Prayer in the Big City hospital

The intrigue of the new name, written on a white stone. The only name for you, one of a kind and a blossom in the garden of the Lord. From the beginning of time made to blossom for Him.

As the pattern and majesty of the mighty oak is placed within the acorn, so is our life given as each one of us is created unique, a perfect fit for us and seen at times on this side of eternity.

Brief glimpses of His heart which can overwhelm and bring us to our knees. Sometimes to the floor. There is a gift given which is the most precious stone indeed. Only revealed on that day we see the beams of light coming from Him as he smiles and blesses us. As the light flows from His beauty, it penetrates our heart, our spirit. The revelation of Christ indeed.

There is a hospital, that a fellow writer Eddie, Norm had recently met at the library was recovering. In hospital as the odd phrase goes. Much akin to a sailor that says “what ship did you serve in?” Conveying a mutual experience. As most of us, being in hospital after a dangerous ‘procedure’ we become very aware of our frail body and also are anxious to be seen alive and belonging. Ed was pleased to see a recent friend show up.

Eddie had just come under the knife to save his life. A removal of a growing thing that did not belong inside of him. As he laid in the bed, Norm was allowed to come in and see him with deeper sight. Eddie also saw with new eyes. A caring visit from afar just for him. The visit that was as others given to Norm, Irresistible and also fulfilling in ways not yet known. Prayer for a powerful healing was given and well received.

After the smiles and reassurances, it was time to leave with the promise of return firmly known. When Norm left that room, he noticed a tall man walking slowly by in the hallway. One of those endless hallways with perspective ahead. Walls extending a long way. Surprised at the instant inner voice to walk and pray with him.

Immediately, Norm asked the walking man if it was OK to walk with him. Surprised and visibly pleased that a stranger would walk slowly beside him, the man nodded yes and they walked ahead.

He told Norm that his doctor told him to walk in a large path every day around the floor of his room. Stairways were not on the menu. Norm slowed down and walked. He has gotten used to doing these types of things, not denying that small voice within him. Too many times, Norm has balked at doing such a simple task asked of him. He has the last name of Peters Son and rejecting his lord three times seems genetic.

Norm asked a few polite questions and they began chatting about what was around them and then why the young man was there. Truth exchanged between two strangers by an arrangement of the Lord. Fear revealed and spoken of. It took a while to get to the turning of the corridor. Norm said he had to go to the right and had to find the place he had parked. He then asked if he could put his hand on his shoulder and pray for him. A prayer of immediacy and details were given to this wounded young man that Norm remembers had large hoop earrings. “Well, I must go” Jack blessed him and thanked Jesus with the last words of prayer.

Astonished, the man said: “Are you an Angel?”…. Jack smiled and said “No but I was told to pray for you” Norm eventually found his car, the joy of fulfilling two men’s need for prayer overcame him. A gift given Norm to listen and pray what he hears. Silence and listening without thinking right away what to say back. A recent lesson learned from reading a Henri Nouwen book, “It is a restful heart that will attract those who are groping to find their way through life”a.

It was a delightful day of prayer. Just show up and listen. As the old Story of the desert fathers is written; “The Messiah lied to me, he said He was coming today and He has not shown up! Ah replied the Rabbi, “He didn’t say He was coming, He said listen”

It’s pretty good, Jack Gator

a. The way of the heart Henri Nouwen 1981

Relaxing at the Trade Lake bridge

It was a late spring day, filled with promise and delivering most of it. Warm, almost hot, with a great number of plants in the garden and clear sky’s except for the wildfires in Canada depositing the smoke above. A bit hazy but not oppressive. You can get a sunburn if your not careful!

The snow peas are coming up now and a lot of stuff is in the ground. Raspberry bushes putting out tiny flowers and asparagus is pouring out of the ground. Weed whipping and mowing around the house and property being taken care of by our son. Now he and his good buddy, Zeke, are now splitting big rounds of wood for the woodshed. The 30 ton hydraulic splitter is now working vertical and it’s kinda noisy. The boys have on ear protection and it’s time to go fishing for some relaxation in the calm waters under the Trade lake bridge.

