turn to entertainment to sooth our troubles and pretty soon, that gold album gets on the American idol show and even turns into Platinum! Ahh. Lets have a party with dancing and put that old gold album on and rock out! The idol of ourselves as usual. This feels good!

It happens over and over and when our leaders are not friends of God, it goes south pretty fast. Remember a few years ago when we were all going to die if we didn’t do exactly what we were told to do? Not to turn to God and talk to him and look for guidance. Turn to the leadership and worship their solution. Did it work? Of course not. Idols are intoxicating with comfort and self importance. Get angry if your neighbors don’t do what we are told to. “We are here from the government and we are here to help you!” Ronald Reagan said those were the worst words you could hear. For an actor of heroes, he knew a few things about rescue and courage.

Close your business’ Hide in your homes and shake with fear. Put a piece of cloth over your face and trust us, it’s for your own good. Monty Python couldn’t do it better. We worship our gods (small g there) The ‘experts’ on our media, Doctors from the government and band aid companies that assure us all will be well….maybe someday.

Meanwhile in the ensuing years when the meteor doesn’t strike or the dead are not clogging the streets, a new threat is discovered and the fear is supposed to begin again. A ‘vaccine’ is touted to protect us and it doesn’t. Time to get that Navy hospital ship back to port and recall the Morgues on wheels. Get some pictures on the front page and ramp it up. Conspiracy theories are the prize in every Cracker Jack box and they are all different.

What are we to do? A savior has come and he has the truth with him, and on him. There is a cure for everything and everyone and he doesn’t get money from the government to distribute it.

He has taken the ‘cure’ for the fear. Amazingly, unbelievably, He died from taking the rebellion and fear of all men and after three days, destroyed it and walked the earth again and told us he did this for us. He also wants us to live with Him. Forever. Just ask Him. Make sure to talk to Him, (right now!) its OK. It’s the best thing for me and you. It’s not another favor from the government. It’s real truth. You may not like the truth as it shows us clearly we worship ourselves and our comfort. Jesus will show us who we are meant to be. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Flashing Lights on the Side of the Highway

The beginning of the deer rut was in full bloom and visible to the Gator family. Reaching up to take an hour off the living room clock, Jack saw four deer on the driveway. It’s only about 25 feet away from the front porch and those deer were in top gear. Two does, two bucks. One of the bucks jumped into the fenced garden and seemed a bit confused when he hit the corner pole. Tumbling back into the Brussels sprouts bed, he leaped up and tried another jump. After that attempt, he ran back where he came in and performed one of those steeplechase leaps over the fence and into the woods close by. We noticed one of his horns was missing. So it goes.

Jack was running late in the next morning. It was still dark and the vehicles behind were lighting up the road, same as Jack was. Of course, being the leader of a string of cars means your first in discovering fur covered obstacles in the right of way. Jack swings his electrical side view mirror a bit away from the car to reduce the glare. It’s nice that their high beams reach miles ahead but it can be a bit deafening optically.

As expected, all the cars a distance behind passed Jack on the flats. Good, now I can drop down to five under instead of ten over! Remembering from his youth, the two speed signs that had day limit and night limit. Usually ten under for nighttime. Coming up to ‘deer alley’ Jack saw a vehicle on the opposite shoulder with it’s hazards blinking. About half ways down the hill. Very close to where a few years back an eight thousand dollar deer was encountered by Jack’s car. Jack pulled over to the shoulder, put on his emergency flashers and went across to the other car. He brought his special flashlight as well.

The driver of the car met Jack and filled in the blanks. “Hit a deer, front right tire went flat and I’m tryin’ to get this original equipment toy jack to lift the car.” Jack held the light and they finally got the plate under the pinch weld. The car began to rise a bit and there was a hopeful lug wrench coming out of the trunk. Custom wheels, it didn’t fit. At least they weren’t theft proof lug nuts but the size was bigger than stock. A sixteenth too small.

They began to chat about the coming election for governor and other offices. It quickly segued into the state of our country. As the two of them began to share their analysis of the unbelievable destruction of the economy and morals, they agreed to do what they could to counter this disassembly of our republic. The last things they said to one another was about our money. “It’s worth about seventeen cents on the dollar since a few decades ago, but the money we have has not changed in one way. Yet. Our wallets and pockets all contain the reassuring statement, ‘In God we Trust’ They both agreed this was a very good idea in these times! Faith and Trust in God.

Saying thanks to one another and Jack turned on his special flashlight function, it indeed flashed bright and Jack waved it to the vehicles approaching. No one had stopped when Jack and the stranded motorist were at work, and not one even slowed. The oncoming cars, seeing both hazards on and Jack’s flashing light swinging, slowed down a bit. Jack crossed safely and headed off to his late appointment with his son at the coffee shop, still miles away.

Jack did not speed but kept the limit. He looked behind him on a long hill descent and the vehicles behind him were perfectly, safely spaced. It resembled a string of pearls going down the road.

Very surprised, Jack pulled up to the coffee shop right on time, a little ahead of his sons Alfa.

Jack was only one minute off rendezvous time. The shop had just opened up. It didn’t compute as Jack had spent at least ten minutes with the stranded man. Compression of time. It has happened at various times and in different ways throughout history. It made interesting conversation after the Bible study that Jack and his son brought their coffees and Bibles to. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Firebricks of Orion

It was a hard morning to get ready for a 30+ mile drive south. It was early, Jack’s coffee was getting cold and he was getting cold as well. It was still dark and he was getting depressed. It was from fear of the world’s ways and loss Jack was seated in the impossible heavenly beauty and renewed and encouraged once again. The usual triggers that affect us: Checking account down under a C note, bills creating a breeze magnet on the table and prices getting into the ridiculous range at the grocery stores. Six bucks for a somewhat light loaf of bread? It must be organic, Vegan and sort of good for you if you like that sort of thing.

It is not good for anyone in the family to concentrate on those negative things, let alone the destruction of our state and country. Demented teachers running hard after perversion and seduction of children that, impossibly, seem paramount to the education agenda. No one Jack talks to has the slightest interest of those ideas, incredulous of how such a thing has happened.

Certainly the striped and incorrect depiction of our flag folks will respond to the above short paragraphs. Jack has strong memories of being underway on his Navy ship, flying the flag night and day. With a strong light upon it. The real flag, Superman’s flag of “ Truth, Justice and the American way” Not indoctrination, brain washing and the Orwellian ways. No one Jack meets, casual or acquaintances, has any truck with this nonsense. It’s the rural life of family, neighbors and reality.

It was time for the ritual which Jack’s youngest son enjoys. Laying out his coffee equipment before he awakens. Thermos, sugar and long stirring spoon. Turning on the Keurig and holding the storm door open for him (from the outside to clear his load of lunch, motorcycle helmet and warm jacket.) Then standing on the porch that faces the driveway to wave him off. It is a family tradition. If he is driving his car, he keeps the dome light on briefly so I can see him waving back. I watch till he turns north at the end of the ¼ mile driveway.

The parlor wood stove is now working well with new firebricks and angle/strap supports. All installed by the youngest and oldest sons. They welded, ground brick to fit and cleaned and got filthy in the process. It works so much better. Warmth in later fall is welcome and secure feeling.

And so there Jack sat, in his chair in the dark living room of early morning. Holding his coffee, he looked up at the library walk and above it at the big half round window. This morning, it was perfectly aligned just for Jack, showing his favorite constellation, Orion. His belt and his sword clear and the words came loud and clear . “He made me alive, when I was dead and he raised me up and seated me with Christ. And it’s by His grace that I am saved and it’s through faith, the very gift of God.”

Even though Jack walks through the valley of death again there is a calm that quickly settles over him.

Once again, Jack knows His creator is smiling at him and the ‘coincidence’ perfectly arranged to show Jack he is seen and loved. The message is clear to Jack. Jesus is with him and sees all the trepidation and troubles of Jack’s life. “This time too, it will be OK” Just as the way the Lord has used his power and audible voice to literally save Jacks life several times. This time the Lord of Lords is with Jack. It is not the book of Job, It is the new Testament books of Jesus healing and loving that are reflected in that window. High above Jack and in the darkness. Mr Gators family is seen and they are not alone.

It’s pretty good, Jack Gator

Fire of Eternity

From the beginning was fire, without there was nothing. Creation of the innumerable suns that we see but do not understand the how and why of them. Close as our own sun. Supplier of heat in the cold indifference of the outer space. Perhaps first experienced of the Angel with a flaming sword at the entrance of Eden.