We put all the gear in the old Ranger bed and drive down about a half mile to the bridge. All of our new friends on the North shore are getting ready for bed in the twin cities. We get to the bridge and there is already a guy fishing on the east side of the bridge. He hooks a small sunfish just as a bass boat appears going east and the fish tangles a bit on the bow of the boat. He just caught a boat and the fish! Amazingly, the line untangles, the fish comes up and the boats pilot apologizes for the event. Sort of the area word of OPE, rhymes with soap. We all do it, mostly at Walmart when carts are on a collision path. Accompanied by ‘Sorry’ Try it, you’ll see.

The boat had a 225 HP engine on the transom, spitting cooling water out in a neat stream towards the starboard. Going nice and slow through the channel between Big and Little Trade lakes. Good helmsman.

Only sound around. Nice and peaceful. Norm spreads out the seat of the canvas campfire chair, puts his feet up on the bottom rail and can see Julie’s bobber just at the edge of the Lilly pads on the north side of the channel.

Perfect cast. Ahh, this is more like it! It’s Monday and there is no traffic coming by and the motor craft are away, idling into little Trade.

A loud small gas engine breaks the silence. It is a Cabin owner spraying off their dock. Lots of water causing small ripples in the channel and it is loud. Oh well, probably left overs from storage on shore. It will end soon.

The operator continues until we leave a half an hour later or so. Her husband drives up in a 4 wheeler and asks her if she got the sides and underneath parts of the dock.

The humor gets Norm’s attention. Quiet time at the lake indeed. The older guy on the other side of the bridge could care less. When Norm congratulated him on catching a bass boat AND a fish, he didn’t hear a word. Probably the power washer noise. He was preoccupied anyway and not smiling at the unusual catch of his. The bluegill was pretty small and not a keeper. Norm would have quickly tossed the fish into the bass boat as payment for a prize for being a good sport.

That catch and release was worth the trip alone, even though Julie didn’t catch anything but the early green ublick that appeared a bit early in the year. It was good to drive back home to peace and quiet and water the new snow peas and let the cats in the house. Another day in the paradise of near the lake living. It’s pretty good. Jack

Unexpected Death

One of those jobs to clean up the closing of a lifetime. It was a gardening day and the weather was pretty good except for the mosquitoes and expected tick removals. A bit of weed removal with the swell DeWalt battery powered weed whacker with four .40 ‘strings’ on the business end. Culvert, dandelions in the garden. Usual mess of doing things the lawnmowers cannot do. Tipped the business end just so to utterly destroy the pokey plants and the dandelions.

The time to do that ‘ delayed ‘ chore on the township road up ¼ mile from the mailbox. Remove the old sign for the shop. The really nice one put in when the boys were young and the sign bright and visible. A sign maker that was a good friend and put up with a sticker from the county on the back that made it official, just far enough from the private field and close enough to the road to be legal.

The sign said ‘FINE TUNING’ with an arrow pointing south to the driveway. Visible from the west as the county road curved north. It was big enough to be seen from the other direction if you were looking for it.

It was a beauty decades ago. Now the wind and weather had taken their toll. Part of it was torn and the words and arrow sort of visible.

The shop had been closed less than a year ago when their adopted son slowed down work in it enough to financially shut it down. Excuses flowed even from Norm about technology difficulties in the automotive field. Financial updates, recession in the country. Excuses. Their son lost interest and the cash flow was less than a good job as a machinist in the local business only ten miles away.

Norm ran the shop mostly by himself since the late 70’s and it was enough for their small family to survive on.Their ‘son’ ran it for years after Norm had a period of seizures and was aging somewhat into his 70’s,

Big jobs, as before were the meat and potatoes of income. Engine rebuilding, fuel tanks and the reputation of Norm’s shop was electronic diagnosis and repair. When Norm began the business he, as a ham radio guy, was not afraid of wires and electronics. The business grew and after a while, Norm doubled the building size. The old wood stove was replaced with modern waste oil furnaces and the sliding wood doors upgraded to real ones with openers. Things like that. The electronic tools increased and technology did too. Check engine lights came on.

The reputation of shop was solid and drew customers by word of mouth without much of an advertising budget.

It was closed and their son was getting ready to move away to a different life with his new wife. They left and took everything that was his contribution to the repair tools. Even light bulbs with the new Led brightness.

The big Bumper to Bumper lighted sign on the front is still there but the fluorescent lights have long been out.