The shepherds warming themselves in winter drawn by flaming suns flooding their vision with the result of fire, light. The advent of the one that explains the cleansing of a man with fire in His eyes. Also at the end of life. The sea of glass on fire.

When Moses was first given a sight of fire that did not consume and conveyed awe and respect. Enough fire to change history as the fire spoke truth with two words, I AM.

We now take the fire into our lives for heat and cooking and light. Remembering the early days of lamps and wicks and now not even comprehending the fire that creates the electric results. ‘Power plants” running on coal fires or nuclear fires. Solar power created by the inferno of a fire so big it is almost impossible to comprehend the size of the fire. Where did it come from? How can it burn with out running out of fuel to consume?

The stars in our sky familiar for navigation but still unimaginably distant and again impossible. We have feeble explanations for eternal fire and light that were created by an explosion of eternity. Perhaps an explosion but from what and where and who lit it?

All consuming fire that is mentioned in scripture that consumes what besides bushes and trees? As is said in publications of man’s wisdom. Scientific American, National Geographic that cannot explain how fire is possible everywhere we look. Even the burning of food within us to create movement from eating.

A sacrifice of all eternity accomplished with spikes made from a forge using fire to create and form them. Worship of a golden calf made the same way. The transformation of lives by light as in Saul on the road to Damascus. Blinding him as for a week he wonders why and is delivered by a man of God, fearful but obedient.

Songs we now sing: of a consuming fire, burning within me fan into flames. Even to this day, close by with fireplaces and stoves with glass windows showing the fire dancing within that gives us heat to gather around. A campfire to gather around for warmth against the outside of winters bluster and wind .

“He’s so cold” “The cold shoulder” “Chilled to the bone”. Without His fire we could not exist, cook our food and create so many things besides light and comfort.

Consuming fire, fan into flames. Burning, burning within me. Consume the indifference and let me see. You. The Light of the world. Let us see the light of your heart and transform me. The fire of my heart.

It’s pretty good, Jack Gator

Bicyclists Believe in Looking Ahead

There was a time, not too long ago, the progress meant regress. Tearing down for a clean visage, more practical applications of resources and getting rid of ‘old fashioned’ ways and means. There was an interesting transition of railroading in our area. It was getting common around the country to eliminate railroad transportation and replace it with…nothing.

Our county included that, and removed the old 90 lb tracks, crossings and all the metal fasteners of said lines of practical and efficient transportation and replace the incredible fuel efficient and friction free transport with big diesel semi trailers.

It went over pretty good with the truckers and the populace could have cared less. All the ‘black bananas’ (ties) rich in creosote went somewhere and the steel was turned into appliances such as automobiles and refrigerators.

Little known to the general public, a nationwide bicycle organization took notice. The league of American Wheelmen. (LAW) had a national president living in western Polk country. A level grade for easy riding was dangled in front of them. If only it could be useful then and in the future.

The gently sloped roadbed remained. Train engines and the rails always had one problem, friction again. This time the problem was the grade itself. It has to be as flat as practical to allow the engines to move. Steel wheels and polished steel rails did not transfer incredible power with out spinning the traction wheels. There was a ‘sand dome’ on the engines that could put down a little sand in front of the wheels, increasing traction.

An engine weighs 220 tons and is asked to move 16,000 tons of freight. That is a lot of pulling torque to get moving. A fully loaded semi tractor trailer weighs 21 tons or in another way of looking at it, about 5000 of those would be needed haul one train load of freight.

So ballast was removed without Jack this time at the #2 shovel. Some remained a bit deeper in the remaining soil. Little known to the general public, LAW bicycle organization saw the vision. The road bed would make ideal trails for bicyclists. They hosted a big national rally in River Falls with rides, food and even an entertainer from the Prairie Home Companion. Claudia Schmidt. They made a little profit of $6000 and gave it to Burnett county to show that bicyclists could help defray some of the cost to turn the train roadbed into a bike trail. It was given under the caveat that if needed to restore rail traffic, that amount would help defray costs to restoration. It was also to show the snowmobile groups that bicyclists could work with them for summer use of the trail.

Within the last few years, the cost of diesel fuel has made railroad transport appear practical again. The roadbeds are ready once again to lay those black bananas (ties) on the roadbed and do some upgrades. Heavier rail (135 lb welded ribbon rail) Restoration of switches, signals, and section buildings. Good jobs in the offing too.

Local residents reminisce about boarding the train for day trips to Duluth and ‘the cities’ “those were the days!”

Practical, affordable and doable. Better than a bus route (that does not exist.) No traffic, no cars and just sit down and enjoy reading something about it. Perhaps in this very paper. Can you just about see it? Probably no wicker seats but with snacks and picnic baskets. The kids would love it too. The save the earth from pollution folks would also be pleased. It’s pretty good.

Jack Gator photo of Claudia’s new album used by permission

First things First

There is a strong tendency among men to jump into action. An immediate thought of doing, something, anything that will show the way we feel. An action defined by using our strength or resources to accomplish the task that seems to fit the bill. Demonstrating commitment or love to the world at large or a small piece of it.

Jack felt he was really getting through to his family, especially his wife, when he would do something on her behalf. Fixing something, maybe even a meal or a surprise action or gift. It wasn’t enough. That is Jack’s love language. Jack would wonder what he did wrong and why if it felt so good to him, why it didn’t last or feel the same to someone else. There was something missing in Jack. He didn’t listen to her, he listened to himself.

There is a short piece in the Bible (have patience now, this is important) that the most important thing we can do is love our Lord with all our strength, spirit and mind. That’s the first part of two. The second part is a lot like it.

Love your neighbor as yourself. It’s like an instruction manual with only two things to do to find fulfillment, peace and romance. The simple part of any instructions, you have to do them in order. You cannot build a house without first laying a foundation. You cannot lay a foundation without preparing the place. Before that is perhaps the architect’s plan and so forth. There is always a sequence to building and it starts with a vision.

Where does that vision come from? And why does it fit in with your life? Did we do the first thing first?

There is a very old piece of wisdom which Jack has mentioned before. It’s from the Jewish Talmud and it is a conversation between a Rabbi and Elijah the Prophet. The Rabbi complains that the Messiah has deceived him for not showing up that day when He said He would. Elijah laughs and says, “ He didn’t say He was coming, He said to listen” And so, we make the same mistake, over and over again.

We jump right into the second part of Jesus’ explanation of all of scripture, of all the prophets to love our neighbor. But again, we gloss over the first command which is Love Him. All of us. All of who we are.

There is no shortcut to loving by going to work. Jack has experienced this in several ways. He was a part of a ministry in Lino Lakes called, ‘God’s grease Monkeys’ This must be a calling for me! Thought Jack.

Jack was sort of on board with this Loving God but he wasn’t waiting for that still, small voice of his Lord. He thought he was on the right track, seemed logical. Jack grabbed tools and showed up, even recruited a some good friends. The ministry was not where Jack needed to be. He didn’t listen for that quiet voice.

Now, the same thing happens when Jack tries with works of sacrifice to show his wife his love. He doesn’t listen to her as she wants him to listen and not rush into talking or doing. Just listen. That’s how the house is built. Not buying 2 by 4’s when we think that’s all that is needed. Listen and hear well. All of Jack’s heart, soul and mind. Love his Lord first by listening to him. He will show Jack how to listen to others and understand their voice. It’s hard a lot of the time, but it’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Joy of Music and Art

As it is, so shall it always be. Music, an indescribable and fleeting thing. The string is plucked, the drum resonates, the bowed instrument plays one note that blesses the fleeting sound. One second it is there.

An eternal second, there is no time involved and the resonance goes into eternity and the joy flows abounding within the players. So quickly the musicians are drawn away from the object of the music to the playing of it. C.S. Lewis puts it well…”To be drawn away from the love of thing, he tells to fall in love with the telling”.

There is nothing liken to music, perhaps draftsmanship or painting the light. Again, the romance of the stunning scene to the love of creating the painting. Both the musician and the painter are vulnerable to elevation of self. We do not realize the breaking of our admiration of our talents and contributing perhaps one or two notes or a splash of sienna releases the joy and appreciative laughter of the hearing and seeing Master of all of it.

Images of musicians with the anticipated music played on perfect instruments abound. Especially for ones that have felt the joy and dance with a word sung or a set of notes played. Another image from Lewis: “If one could just read the score of that heavenly music, they would never be ill nor grow old.”