The parking lot started emptying out of dead big jobs and the land line was canceled after a brief message of the shop going out of business. The shop is still warm and many tools are still there. The youngest son and Norm still work on the family machinery and there are no more tow trucks arriving at night with emergency vehicle repairs (that have not been running for a year or so.)

Norm unbolted the road sign after gardening and put the battered pieces in the truck bed. He then drove up to the local big dairy tourist shop for a bottle of port wine. Norm could not get out of the truck. The Minnesota license plates kept rolling in and rolling out with ice cream cones and fresh cheese curds in hand. He could not get out of the truck. It felt like he was driving a hearse and there was a body in the truck bed. More than the phone goodbye message, more than the big empty parking lot, more than the absence of their son and his wife. The loss and the finality fell inside of Norm and the death of Fine Tuning was final. Take the sign to the metal scrapyard next week and the burial would be done with. Some tears inside the old Ford Ranger and the tourists came and went. After a time of mourning it was time to move on and get things done at the dairy. A few pleasant words with the wine tasting gal (first time she was there this year) a sip of good wine from her and a bottle of port she knew was on the shelf, it was time to head home. The spring tourists snapped up the fresh cheese curds already.

The body in the bed was now quiet and the familiar farms and homes on the country road were seen as stable and somewhat unchanged. A few new names on the mailboxes here and there. The same one with the front door blocked by missing stairs. Home again for the Friday Shabatt and the sign, dead in the truck bed, acknowledged by Julie and she understood Norm’s sudden grief. The morels, asparagus the good port were delicious. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Bicycle Built for Two


It’s a good friendship. An E4 and an O6. That’s a Petty Officer third class and a Captain. They were

also neighbors. Norm and Pastor Russ. Neighbors that met riding bicycles on passable blacktop roads. Russ lived about a mile and a half away from Norm and once in a while, they would go for a ‘spin’. There was another huge difference between them as Russ was a category 2 racer and Norm just liked to ride.

One unremarkable day, Russ was riding alone and met a very pretty and friendly bicycle rider. She was riding nearby and as Russ was married to Debra and a pastor, he was safe to ride with for a bit.

Not long afterwards, he mentioned to Norm about this gal. “She runs a lakeside camp nearby, it’s called Whispering Pines. Pretty good cyclist too!” Norm, as a usual bachelor, was intrigued. He knew where the camp was and began thinking about Russ’s discovery. Just by ‘chance’ a real woman with a job! Obviously fit. Russ said she was ‘pretty’ He strongly considered calling the camp. Why not?

Meanwhile, the bicycle riding gal, Julie, was out in Washington state at a conference. She was at a local bar near the Canadian border and the bartender, Margaret, was gregarious and asked Julie where she was from. Julie told her where the she was from and the bartender, casually wiping down the bar said, “where in Trade Lake do you live?” What! No one knows that dinky little township! Margaret replied, “My grandparents lived in Trade Lake” They had a few things to talk about then. Margaret, incredibly enough, was an old friend of Norm’s and gave Julie his phone number. Julie put it in her wallet and when she returned to Whispering pines, tossed that piece of paper into a drawer in her office. A wooden holding device to eventually have it’s contents put into a round holding device standing on the floor nearby—the trash.

On a particularly perfect day for cycling, Norm decided to call the camp and asked for the director. He gave his name and mentioned his friend Russ He also stated that he and Russ rode a lot together and asked if Julie would like to ride sometime. “It’s that Guy! The friend of that bartender way out west!” Julie consulted the head cook who was her entrusted friend. “why not? Sounds safe, a pastors friend”

So Julie told Norm OK, and he, being mostly clueless but aware that neutral territory was not her place nor his. He suggested they ride their bicycles towards one another on county road M and they could meet that way. Norm saw Julie coming towards him, uphill and riding strong. He waited for her, watching her technique. Pretty good climber. They did a short 50 mile ride and Norm asked her out to eat afterwards. Little Mexico,a great local restaurant with homemade guacamole and chips. Good Mexican beer too. Julie’s cook said: “why not?” And so she went. This time Norm drove his Volvo.

The dear cook had some chocolate cake for their dessert when Norm dropped Julie off. Many enjoyable rides later, some of them with pastor Russ, that this whole thing was a put-up job.

Sometime later when Norm’s old friend, Margaret, the bartender, got in touch. Norm told her the delightful sequence and then she added one more fact. The exact place on County road M where Norm and Julie met, was right at the driveway where Margaret’s Grandparent’s had lived. As the story has been told many times, Norm always says; gosh, what a coincidence! God’s handiwork.

Julie continued managing the camp until another director was chosen for the job. She moved in to Norm’s farm and they played house for a time. They also began working at 7 pines lodge nearby. Fresh caught brook trout. Also a mystery dinner. All the guests became suspects in the mystery murder and Norm and Julie played the hosts. Of course. Out of the blue at home, Julie proposed to Norm and it seemed to make a lot of sense to them both.

They were married and the wedding was a fabulous affair. The square dance band that Norm played in (Duck for the Oyster} came to help with the music as well as Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson. Their wedding was at 7 pines. It was also known as the resort that US presidents went fly fishing at. A Real log lodge with a stream house that straddled the trout stream. It was Norm and Julies wedding night at the stream house. The running water made bathroom breaks occur often. It was worth it.

Norm’s mom drove up in her Buick convertible to attend. She almost left in the beginning of the ceremony with the excuse that her dog needed her at home. She stayed. It was obvious that something was going on with her mind. Dementia. Her dad had the same issue and died not long afterwards of the onset. Mom was still living in her third home in Bryn Mawr Minneapolis.

After a few years went by and their two children were growing and Norm and Julie’s farmhouse was rebuilt to double it’s original size. (right before Bjorn, their first born arrived) Norm’s Mom agreed to help finance the huge mound system that was needed for the ‘upgrade’ to their home.

Norm’s mother was fading and Norm drove down at least every week to help her out. Managing the bills and looking after things. Not too long afterwards , they moved Mom up to their area into a nursing home. Julie had an old pastor friend agree to come up to talk to Norm’s Mom. She died that night and pastor Barry came up anyway and spent hours with Norm at the kitchen table. “Mere Christianity” was referred to a lot and Norm brought up other religions and his early family attendance at a Christian Science church in Minneapolis. “What about you? What do you think about all this?” It was a very important Question. Norm had a bit the think about.

Barry’s church, a Congregational one, agreed to do the funeral with a meal and even light a candle every Sunday for a week or two. No charge.

Soon thereafter, Norm had a life changing experience at Russ’ church (Russ was in the Navy as a chaplain then). A Christmas cantata was offered and Norm reluctantly said he would go. Of course, Bjorn in his Jammies, was up on the choirs risers jut before the concert! The Holy spirit overcame Norm as the choir was singing ‘Mary did you know’. A man in the choir began reciting the words of the song and those words changed Norm’ Life. “It’s all true! He is creator of all things. Somebody had to do it! Random evolution never made sense anyway! Pastor Barry says He loves me!”

Their marriage began to grow a bit then as Julie was already a believer in Jesus. It was good news to her as well. Sometimes that story still brings tears to Norm. You know the feeling. Words began to fall short and it’s hard to speak them without the tears.

The whole family began attending Pastor Barry’s church near Amery but with the two boys, it was hard to go 80 miles round trip every Sunday. There was a ministry even further away at Lake Elmo, it was an automotive repair ministry (God’s grease monkeys) and Norm continued to be a volunteer there. His Volvo was filled with food while he was working and it was pretty good. At a sweet corn feed at a local church, Norm and Julie met Pastor Roger Inoway and the relation with Grace Baptist began.

The family began attending Grace Baptist in Grantsburg and eventually they started a successful food ministry there. The monthly event was named Feed My Sheep. It was coupled with the automotive ministry. Grace Garage. The food ministry was a bright spot for Norm and Julie as they got to minister and pray for the people waiting in an adjacent room. They were waiting to be called to get in line for the food distribution. People still comment to the two of them about those prayers and some healing that occurred.

News came that the camp, Whispering Pines was in need of a temporary manager while it was up for sale. Julie and Norm stepped into that position and soon after, two pastors showed up on motorcycles at the camp. They expressed interest in buying it! Perfect. Keep the camp Christian owned and run. A good vision for certain.