So many years, so many bands and sitting in with other bands. Jack was consumed with applause. For him. The pride of even placing in a fiddle contest would make Jack proud. Of himself. Jack is not as fast these days (getting really close to 80 years old) and actually, that helps. There were so many instrumentalists in Jack’s life and the attaining of blazing speed with difficult passages was the goal and passion of so many. Just listen to bluegrass sometime. The song is over before you can even remember the words. Nice music, don’t misinterpret Jack’s words here. Nice music and really nice people play bluegrass. There were, unfortunately, some artists that would overplay and smirk at Jack’s slow waltz’ or jazz. Emulating Bob Wills and his stunningly beautiful waltz’ was Jacks goal. He tried the Orange Blossom Special when playing the bar circuit. Jack would not play it until the third set when the patrons were drunk enough to enjoy Jack’s fiddling.

Now playing in the church..not A church, but THE church is Jack’s desire. A little mandolin to fill in the missing notes that Jack hears in his spirit. The mandolin is referred to as the violin’s ‘walking stick’. (The tuning is the same as the violin) Jack’s current worship leader mentions when the really high notes of vibrato ring out, it makes him laugh inside. Good description of joy in worship. Third position on the mandolin is a LOT easier than on the fiddle. It has frets. Those incredible stratospheric violin passages are pretty swell if your fingers are doing OK and you spend every day in the practice room. Since you were single digits old helps. Jack gets in awe when he hears those players. He wonders what they are thinking during those concertos.

So Jack needed applause to feel wanted and accepted. Now there is joy in worship when everything makes a brief tapestry of beauty. Offered to Jesus with love and adoration. It’s the only thing that works now. Applause may reflect how others in the room feel that too. It’s heart felt. The neat thing is that Jack now knows they are really applauding the beauty revealed of Jesus, the heart of everything. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator.

Save big Money on Vanities!

Jack Just finished reading Ecclesiastes and checked his in box. Really. He did not know that a Big box store was into the Prophet of extensional thought. It caught Jack’s attention for certain. An advertisement as wisdom perhaps? There is no money involved in being vain. A homonym pun for Jack’s mind.

I have a new friend in our neighborhood. We swim together a few times a week at the pool about 20 miles away. He has been taking lessons on swimming and has a whole kit bag of cool accessories for serious swimmers..Special flippers, hand paddles, snorkel. Stuff like that.

I asked him once in the locker room what he thinks will happen when we die. “Worm Food” was his answer. The sort of answer of Camus, Sartre or Nietzsche. The sum of the reviewers in a book, ‘The Terror of Existence’ was “every endeavor, be it good bad or indifferent, will one day become undone, as death ends at the grave.”

Jack cannot fathom why this intelligent and caring man would exercise so well and diligently, only to believe it all comes to naught. All is Vanity says the preacher.. Perhaps to enjoy the response of his body and to prolong the inevitable death? {The usual unpleasant experience that we all must do).

There is nothing new under the sun and we whirl about our little solar system in the unfashionable western spiral arm of the Milky Way, It will all wind down to dust, stardust as it is said. Nothing new under the sun as the rivers flow into the ocean and it never gets full.

A walk in the graveyard with all the old weathered gravestones that once were placed there by a grieving family. Now forgotten as the once fancy pillar of stone becomes covered with patches of moss. The so called eternal stone deteriorating and indeed, becoming building materiel for the ambitious small creatures with a much shorter life spans than.ours are. Vanity, all is vanity.

No standards of life, no real solid instructions on what to focus on and how to actually live as we all know we should. A moral life is some how attractive to some of us and why does this happen? Who beyond our small view of life can we rely on to show us a way out and a way to live that has meaning, eternal meaning? Only one man ever claimed and demonstrated that there is life beyond the grave. You cannot weigh or measure love, beauty or devotion. There is no end to something you cannot measure. How can this be?

He can do those things and bring them to us when we die. There is only one who can and does create eternal beauty. A man that conquered death and offers eternity with him. It is the only thing that is not vain. Chase and look for Him. He is everywhere and also with You as you read this short column. True life that is not vanity. It has and will belong to of the giver of life. As the wonderful song says it so well: “I can only imagine what it will be like. Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine” a. All life, all of us, all that will be and every thing that was. It’s Jesus. It’s pretty good.

Jack Gator

a. Mercy me

The History of Jack Gator’s Name

In the beginning (Jack’s favorite three words) Jack was enthralled with fiddle contests, playing in country swing bands and always admired excellent fiddlers. After all, in his middle twenties he lived in the neighborhood of ’40 acres of musicians’ He wrote a column on those times. It is available at the web site. Http://www It was publisheda few years ago in the Intercounty Leader.

There was such a panoply of musicians that Jack had the privilege to hang out and play with. Peter Ostrushko. Brian Wicklund, Craig Ruble, Pop Wagner, Mary Dushane to name a few! Mary wound up on the Prairie Home Companion. She played at Jack’s wedding along with Bill Hinkley, Kevin Mcmullin and Jack. We surrounded Julie in her gorgeous wedding gown and played Helsa Dem Hardemma, a Swedish waltz. What a heritage of being surrounded with music for years.

When Jack was living up north in Wisconsin, he began competing and judging in fiddle contests. When asked by the newspaper to come up with a photo, the only thing Jack could find was a drawing of a young alligator playing a fiddle. He was leaning back on his tail in the cartoon. The nickname of Mr. Gator stuck. Jack even had license plates proclaiming ‘MR GATOR’ Such fun silliness.

Much later a fellow writer (Jesse Selin) drew the Gator picture and then we had to come up with a first name. A masculine one with punch. Jack’s favorite author, C.S.Lewis was nicknamed Jack, and it fit.

Jack’s real name is Norman Eric Peterson. Sort of Scandinavian. Images of sandbakkels, fattigman, lefese an of course, barrels of lye filled with lutefisk come to mind. The cookies are hard to spell and hardly anyone knows about them. Local church basement cooks, however, know these things. These images are first to come to mind and don’t seem masculine (except for the lutefisk ocean crossing ordeal) Not that Norm is ashamed of Norway and Sweden’s images, there just isn’t that instant familiar image of Norm in most of us. Friendly and as a child, a bit rough and tumble. So, the name stuck and you, dear reader, are too. It also helps for the third person writing and as Jack says; “The names are changed to protect the guilty.”

So there you have it. Jack did indeed have a rough and tumble life with prison escapes, FBI encounters, Top Secret rank, Luftwaffe pilots, Russian surface missiles and facing down danger with it all. The name fits. (He does not own a battle axe.) He is Just a slightly dense Norwegian that is ready to sail to the new land. And risk his life to do so. Adventure seems to be a trait of Norwegians and Swedes. They like to work hard too.

Words and history combined with a lot of trauma. Jack likes to write to entertain, intrigue and show those narrow escapes. All of it happened due to shape a man able to witness the saving grace of Jesus. It’s pretty good, Jack Gator

Patterns of Causality

There are many phrases most of us use. These usually are heard when we speak of a life event, small or large.

Perhaps a crop fails unexpectedly or a deer is found in front of you while speeding through the highway. Many times these life events seem negative, but cannot be understood. Such things are said to others that seem casual but have world views that alter the basic ways we feel.

An example: A neighbor suffers an accident that kills them. A neighbor that could be seen as a ‘bad neighbor’ that has done things most of us would refer to as wrong behavior. The usual phrase would be: “He deserved it” or “that’s what happens when you go against Jesus’ command to love our neighbor” Bad Karma, darkness generates dark results, the inevitable outcome of sin. Forgiveness not judgement is very hard but is our part of the neighbors errors.

These thoughts are a result of our fear to assign events, good or bad, to a thing resulting in attitudes or behavior of us or others that has consequences. A logic statement that is basic is, ‘Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc.’ It means: ‘After something, therefore because of that something’ Confused yet? An example of belief in charms we have nearby. Talismans, anything to deny God and the horror of an uncaring and empty universe.

Being relieved that you remembered to put that plastic replica of a saint on your dashboard or your Bible in a certain reserved spot at home or in a public worship setting. Horse shoes nailed open side up by your doorway.

Anything, anything to express a reason behind an event, good or bad. Being relieved that you were wearing the same outfit you had on at the casino when money came your way again. Your lucky shoes perhaps. Up to the point of blaming ourselves for failing in some way perhaps has logical explanations that the universe is not random events. There is a ‘Post Hoc’ event that determines Propter Hoc ). The usual example for that feeling about bad things that happen to us is ‘ Well, I guess I deserved that’ or someone else saying it about you.

Anything to not view our world as just random atomic activity creating obstacles or bridges that govern all events. An excellent research paper on this will start with the book of Job in the Bible. (it’s in between Esther and Psalms) The whole book is about a man that is accused again and again by his three friends that he has done something against God that has caused his misery.

Job’s friends accuse Job of being an unrighteous man, a sinner in some way. Job’s reaction to these accusations? As he has lost everything of value to his life he states: “ I know that my Redeemer lives” After all the things that God has allowed (not Done) Job will worship God. Faith, the very gift of God.

Do we look to the creator of all that is and all that will be as our servant? Do we look upon Him as evil? Do we look and worship Him in seasons of good and bad as our master and creator that loves us more than we can even imagine. There indeed is a seductive evil upon the world. As someone asked C.S. Lewis, “are you really asking me to believe in this creature with horns and a tail that causes misery and actually demands I worship him? Lewis answered him “ I don’t know about the horns and such but if you do desire to meet and see him and obey him, you will see him indeed.

As for me, I will worship my redeemer whatever comes upon me. It’s not easy but He is my treasure.

It’s pretty good. Jack Gator.

Delivery Truck Parked at World-Mart

There are ramifications to the recent shortage of shelf items at many stores. People know this well as it is common knowledge. ‘Out of Stock’ as, regretfully our local store owner relates. The industry of supply was severely stricken and the first sign was panic buying of toilet paper. Perhaps the usage of a ‘blip-vert’ on the national news that told people to rush and buy? The experimental process was a success and the masters of war were pleased with the propaganda machine they bought. The plan to wipe us out had begun.

From the very beginning of the communicable bio-weapon, fear began to invade the world. Isolation and confusion reigned. Corrupt government officials quickly took the reigns of civilization and began destroying everything they could. Agencies, edicts given (for our own protection of course) and spiraling inflation.

The development of a medical savior that didn’t. Continued control and pitting people against each other for not following the edicts of the commissars. Business’ began to crumble as they were shut down. Fines for opening a small restaurant were passed out by bureaucrats that used the weak will of the people to approve of them.

The strategy of requiring the whole world to hide their faces behind masks that had no effectiveness whatever. The weapon spread and the fuel of fear built flaming dread throughout the world. Children were at very low risk of contacting this weaponized virus but were also isolated, confused and ‘protected’ by medical experts that were not. A growing realization of reality among virologists throughout the world was publicly ridiculed. Social media was tightly regulated to eliminate truth which was labeled false news.

The medical industry made billions by creating an almost worthless, misnamed vaccine that didn’t. The only protection was natural immunity generated by people’s immune systems. Protests were quickly stamped out and the national media branded the un-vaccinated as criminals and those that refused to wear the useless masks and get the shots were denied entrance to transportation, hospitals and schools. Shunned and hated. Booster shots that did nothing and supposedly gave more protection were quickly brought to the fray.

Then the weapon began to fade away as immunity built. One point five percent of our loved ones were buried and a new government attempt began to start over with another ‘deadly’ disease. However,it didn’t work this time and only a particular type of men were affected. The earlier damage was already done with the perfect medical theater created by the stealth laboratory in China. A bio-weapon that brought the world to it’s knees. Communists that despise us did this and we walked right into it and embraced their lies and hatred of freedom.

The Lord of us all has allowed this war to awaken us. He did not create this war, he allowed it. He whispers to us that He will always be near. We open our heart’s window to Him from the inside and He is the invader that gives us the faith to endure. Jack has been given a small book to show him this truth. A very old book about a man that refused to curse his creator for incredible suffering and loss. His name was Job and Jack recommends reading about him and his friends (and his wife). A lot of the world despises our Lord and that is to be expected. We are a the crooked man who walked a crooked mile and we need to look over our shoulder and see our Father running after us. Stop and turn, and embrace Him. He will show us how to love. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Salesmen’s Chuckle

We notice it without knowing what has just happened. The chuckle. Or, as Jack sometimes refers to it as a cackle. What is it? The contrived sound, practiced for decades to be as smooth as a well known radio announcers voice. A deep voice in some ways, captured by seven hundred dollar microphones. The ones with all the rubber bands, suspended. High end dynamic mics. Smooth, easy on the ears and in the case of the chuckle, made to put you at ease.

Unfortunately, this vocal response is a fear reaction to uncomfortable conversations. Just mention a serious concern you have to an insurance salesman. Within a split second the chuckle rings out to disarm the conversation. It’s nothing like laughter, don’t misunderstand this. Laughter and gaiety are good for us. Even rolling on the floor with laughing sobs. A joke or a pun that just explodes in the room with merriment. That’s good! It’s good humor and the relaxation is very good.

What Jack is pointing out is obnoxious and frustrating at the least. We don’t notice that we have been conned out of intelligent conversation. Try it sometime. Select a person that you ‘sort of know’ and ask them in an inquiring way about a serious subject. Something you state you are having difficulty understanding.

Perhaps an illustration will do: “Hey John, I’m glad I ran into you! I have a real problem with an old friend that just won’t talk to me about our friendship” (slight laugh) Well it’s not me that’s for sure! “No it’s not like that. We used to be really close! (another chuckle) Ha, maybe you forgot you owed him some money! No John, this is serious. I need your help in understanding it. (more light laughter) You know me , I’m an idiot when it comes to women! Getting the picture? It goes on and on and it is a technique really good salesmen use to put people at ease. Nothing happens then, but somehow, this laughing salesman convinces you he is your friend and you sign on the line. They have classes that teach you how to disarm people with the friendly laugh.

OK, now go to the next level. You have just finished listening to a very moving sermon that so affects you that you journal: “I was having such a great time thinking about my sins!” You were moved. The power of conviction overcame you and you knew it was true. You knew the man spoken of is most likely you. In this case, a man that enjoys his comfort and the knowledge that God has a special Lazy Boy chair waiting for him in Heaven. Serious reflection and thought. The room is silent. The man speaking asks if anyone has any questions. Jack thinks about the explosion in his heart. The deepness of the sin still running around in him that he thought was normal.

Suddenly, an experienced ‘salesman’ makes a joke with a chuckle! “hey pastor, did your wife write those slides for you? Chuckle chuckle.”Every one is familiar with this, including the pastor and his wife. It’s over. The intimacy with everyone in the room. The held breath of believers that just heard conviction and truth. It’s over. Time for lunch. The salesman has done his work and he doesn’t have to think about what was said either. Am I ready to die? Nah, chuckle chuckle. There’s a lot of time left in this old carcass..chuckle chuckle. It’s disarming and it’s deadly and it’s a complete waste of time.

Jack can only imagine what it will be like to meet Jesus face to face when his turn comes to face eternity that he knows so little about. Perhaps smiles and the laughter of dancing with his Savior. No chuckles, just love. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Wreck of the Old 97 II

It was the call of the foreman. In the middle of the night as well. There’s been a derailment down by Red Wing! Report to the section house with some clothes and get aboard a section car or drive down to the mainline. Dreary and dreading, Jack drove to what he knew would be days of making wages the hard way.

Not resurfacing, not replacing ties on a crossing but cutting and drawing out bent rails. Pulling out smashed ties from steel wheels ruining them and gathering the plates and pulled spikes from the roadbed. Working around the broken cars while the huge cranes lifted pieces of them up. Sometimes lifting just the trucks of axles and wheels with the open bearing boxes dripping greasy packing.

The engine is already righted and placed on the continuing track siding, ready again to work. Sort of. The cleaning of the cab (the engineer and conductor were just injured but their coffee and lunch and such usually don’t fare as well) and the testing of the motor and generators has yet to be done. ’roundhouse’ men are already swarming about the engine panels and spreading absorbent around. It might run.

All of this mess creating by a train going through an open switch the wrong direction. Sometimes a yard engine would push through a set of points on a switch not set for them and get away with it. Fully loaded trains at speed hitting an open switch backwards is another matter. Oh yes, the switch would have to be totally rebuilt. Hopefully the wrecking crews transport would have brought some fourteen foot ties and all the steel and switch parts. The ties were a ‘bit’ heavier and the foreman would have to direct us in the building and precise gauging.

Thinking back on those times. Meals at picnic tables set up in empty box cars, sleeping quarters about the same comfort level. Sometimes, Jack could drive his old 40 ford coupe to the job site and bring along his fiddle. At night, after a late supper, he could lean back on a chair on the end platform, feet up on the brake wheel and begin playing what he knew how to do. No one complained, it seemed to fit. A harmonica would have been OK too.

Lonely sounds like the late night steamers going around the big city. Blowing the steam whistle at every crossing. The letter of Morse code, Q, Long long short long. The last long drawn out and fading to a bit lower note. Only the steam engines could do that. When he was a child, half asleep, Jack would hear that lonely sound from the west side of the cities. It told him, “I am lonely. I know what it’s like” It went in deep to Jack’s memory. The trains still do it today. At all crossings. The electric air horns do not make the same sound however.