There was a quick transition to those pastors church with the blessing of the Grantsburg leadership. Back south of Highway 8 again! The family fit in well and eventually became the worship team there. They were licensed as Pastors but weren’t installed. When the two Pastors they were hoping would buy the camp didn’t. The camp was sold to a real estate developer and after a neighborhood fight about loosing the beautiful Methodist camp to a developer, it was developed into high end lake homes (½ mile of lake shore went with the camp) It was time to find a church closer to home and after dreaming together about their next move, both Norm and Julie got the same named local pastor. The church seemed appropriate and it is only a few miles away. You may have noticed that a lot of what is called ‘Church Hopping’ occurred for them. It wasn’t that at all. It was Church Hoping and being led by the Lord. About five years at each house of worship was average.

It’s a hard life at times and the whole family had many challenges from both Norm and Julies pasts. They are still together and praising the Lord and his way of loving them. Our Lord does not have a plan. He is plan. Now they listen to Him and they follow His Words. The Lord speaks quietly and they are getting better at listening.

They sang and played songs to Him and about Him, writing a few of those songs as well. It’s better than the bar band, and Norm is not even required to wear a cowboy hat. They did move church again to a refurbished bar that Norm played with the country western band. It is now a new life about 30 miles away. Norm occasionally plays Viola and the Mandolin there. He does wear his faith on his sleeve however. This story catches a bit of attention to unbelievers. It still catches Norm and Julies attention around May 23rd as well. Their anniversary day.

Lately they have become associated with a mega church about 50 miles away BUT have a viewing satellite church in Grantsburg that streams in the services. There is a call from their leadership to be on a prayer team at the main church campus for Norm right now. Who can tell the leading of the Lord? Jesus guides as he provides and that is challenging and exciting too.

It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Quotes of Wisdom

I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted paychecks.

Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

I just discovered the purpose of shinbones: They’re devices for finding furniture in a dark room.

I’m never sure what to do with my eyes when I’m at the dentist. Do I close them? Do I stare at his face? Do I look at the ceiling? What’s the proper etiquette here?

I have all the money I’ll ever need – if I die by 4:00 p.m. Today.

Google Maps really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

You can go anywhere you want if you look serious and carry a clipboard.

To err is human. To arr is pirate.

I feel like getting something done today, so I’m just going to sit here until that feeling passes…

Tip of the week: When going through airport customs and the TSA agent asks, “Do you have any firearms with you?” do not reply, “What do you need?”

I just read a list titled “100 Things to Do Before You Die.” I’m pretty surprised “Yell for help” wasn’t one of them.

when a fly or small bug lands on your computer screen, has your first reaction ever been to try and scare it with the cursor?

People think I’m too patronizing (that means I treat them as if they’re stupid).

“Dammit I’m mad” is spelled the same way backwards. Think about it

My wife just told me that her birthday is tomorrow. Wow, like maybe more of a heads-up next time.

Son: “Dad, there’s a monster in my room, can I sleep in here?” Dad: Look, it’s you he’s after, why make it my problem too?

2020: We aren’t allowed to go out in public. 2023: We can’t afford to go out in public.

George MacDonald: “All that is not God is death”

Dostoevsky: “Tolerance will reach such a level that intelligent people will be banned from thinking so as not to offend the imbeciles”

Maps and Destinations

There were two rebellious mid twenties men. Just out of the military and eager to break out of their mediocre lives and go reaching for meaning, adventures. The usual. It’s in a previous story of the ‘Motorcycle Pilgrimage’ series one through six at the website:

Just two reliable, strong, determined young men traveling across this wondrous country they had just finished defending against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Norm did not know that the domestic enemies would be soon in control. Some of us with any classical education and moral knowledge are aware of our human condition. We follow our wicked hearts and believe they are right and true. Same old game of ‘new’ ideology. Interesting how the core of that word translates really well from the Russian word; Idiot.

The boys had to find a way to San Francisco and in those days there was no Alexa, Map quest or cell phones. Paper maps, usually free in friendly gas stations were the guides. They had heard of Route 66 and that was the path they traveled. The maps helped a great deal as they got sidetracked now and then with ‘short cuts’ that weren’t.

This is all well and good and not the real subject of this column. It’s just a lead in to the real focus of Norm’s mind. Of what use is a map, a good one? How does it help us attain a destination or better yet, an achievement at the edge of the map? Memory savants can memorize the entire map in a second or two but that isn’t the point. Arrival, fulfillment, are these destinations? Of course not on the map as promised by our minds.