So the work was hard and dangerous and Jack made a little extra overtime pay. The food was not roast beef slices on Brioche buns but it filled. Jack’s fiddling got gradually better and the section crew was gracious for the sound and even the mistakes. It felt old time, out on the plains of the 1800’s perhaps with the very old boxcars. Sort of like the old 40 and 4’s of WWII vintage. 40 men or 4 horses capacity.

Same gauge tracks, same wooden ties, same spike malls. Bolts and fish plates and plates under the track. The old rails were 80 to 90 pounds, still found in older switch yards and piled near section buildings. 120 to 130 pound rails unless there was ribbon rail ¼ mile long to be dragged into place, wriggling like a worm.

Nowadays, Jack reminisces and as an analogy, sees his own life as a train wreck at times. Getting off the right rails and into disaster. Who runs the gauge and lays those tracks for Jack? What are the switch points for and what’s the point anyway? Jack was made to run well, run smooth and stay the course. It’s getting better now that Jesus is the engineer and lets Jack know when the derailment is possible or happening. He is the road-master and builder of it all. He wears the white hat of pure light and is trustworthy through it all. It’s pretty good. JackGator

What is the Difference?

It has been proposed that some things, some people actually, are so similar that no difference can be seen between them. For example: ‘what is the difference between Karl Marx and Charles Darwin?’

None. Neither of them believed in anything but what they could figure out on their own and they are both dead. Forever. Since neither of them took any time wondering about all creation and why they were included in it, they wasted the differences between them and everyone else. It was all speculation with a little bit of science and what could be manipulated such as objects of study or people. Same thing happened to them really. Dead end. Anything to deny creation.

A choice we all make when confronted with the obvious raw beauty of creation. We either bow down at the point where we see beauty can only be created by beauty. It’s not really in the eye of the beholder, it’s in the eye of the creator. Another moment of enlightenment of truth.

Jack has his favorite summer spot right in the middle of the Gator garden. It’s a round area and has dozens of Gladiolas and Zinnias with some Marigolds. There are other Perennials that Jack forgets the names of. Long stemmed beauties. The Glads take a bit of work which Jack enjoys. Staking and tying them to the stakes. Pulling off the dead flowers bottom up. The tricky part is cranking down the umbrella and tucking the Glads under or outside of it as it comes down. Jack ‘lost’ the previous umbrella to wind. It snapped at the pivot halfway up the post at night during a wind storm. Lesson learned. Grasp the wind and give it the bill for the umbrella.

So under the shade of the umbrella is a garden bench, a little worn from the weather which Jack has his water thermos, a few tools and on rare occasions, a book. It’s a good place to shelter from the sun when the summer gardening gets sweaty. Most often a place that Jack comes to immediately upon opening the garden gate. Actually, the main reason Jack hangs out at the center with it’s bench and flowers is for the gaze upon the fingerprints of the Lord. It feels good and Jack listens well and conversations begin.

Now that it’s labor day weekend and the tomato plants need aggressive trimming and harvesting, Jack needed a respite and suddenly he heard a hummingbird about. The birds usually are seen from another bench on the front porch. Two hummingbird feeders with bird mix of sugar and water. A pop stand for the birds.

However, this time it was in the Gladiolas and surprised Jack when it was a hummingbird moth. Buzzing and hovering over a flower in front of Jack’s delighted gaze. Usually seen or heard in the spring. Amazing creature with a similar beak and tongue outfit.

The thoughts of why was it there and where does it hang out at night? Why me, given the gift of seeing it a foot away in front of me? It’s impossible that this beautiful insect evolved at the same time as it’s food of flowers with their sweet nectar came into being. Similar to the bird and the honey bee. None of which could survive without the flowers. Especially the bees. Pollination and all that sort of thing besides food for the birds and moths.

Jack reads a lot and laughs at what he reads often. Dr. Suess and the National Geographic are fun to read. The latest from Scientific American was the speculation of the usual billions of years of evolution for all sorts of things that some scientist who was there took notes on. Nothing in that magazine Jack has read yet about the birds and the bees and the stunning beauty of the impossible coincidences. Jack knows how it happened and he doesn’t have a degree in scientific pontification to explain his opinions. Jack has a book that incredible as it may seem, gives the explanation in a few sentences of words at the very beginning of the book. Jack will loan you one if you wish to read it yourself! It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

A Heart Transplant

Jack, awakened from sleep by a lightning storm, rose and began typing this story. The story. We all have them. These days, fascination with heroes and villains and other’s stories given to us by actors and people we have never met, give us an excursion into a falsehood of story. Illusions of post modernism, to replace our own. Our own valid stories that get buried in entertainment and the latest gladiator. We are lost and adrift on a wave tossed sea, all the while believing in a screen writers fancy with words or a man that can do things we cannot. Adopting a cheap and false story that we believe we need.

Jack, fully awake now, remembers his story of adventure, loss, romance and treachery. It seems like a good plot for one of those movies. Instead of being prepared by strong men, Grandfathers and fathers, it was a familiar story now for many of the worlds lost children.

Jack’s last memory of his Grandpa was the man, lost in dementia, peeing on the living room curtains while Jack was in the basement, living in his mother’s inherited house. Fresh out of the 6th fleet. Now replacing the sounds of creaking metal and rushing waves with a washing machine and Grandpa’s old Chevy in the garage. No love lost either. An elder that should have taught Jack a carpenters trade. He didn’t know that was his life work, to love Jack.

Jack made his own way, creating his own stories of adventure. More akin to a brigand or a pirates desperate bid for value and purpose. Smuggling, guns and carefree use of narcotics without the age old, correct up bringing of being the village carpenter. Cabinetry and a small farm. Middle ages security and an inheritance for Jack’s children. A firm belief in the giver of life and the yearly cycle of Advent and celebrations of rescue from our Lord.

Rescue indeed. Jack’s heart had turned to stone when he was ten. His father had left and his mother’s lover had moved in. He was a Swedish immigrant and the reason his father left. There was a honeymoon planned and it was to be a trip to the old country across the sea. The plan was for Jack to stay at the Grandparent’s home in Golden Valley during the honeymoon. Jack came home from school and could not find Timothy, his beloved cat that slept with him. His mother came home and told Jack his Grandfather had killed the cat because it would not work for them when Jack stayed at their home. Jack began to ideate suicide, he learned how to tie a hangman’s noose. To firmly set that Stone heart, there was no honeymoon and the Step father stopped in Jack’s room one night and sat next to Jack on the bed, naked. Jack leaped up and ran out the outer door of his room to the garage. Screaming in fear and rage.

Jack’s heart was set on survival mode. There was no lighthouse on that stone. For seventy years. Last night as Jack prayed for direction for the next day, Jesus asked Jack if he would like to have a heart of flesh. Again, tossing and turning with the storm raging outside the house and inside Jack the promise of life started to take hold. The small changes Jack has been experiencing were now brought to light. Small cracks of that chosen stone revealed earlier that something was going on. The heart transplant was revealed and Jack wanted it to happen right away, that night. It was also given to Jack to begin the forgiveness of those two men. Not instantly but now the compass was seen and the course set. Next port of call, freedom from hatred and fear.

“He made me alive, when I was dead. He raised me up and seated me with Christ. It’s by His Grace that I am saved and it’s through faith, the very gift of God” (Justin Rizzo) Jack’s savior knows betrayal and forgiveness for men do not know what they are doing. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Joy of Music and Art

As it is, so shall it always be. Music, an indescribable and fleeting thing. The string is plucked, the drum
resonates, the bowed instrument plays one note that blesses the fleeting sound. One second it is there.
An eternal second, there is no time involved and the resonance goes into eternity and the joy flows
abounding within the players. So quickly the musicians are drawn away from the object of the music to
the playing of it. C.S. Lewis puts it well…”To be drawn away from the love of thing, he tells to fall in love
with the telling”.

There is nothing liken to music, perhaps draftsmanship or painting the light. Again, the romance of the
stunning scene to the love of creating the painting. Both the musician and the painter are vulnerable to
elevation of self. We do not realize the breaking of our admiration of our talents and contributing perhaps
one or two notes or a splash of sienna releases the joy and appreciative laughter of the hearing and seeing the Master of all of it.

Images of musicians with the anticipated music played on perfect instruments abound. Especially for ones
that have felt the joy and dance with a word sung or a set of notes played. Another image from Lewis: “If
one could just read the score of that heavenly music, they would never be ill nor grow old.”