Their destination was freedom, fellowship, worth and enjoyment of life itself. The map said San Francisco. “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair” went the song sung by Scott MacKenzie. It was number ten on Billboard and everyone knew it and the sentiment. Destination for the true believers of freedom. 1967, the summer of love. It wasn’t but that’s not the subject of this column either. Maps can be volumes in a book too.

If we have a really good book, the best book about anybody. An autobiography written by a new friend Would we know them? Would Norm know about Julie? Facts certainly but knowing someone is only done with intimate relationship. Talking, looking, asking and conversations. The heart of the person that is in print is not felt by us. Nearness, face to face and honesty are keys to knowing a wife, a friend and the object of a map of some kind. A complex map, a map drawn by the lover of our souls.

Being a scholar of scripture can be wonderful but it only goes as far as the map and imaginations can go.

Asking brilliant questions and getting answers from other seekers of Jesus. His wonders, His appearances and guidance are spoken of and the most brilliant teachers are eagerly embraced and listened to. It’s still not enough.

But..when you have studied this map and followed it to the end a decision must occur. Listen and focus on Him and Him alone. Pray for His presence in your heart. Do not invent pious sounding prayers and expound on your extensive knowledge to script your thoughts. Embrace Him with all your heart and just be quiet without expectations or images. Pray for His spirit to be seen by you as it has been there within you when you have asked for it.

Open up your heart and receive, the beauty and love that you believe. This is the promise of Faith and it is the very gift of God. He will put the robe upon your back and ring upon your finger. He is the lover of your soul, created at the beginning of time. Yours and yours alone for such a time as this. You are embraced. Look up the prodigal son, It’s me, it’s you. We are all in that parable and story. We don’t deserve what we are offered by Jesus. We might have the problem that the older son has. That’s another column.

The navigator has indeed been correct and the map is good and true. The Helmsman has followed the stars, compass and the sextant and the destination comes into view. Just over the horizon is landfall and joy breaks forth within. Now reality firms up and studying is over, conversation and excitement now occurs that’s right and true.

The harbor pilot comes aboard and it’s time to put aside the maps and charts. Prayer becomes intimate conversation and when it’s time, then comes the liberty boat to take you across the bar and home. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Welcomed Well Dressed Visitors

The Volvo came to a stop right in front of the shop doors. It was early in the afternoon and Norm had just changed into clean work clothes. The Volvo looked familiar and two men stepped out and began walking down the cement sidewalk towards Norm at the door. They were, perhaps, looking for a quick visit. Possibly to have work done on their car.

Norm felt good at his hospitality and genuine welcome to the two strangers. Well dressed and with a briefcase. His First thought was insurance adjusters from a many months ago traffic accident. Better yet, the knowledge that this might be astonishing to emissaries or missionaries from the local Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Norm asked them in with a smile and showed them the handy seat for changing boots and asked them if they could like to come in and if they would like to take their shoes off in the entryway. They did so and Norm went into the parlor and sat on the couch. He beckoned them to have a seat and swung around his desk chair and scooted up the rocking chair a bit closer to the warm wood stove. They felt welcome and they sat down. The fellow with the briefcase pulled out a Bible and asked Norm if he read it.

The answer to the Bible question was that Norm and his family were somewhat literate with scripture. With the gifts of the spirit visible around the living room walls and signs of faith, it was well received. The older man and his young companion smiled and were pleased. Just to relax them a bit, Norm told of his favorite John Crist video about Lazarus.

All the Bibles were then given serious flipping of the wonderful thin and strong pages. The focus at this time was the prophecies about the end times and Jesus’ role within them. Daniel to Revelation. It all seemed to concentrate on the New Earth and Salvation. Julie joined them and began asking questions. When the tract came out from the elder it was obvious the two of them were Jehovah Witness’ members and relaxed perhaps because that they were sitting in a comfortable warm place with people that love our Savior and His Word.

Perhaps the usual brush off was anticipated. A quick hand off of the Watchtower and it’s over.

The Biblical discussion segued into the end times and questions about who gets ‘in’ who doesn’t. Simple enough to be known by Norm and Julie and yet it isn’t an easy path to maintain. The world seems to feel differently about those things. Norm’s new favorite quote: “My mind still visits from time to time” Prayer is the key. There were mainly questions tossed out referencing to Daniel and Ezekiel, two books that Norm has not committed parts of to memory. (Norm is studying Job and the Song Of Solomon). Men’s group is into a really good book too, John. The old covenant and the new Jerusalem were a focus now with the two men.

Julie asked some really good questions with her testimony of Christ living within her heart. An essential situation for lovers of the Lord. A prayer warriors weapon of mass construction of a peaceful life. Norm is glad she is by his side as his partner in faith and worship. Often she gives clarity to the hard things of life.

It went well and time was slipping away when it just started getting to be a good conversation about serious things. The two polite and well dressed men had other appointments and it was sort of rushed. Many reasons came to mind, but it was not yet time for them to go. Julie invited them to a coming prayer gathering. But they had to go. Not chased off in a huff but encouraged by lovers of scripture as they are. Real handshaking and smiles as the two men left. It would be swell if they show up at the prayer event. It’s local for them too.

It seems common that some of Jesus’ church seem to have a bit more hunger than other gatherings. Too much of this and that, too little of that and this. Some gatherings feel that their way is the only way.

For Norm and Julie, prayer is the focus of their faith. Sung prayer too. Sung scripture is another window to Jesus’ heart. Rather than suddenly leaving a gathering of their current church, they move on when called to yet another place to pray and intercede as Jesus intercedes for them. Their friends left behind stay friends, that is a given.

Mystery and hunger and love combine as fuel for the best fire of all. Perhaps another gathering of the Lord’s romance will call them away again. Their travel agent supplies destinations. It’s pretty good, Jack Gator

Trolley Cars in Minneapolis

The latest news popped up after Norm was just looking at the weather forecast on the PC screen.

More rain and the videos of flooding on the Mississippi with a few garages with water up to the entrances where a car should be. Laughing owners in the shot, what else could they broadcast? A man retiring from a shoe repair shop after spending his whole life there. A good man and a well equipped shop. A necessary business but no one interested in taking it over. Norm has his favorite shoe shop in ‘the falls’ town and cannot imagine the town without it.

Minneapolis is more inclined to older buildings on main streets that sell tobacco, payday loans and lottery tickets. The old stuff has to go. Much akin to decades ago when the city decided to tear out the trolley cars and leave transportation to buses or personal transportation. Even bicycle lanes for some but certainly not most people. Rail transport is European and practical.

When Norm grew up in the North-side, he used his bicycle to deliver news papers and could not even consider riding it to south Minneapolis to the dentist! Alone. Of course, bikes then were heavier with one speed. Forward. There was no need to even consider bicycling around the city, there were trolley cars everywhere that even would carry Norm to the dentist in the South-side of town. The local was easy to catch. A number 16 that went from Thomas Avenue all the way downtown. Norm would get a transfer ticket and walk down Washington avenue to catch the trolley car to the dentist. It was easy and safe and at that time, no muggers, kidnappers and youth with pistols eager to shoot someone, anyone that looked at them. Norm was on the wrestling team but did not have concealed carry. After all, he was ten and it was the late sixties. The only people that made the news was Al Capone and his gang being shot by the police. Front page news of scandalous behavior and shocking news of a wheel gun shooting. Colt automatics were WWII stuff. Heavy and not handy for the cops.

The news today was about new trolley cars being put in and whole neighborhoods were outraged that the city would do that. We liked them fifty years ago. Covenient and cheap and practical. Now the store owners and residents are outraged at these things. Norm thinks it’s a great idea. The new thugs do too. Mayhem and robbery and just beating people up for fun. Times have indeed changed. The city is scary and filled with angry imbeciles. That’s a Dostoyefski qruote.

It’s not very good, but it could be very good with faith in Jesus. Jack Gator


A request was before Norm. “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 Norm. He said ‘sure’, Norm likes to pray.

Norm rode with a new friend. A man that he instinctively referred to as his brother. A stranger weeks ago, at the next table at a coffee house, asked who the two of them were. Norm 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 felt right to Norm and Bryan. They now refer to each other as brothers, indeed.

A man of faith was Norm’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 the spiritual hungry. Norm 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 Norm those 50 miles to the church to help in praying for a few people that desired it. Norm 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. The address caught Norm’s eye. 777, the first numbers on Norm’s old Gibson Mandolin. They went up to the second floor and Norm 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 Norm 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 Norm 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, Norm 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.