So many years, so many bands and sitting in with other bands. Jack was consumed with applause. For
him. The pride of even placing in a fiddle contest would make Jack proud. Of himself. Jack is not as fast
these days (getting really close to 80 years old) and actually, that helps. There were so many
instrumentalists in Jack’s life and the attaining of blazing speed with difficult passages was the goal and
passion of so many. Just listen to bluegrass sometime. The song is over before you can even remember
the words. Nice music, don’t misinterpret Jack’s words here. Nice music and really nice people play
bluegrass. There were, unfortunately, some artists that would overplay and smirk at Jack’s slow waltz’ or

Emulating Bob Wills and his stunningly beautiful waltz’ was Jacks goal. He tried the Orange
Blossom Special when playing the bar circuit. Jack would not play it until the third set when the patrons
were drunk enough to enjoy Jack’s fiddling of that song.

Jack is now playing in the church..not A church, but THE church is Jack’s desire. A little mandolin to fill in the missing notes that Jack hears in his spirit. The mandolin is referred to as the violin’s ‘walking stick’. (The tuning is the same as the violin) Jack’s current worship leader mentions when the really high notes of
vibrato ring out, it makes him laugh inside. Good description of joy in worship.

Third position on the mandolin is a LOT easier than on the fiddle. It has frets. Those incredible stratospheric violin passages are pretty swell if your fingers are doing OK and you spend every day in the practice room. Since you were single digits old helps. Jack gets in awe when he hears those players. He wonders what they are thinking and feeling during those concertos.

So Jack needed applause to feel wanted and accepted. Now there is joy in worship when everything
makes a brief tapestry of beauty. Offered to Jesus with love and adoration. It’s the only thing that works
now. Applause may reflect how others in the room feel that too. It’s heart felt. The neat thing is that Jack now knows they are really applauding the beauty revealed of Jesus, the heart of everything. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Nonsense World

It indeed has become a nonsensical world. If one believes conspiracy theories, madmen have taken hold of things and places. They are getting pretty good press too. What sells papers and electronic news coupled with advertising triggered by usual paradigms of selective viewers. That in itself is kind of a giveaway sign. Jack has bought odd hats online and suddenly, when he clicks on the local weather, ads began blocking his view hawking hats, odd ones.

It seems logical we can be touched by electronic algorithms running on ones and zeros that make us distinctive targets. “What a coincidence! Just the Kromer hat I was looking for!” Logically taken, any news that we look at is an indication of interest and the feed tickles our mind with more and more.

The packages with the distinctive mark on them flow out of Jack’s favorite UPS drivers hands. Buy, buy. Stimulus investments in personal prosperity so that a country that we buy them from can own the national debt, put it into a derivative and sell it back. A Huan Ponzi scam that will topple like an overbuilt mile high tower of Babel. It will make an interesting sound. The growling stomachs.

Then there are the meaningless riots rolling around our wounded country. The rioters think they are massing for freedom and human dignity. That’s why it is nonsensical. Self righteous youth throwing bottles of fire, named after a Russian. Molotov, a communist that executed hundreds for ‘freedom.’

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!”A. Nonsense indeed. So much of it about a huge mistake that caused the death of a wanted criminal with a felony strewn life. You know what I mean. Protests can work, but the smashed windows and blackened walls of the neighborhood bodega brings the victory to a bad smell that lingers in the media. The spin in the papers also lingers.

“Another woman driver gets machine gunned from her seat and they’ll send a joker with a brownie and you’ll see it on TV” B. Sells advertising again. Get those swoop shoes and you can run from those batons! Or better yet, next time just break the windows and grab them, make certain to be a good shopper and get the right size! No returns or guarantees.

Then the geriatric crowd (Jack’s former commune comrades) is stunned into seeing the Jabberwock come flapping in, just like Suess’ birthday bird escaping censure for outing sneeches with stars on thars. Getting the picture yet? Nothing makes sense. Senator Lorax was sounding the alarm and now he is outed for telling the truth. We rewrite history and make certain that our past is now considered toxic. What can we do? Perhaps stand resolute for truth and beauty and not give scorn for foolishness.

There is power in the name of Jesus, ask Him. ‘How should we then live?’ the question for our day. How indeed. Be still and read the thin pages of His love letters over and over and find out how. Go the way of the world and be another hopeless, isolated and confused person. Press in, pray and find the peace that passes all understanding. Guiding us through the valley of the shadow of death. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

A: Lewis Carroll B. Frank Zappa C. Francis Schaeffer

The Origin Of Jack Gator’s Name

In the beginning (Jack’s favorite three words) Jack was enthralled with fiddle contests, playing in country swing bands and always admired excellent fiddlers. After all, in his middle twenties he lived in the neighborhood of ’40 acres of musicians’ He wrote a column on those times. It is available at the web site. Http://www It was published a few years ago in the Intercounty Leader.

There was such a panoply of musicians that Jack had the privilege to hang out and play with. Peter Ostrushko. Brian Wicklund, Craig Ruble, Pop Wagner, Mary Dushane to name a few! Mary wound up on the Prairie Home Companion. She played at Jack’s wedding along with Bill Hinkley, Kevin Mcmullin and Jack. We surrounded Julie in her gorgeous wedding gown and played Helsa Dem Hardemma, a Swedish waltz. What a heritage of being surrounded with music for years.

When Jack was living up north in Wisconsin, he began competing and judging in fiddle contests. When asked by the newspaper to come up with a photo, the only thing Jack could find was a drawing of a young alligator playing a fiddle. He was leaning back on his tail in the cartoon. The nickname of Mr. Gator stuck. Jack even had license plates proclaiming ‘MR GATOR’ Such fun silliness.

Much later a fellow writer (Jesse Selin) drew the Gator picture and then we had to come up with a first name. A masculine one with punch. Jack’s favorite author, C.S.Lewis was nicknamed Jack, and it fit.

Jack’s real name is Norman Eric Peterson. Sort of Scandinavian. Images of sandbakkels, fattigman, lefese an of course, barrels of lye filled with lutefisk come to mind. The cookies are hard to spell and hardly anyone knows about them. Local church basement cooks, however, know these things. These images are first to come to mind and don’t seem masculine (except for the lutefisk ocean crossing ordeal) Not that Norm is ashamed of Norway and Sweden’s images, there just isn’t that instant familiar image of Norm in most of us. Friendly and as a child, a bit rough and tumble. So, the name stuck and you, dear reader, are too. It also helps for the third person writing and as Jack says; “The names are changed to protect the guilty.”

So there you have it. Jack did indeed have a rough and tumble life with prison escapes, FBI encounters, Top Secret rank, Luftwaffe pilots, Russian surface missiles and facing down danger with it all. The name fits. (He does not own a battle axe.) He is Just a slightly dense Norwegian that is ready to sail to the new land. And risk his life to do so. Adventure seems to be a trait of Norwegians and Swedes. They like to work hard too.

Words and history combined with a lot of trauma. Jack likes to write to entertain, intrigue and show those narrow escapes. All of it happened due to shape a man able to witness the saving grace of Jesus. It’s pretty good, Jack Gator

Prejudice Against Jack’s Family

Enough is enough. There are a few relatives down south in Jack’s family line. Cousins/Uncles, the usual
smattering of odd balls and brilliant and creative ones. Usually the same ones in both categories. There is
always prejudice out there against professional gators. Folks just don’t understand how hard we work for
our food.

You know how it is. The relatives show up, sometimes moving in or acquiring a home in the area. A
family of distant relatives bought a 40 and is attempting to put in a meat factory to enhance their diet.
Who knows how that will turn out! Some people have been protesting against these ‘gators’ and it’s gotten a bit ugly.
One of Jack’s relatives was offered a bribe to put in a big swampy factory that made them just drool with
the possibilities of unlimited pork and ham hocks. Local folks again, didn’t want anything to do with this
operation. There is a clever acronym for this operation: Controlled Alligator Feeding Operation. CAFO

The folks that really like sushi-on-the -hoof were very enthusiastic and supportive. Even folks that are just
dabbling into larger lagoons of mass production are enthusiastic.

Of course, the inevitable protesters always show up when it’s plain the other producers of larger farm
products do not have ‘skin in the game’. They’re just paranoid that their operations will be restricted or
monitored for environmental issue violations.

The old game of ‘gator seniority’ comes into play a lot. You know how it goes. “My family has been here
in this beautiful swap for four generations! We know what we are about and we respect other gators
around us. After all, we don’t want all the land, just the land next to ours. No need to get snappy about it.
It’s the way it always has been for professional reptiles.

The recollection of all the kids down by the bank of the swamp practicing their ‘death rolls’ is so much fun
to watch. They constantly look to us up on the bank as we snack on somebody that showed up. Or is it
with somebody? It gets a bit dicey when you are a predator to toe the line of eat or be eaten. Neighbors
are nice to have and now and then, Gator appetites can be a bit of a problem. When your feeling a bit
hungry and just need a little something to satisfy you, it gets confusing. Territorial food chains and all

The rabbit family just downstream have been really nice neighbors. Really nice. The beavers next door
are very understanding with us and always avoid our family gatherings. Not pushy per se. Live and let
live we always say. Predators make good neighbors, ask the snapping turtle family across the river. Their
eggs are pretty good too.

So, to sum up, live and let live. Our territory is necessarily bigger, it’s only fair. We were here first.

Jack Gator

Quotes of Renown

How often is the Christian church no more than a self-centered community only faintly concerned that God’s will be done in the life of the world, only faintly interested in justice and mercy for this earth’s exploited messes, but passionately devoted to our own protection and advancement as a community and, if we are piously inclined, to assuring that after a comfortable passage through this life we can look forward to a guaranteed place in the foam-rubber-padded seats of heaven.

Lesslie Newbigin

Christ was crucified because he would have nothing to do with the crowd (even though he addressed himself to all). He did not want to form a party, an interest group, or a mass movement, but wanted to be what he was, the truth, which is related to the single individual. Therefore everyone who will genuinely serve the truth is by that very fact a martyr. To win a crowd is no art; for that only untruth is needed, nonsense, and a little knowledge of human passions. But no witness to the truth dares to get involved with the crowd.

… Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

We cover our deep ignorance with words, but we are ashamed to wonder, we are afraid to whisper “mystery.”

… A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), The Knowledge of the Holy, Harper & Row, 1975 p 26

Do not talk much; neither long at a time. Few can converse profitably above an hour. ‘Keep at the utmost distance from pious chitchat, from religious gossiping. John Westley

Above all, praying means to be accepting toward God who is always new, always different. For God is a deeply moved God whose heart is greater than mine. The open acceptance of prayer in the face of an ever-new God makes me free. In prayer, I am constantly on the way, on pilgrimage.

Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932-1996), With Open Hands, Ave Maria Press, 1981 p 69

Religion is divisive.” Yes, it is. But God is not. Religion is divisive when it becomes fanaticism, an insistence that we know all the answers, and that anybody whose answers are slightly different from ours must be wrong. Madeline D Engle

C.S. Lewis “I found that I had a prejudice against the French.” Warnie Lewis “How would that be?” Well, if I knew why, it wouldn’t be a prejudice, would it?”

C.S. Lewis: “I wouldn’t be the first ass that Christ has used and most probably not the last”“In a world of self-promoting academics, coining buzzwords and aligning themselves on the side of the angels of the moment, George Stigler epitomized a rare integrity as well as a rare intellect. He jumped on no bandwagons, beat no drums for causes, created no personal cult. He did the work of a scholar and a teacher—both superbly—and found that sufficient. If you wanted to learn, and above all if you wanted to learn how to think—how to avoid the vague words, fuzzy thoughts, or maudlin sentiments that cloud over reality—then Stigler was your man.”

Economist Thomas Sowell on Nobel prize winning George Stigler

Calling Jean-Paul Sartre: “Hello, is he free?” ‘he’s spent the last 60 years trying to work that one out’ Monty Pythons Flying Circus

“Explaining Metaphysics to the nation. I wish he would explain his explanation” Lord Byron in ‘Don Juan’

“The King James version or the authorized version as it was known. All subsequent translations seem to me to the verbal felicity of bureaucratic circulars” Theodore Dalrymple

“ Like a mornings cold spring, clinging to winter’s chill” J.R.R. Tolkien ‘the two towers’ Lord of the Rings.

These are some of the brilliant writings that I, Jack Gator, cling to and paraphrase in some weaker way to express myself. As my long gone mentor, another Jack, said: He owed a great debt to George MacDonald for his inspiration and his Muse. Not to plagiarize them, but to express their wisdom somehow with my own sentences and images. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator


There is a common malady that a great majority of us suffer from. Not fear although that can easily be a part of this condition. The lack of contact with others or the inability to actually help someone who suffers from loneliness. This malady is so common that the temptation to minister to another person who also suffers from it is a desire. Unfortunately, the easiest and worst approach is commonality.

“Oh, you too! I am so lonely at times as well. I usually draw out an exciting new novel by Reptile Ron and relax with a warm quilt and a cup of decaf. Might work for you too!” Just substitute an exciting and personal story for your lonely feelings, it was recommended by Readers Disgust!

We all have scars of loneliness. A quote from Henri J.M. Nouwen says a controversial thing about these scars. “The Christian way of life does not take away our loneliness; it protects and cherishes it as a precious gift” a. Nothing will be able to take it away. Vacations to exotic locales, incredible soirees, fame and fortune cannot fill that wound. The ministry to the wounded is done by a wounded person.

The ‘crack’ or visible wound in us is akin to the Grand Canyon. It seems ‘out of place’ and somewhat threatening and dangerous. There is incredible beauty in it as well. A rock climber can overcome fear and descend, roped in and perhaps discovering a precious jewel encased in the hard rock..’

The loneliness Jesus endured up to his seemingly impossible sacrifice is palpable. His best and dearest disciples were asked to stay with Him while He struggled with the biggest and most horrid event of His life. Up in the Mount of Olives was the sweating of blood and the trusted and loved ones were fast asleep. Abandoned and alone. Willing to obey, but knowing the abandonment to come would be the most horrific event in the universe.

It all comes down to the cross, doesn’t it. An old legend in the Jewish Talmud shows us the ministry to come. Rabbi Yoshua asks Elijah when will the Messiah come? Elijah replied, “Go and ask Him yourself” The incredible question of where the Messiah was is answered “sitting at the gates of the city” The Rabbi is told the Messiah is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The people unbind all their wounds and then bind them up again. The Messiah unbinds one of His wounds and binds it again. He realizes He will be needed and feels He must be ready with no delay.

His wounds, akin to precious jewels found in the destruction of His canyon, enable the poor in spirit to be healed as He shows us the wounds, unbound “Touch my nail pierced hands, put yours in my wounded side, Give me all your love because I’ve given you all of mine” b. The ultimate loneliness He endured gives him the ability to touch every lonely and wounded heart and bind it together with the wraps of total love.

It’s who we are, we fall asleep in our comfy chairs just when the ministering one tells us to awaken and become a New Life. Abandon the false gods of comfort and a life with peace of mind with no troubles and a life style that promises to be care free. Touch His nail pierced hands, maybe for the first time and feel the embrace that will take that wound of loneliness. Forever. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

a. Henri Nouwen ‘the wounded healer’ b. Jon Thurlow ‘I just want to know you better’

Tuning Forks

A fascinating device, the tuning fork. Jack has owned one for some time. It doesn’t get used anymore because electronic ones were invented that are a lot handier. The fork, however, has uses that are not possible with the electric styles. You possibly have had one of these forks shown to you. Hold it in your hand and give it a sharp rap on something that won’t be damaging. The tone rings out and you can put it on your mastoid bone to hear it quite clearly. You can set it on the pick guard of your string instrument and tune up with it (they come in various notes, so make a note of the note.) Just tighten or loosen an A string till the tones merge into one. No fair tuning to a fourth of A (D) it will sound a simple chord, but the string will be a bit worse for wear if it is above the D.

IF you have two forks, and they are the same tone, one will vibrate when the other is struck. Sympathetic tone response. It’s pretty cool. But, who has two tuning forks in A?

The call of other things in our lives can also resonate with us. Jack has noticed in a small crowd of people, that a certain word will ‘resonate’ in his mind and capture attention. Words such as: Fiddle or Mandolin. We all know this well. How many times have all of us heard our first name across a room and instinctively turned towards the sound? The faint sound of a voice calling you to dinner (noon lunch for those who need clarification). Resonance is a good word to explain this phenomenon. Perhaps it is now time to introduce the next phenomenon of this fascinating ‘tune’. There are friends and then there are neighbors who can also be friends. A common problem to those among us that want to be a friend for everyone. They wind up unable to be close to anybody.

A person that is the closest friend of all is another step into friendship. Proximus is the descriptive word for best friend. It derives from middle French but the original Latin basic means ‘closest’ or ‘nearest’. A neat word which branches into proximity. So Bear with Jack a bit longer, words are powerful.