Norm looked at a man looking for direction and Norm smiled and nodded his head. The man, also smiling, stood in front of Norm and immediately Norm asked him if he would like to be anointed. Yes was the answer, on the forehead was his preference. Norm 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. It was personal and spoken from his heart and it was right and good. Norm told him of his obvious love for the Lord and the Lord can see that love in his eyes. They both cried a bit and the man hugged Norm after asking if it was OK. It was indeed welcomed. After the second service it was similar. A hundred or more people, eager to meet a prayer warriors words of healing and comfort. The prayers given were given by our Lord who sees the hunger for His heart.

The other people that came to Norm’s eye connection received what he listened for from the God that whispers truth to him. Many tears and quite a few strong embraces came with that given truth. Norm 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. There will be more blessings to convey. It’s pretty good. Jack . St, Augustine Confessions, VII, xxi

Religion and Work

Norm was thumbing through one of his books stacked by his living room chair. Norm leaves books all over the house but usually next to his chair or on the kitchen table. It’s sloppy and reminds him of photos of eccentric men of the past. It is sort of pleasing to understand that the mess of books could be a lot worse mess. Brandy bottles. Perhaps ash trays filled with ..ashes. Norm imagines Winston Churchill’s sitting room. Brandy and cigars and books of wisdom and history. Books written with voices crying in the wilderness.

On top of one of the nearest piles was a book with a quote from Dorothy Sayers. She was a brilliant poet and novelist from Oxford that was a contemporary of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton.

Norm casually started reading about her and stumbled upon a short quote of hers about work and religion. It made Norm realize what he has been running up against for a while. Some of the short pieces and columns he has been writing, some of them published, have been critiqued as ‘too religious’ An oxymoron. A dichotomy.

Dorothy’s quotes made that issue come to life and with her usual brilliance, gave Norm inspiration to somehow write a short paragraph or two to illuminate what him his answer to critics of his writing. ‘What am I doing wrong?’ He has even been asked to tone down the ‘religious’ stuff to make it more acceptable to the commercial purveyors of tabloids and such.

Dorothy wrote strongly that a big mistake is being made to separate work and religion. The workers of our world are instructed to be nice, don’t indulge in drunken revelry and attend worship at least once a week. How can anyone who works be interested in religion that does not address 90 percent of his life? After all, the man who wrote most of the Bibles new testament was a tent maker by trade. Norm cannot imagine him, Paul, being admonished for being too ‘religious’ when he was working. It’s a bit of a stretch, but perhaps you are getting the picture.

Our constitution expresses the freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion. Our faith pervades our lives and it is a big mistake of the world to ignore that. “The biggest mistake the church has made is making work and religion separated departments”a. The early church was telling Paul that the first demand his faith was putting upon him was to make really good tents. The church (meaning the people) in the first century was not filled with ceremony and rules. Revealing the faith was essential in those times, even if it meant persecution and anger from populations in the areas. Not understanding or comprehending how faith in the Messiah changed everything about people and how they related to one another. Love, not judgment. Treating everyone with love and respect. Our faith is meant to permeate every aspect of a believers life. Not being known as just a ‘good person’

Norm realizes that his faith is not separate from his work either. After ‘retiring’ from his automotive repair business, he has heard how well customers were treated by him. Quite a few times Norm was treated badly by customers. It was tempting to return the favor. Encouragement continues to highlight the strength and well being given to Norm by his faith in Jesus, King of the Universe. Religion is not mandatory and that is good and right. The choice to be shown the road of holiness is ours. That path is our life and you don’t walk it only on Sunday morning.

The title of Norm’s new book reflects this conviction. ‘A fools highway to redemption’ Life changing behavior from Attitudes to Zeal for real life, real relationships and real fulfillment. The cure for the ills of the human condition since the decision in the first farm to be our own masters. It’s very same thing I struggle with inside of me . I want to be just like God.

Freedom from the world’s ways to look and act with real love, not just affection. Real love. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator.

a, Dorothy Sayers

Quotes of Wisdom

I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted paychecks.

Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

I just discovered the purpose of shinbones: They’re devices for finding furniture in a dark room.

I’m never sure what to do with my eyes when I’m at the dentist. Do I close them? Do I stare at his face? Do I look at the ceiling? What’s the proper etiquette here?

I have all the money I’ll ever need – if I die by 4:00 p.m. Today.

Google Maps really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

You can go anywhere you want if you look serious and carry a