The best tuning fork that resonates is the one that is the sum of you. The common phrase is: “I feel like I’ve known him all my life!” Often Jack meets a total stranger that Jack knows has met his Proximus. It really is a common experience if you can ‘tune yourself’ to be aware of it. Several moments where that really stood out are some of Jack’s favorite short stories. A helping guide in a monster sized warehouse that took time to show Jack where something was. Not an employee. A woman that waited for Jack in her car that she had just run into Jack’s car in a parking lot. Many such encounters have occurred, those are just two that are easier to write about.

People that Jack has said five words to: “You’re a Christian aren’t you?” It is encouraging and it is obvious if your tuning fork is ringing true. Brothers in Christ carry that. Don’t be afraid to say it. You’ll know if you listen for that sound. The sound of light, the sound stars sing around the throne. Often the sound that indeed is light. It’s all frequencies on the wavelength of eternity. Listen, it’s for you. Love has a sound of it’s own and it’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Evers Walz at the Governor’s Ball

A dance tune that has taken the Midwest by storm has the full endorsement of Washington politicians who have been Biden their time for this musical comedy.

Written by a relatively unknown fiddler in Wisconsin, it has up to now been performed in Madison and St.Paul. The melody starts with a very fast arpeggio which quickly settles in for a downward movement from the right side of the fingerboard to the left (high notes to increasingly low ones)

Accompaniment in the score recommends counter melodies to be played on the bass buffoon with introduction of the passage by left hand pizzicato on the 2 ½ bass. Oddly enough, it was first performed in a closed pizza parlor in Northern Minnesota during a medical theater production in 2020. It was so controversial that the government ordered the restaurant closed along with every restaurant in the state.

Immediately, in support of the closings, the neighboring state of Wisconsin also closed public dining. It caused quite a stir among the populace. There were fines enforced by an attorney general who’s religion forbids the consumption of alcoholic drinks. It was in the first act of the medical theater which began in Washington D.C.

The dance continues to this day and the dancers are soon to leave the stage for ignominy with bad reviews.

It seems that these political satraps are also stirring the ire of the populace that are refusing the continuation of the influence of inept back peddling of the accompanying dancers.

Near the end of the comedy (which really wasn’t funny at all) the main dancers attempted to dance backwards to begin the dance again. The audiences at these nationwide productions began booing and even throwing things at the dancers. The debris began to build and not a few of the performers began to trip and go completely off script in attempting to save the performances.

It did not go well for those shows. They complained that the awkwardness’ and disgust generated were just false impressions of this comic opera. Trumped up and not noteworthy.

History has a way of repeating bad productions which are still seen on the world’s stage today. This reviewer advises to be diligent and read the scores of these dances. Variations of the parody (which began as a musical comedy) have been taken seriously by bad dancers who still believe in awkward, dangerous and foolish moves. There can be consequences to keep buying tickets to these operas. Read the sheet music and know the score.

It’s pretty good to do so. Jack Gator

Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus

A Roman citizen who exemplified rule for the greater good, Civic Modesty, Virtue and Humility. Several times he controlled the Roman Empire and led it to a succesful fulfillment of long term vision and intelligent use of resources and strength. He lived around500 BC. After ruling the empire several times and putting back on track of civilization (Ending the reliance upon the state) he retired and went back to his small farm.

Very much akin to our own George Washington who made certain that our nation stood by the constitution, after this was accomplished he also went back to his farm (voluntarily retirement) in Mount Vernon.

The obvious problem then, and now, is the outlook of time. Quick satisfaction of desire or long term growth and security. We are faced with this decision now in our nation. Is it growth in essential ways? Or do we wish for the things and ways that seem to satisfy our now?

Quick fix and keeping the populace settled (somewhat) and the offering of government supply and direction. Also a lot of ‘fake news’ to stir the pot of desire. We have all seen the anxiety in our neighbors for things that are not long term goals but in perceived wealth and safety (perceived). Jack will not pontificate of these things. They are simple things and easily seen, if we desire honesty and use the intelligence we have been given.

Stimulus cash that is dolled out to make us believe in a benign economy, entertaining conflict on the airwaves or through fibre optic high speed computers. Jack’s desktop is pages long every morning of answers to satisfying images. A new electric powered car (with a power grid able to keep them charged?) Lowering the price of gasoline by a dime by releasing two days worth of national emergency oil.

How about getting another and another shot of security which is akin to the finger in the dike by a small vision that promises and cannot deliver. Backed up of course by fear mongering. ‘Bring out your dead’ It will probably be you. Keep those shields up Scotty! Isolate and tremble. Your saviors in the capitol will let you know when it is safe. Life is not safe, never was. Again, as C.S. Lewis penned it so brilliantly about our Lord: “Is He safe? Of course not, He’s a lion..but He’s good”

It would seem quite a few people are getting aware that it isn’t safe out there. After all, we rely on lines of paint to keep us from deadly forces of impact. Does that seem safe? If I wear a paper mask that does not allow me to breath or see, I will be safe against people. “Buy this one! It fits perfectly!” (unless it isn’t needed) We are in a hurry to pick up that deal, that stimulus check. Survival food and enough ammunition to fight off ‘those people’

Gold and silver bars and coins to trade for your miserable, isolated and fear filled life. Cincinnatus and George Washington knew a lot of these things and with their virtue and honesty, helped us out of our situation.

We need that sort of attitude today. Modesty and the greater good visions. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator


It’s an incredible photo from a walk close to Gator’s homestead. It prompts another deep region, even a place unnamed, and familiar. A perfect photo by Gator’s son of an Eagle, flying overhead and a gasp of purpose and life as viewed when Soren showed Jack the photo. The eagle had a glint in his eye and his claws were tucked in back, out of the air-stream. ‘Rotation, gear up’ A slight flash of light on his incredible beak and Gator shivered contemplating this aviator with talons and sharp, piercing beak. Danger close.

It was flying into the wind, looking down. The intense stare at the camera and us, it told a story. A tale of life lived as a predator from the sky, silent and flying with irresistible death from above. No escape. No way to reason with the eagle. Can you envision a small animal, with a white flag waving desperately?

Gator thought back to the fighters he saw launch from an aircraft carrier about 300 feet away. On the port side of his ship, a huge fleet Oiler that was Steaming at flank speed. Barely able to stay with the carrier. The oiler’s huge screws, making the aft mess deck thunder and shake. As it must do, the carrier had to maintain wind over the flight deck to help those fighters get airborne. The flight deck blast door up, engine at full, burning gallons of JP4 per second and suddenly, the fighter leaped down the deck, dropped a little off the bow and already had gear up and climbing. Awe inspiring at night ops.

Steam swirling around the channel from the catapult, and the power heard of the fighter still climbing to watch over the battle group. Combat Air Patrol, CAP. Just like the eagle, deadly talons and loaded and armed. Looking for anything within range, anything moving where the fighter was, something that an enemies weapons radar would detect and cause terror for them. Now a target. A Tomcat fighter, armed with a tactical nuke, just in case it got ugly. A little vaporization reaches everybody.

Later that night, the enemy came near off the starboard and lit up Gators ship and quickly dropped It’s missiles midship, right at Gator. He was on deck, headed aft for mid-rats. It didn’t look promising. Gators ship had 8 million gallons of various fuel in it’s huge belly, a tanker with puny three inch gun turrets on the bow and stern. The strong image of a flaming, roaring death with the sea covered with burning bunker oil. Basic training coming to mind on how to impossibly swim beneath the flames.

It wasn’t a movie. Gator could see the 02 or 03 level on the enemy ship, it’s radar turning around and around and the spotlight from it still steady on our bridge, blinding our helmsman and the combat information bridge, just above (CIC). Those missiles dropped from vertical incredibly fast with the sound of a hammer being cocked on a very large pistol.

Suddenly, the missiles went back vertical and the cruiser sharply veered off and disappeared into the dark sea at full speed. The Tomcat was there with the battle group, flying overhead, painting the enemy cruiser with it’s radar. Dropping out of the sky at almost Mach 1 and It had and prepared it’s talons.

Gator was still alone on the long deck, still poised to go get a midnight rations (midrats). Suddenly Jack had lost his appetite for anything available, good or bad. A narrow victory for the big fat slow tanker with friends in high places. The fear felt is still sharply felt after five decades. It was Just a bit more scary than a man with ill intent, coming it at you. Terrifying is the word.

There is a bit of prose that Mrs.Gator remembers while Gator writes this memoir: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint” Old truth, timeless and steady.

It’s very good news to everyone that understands the book of promise and freedom. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator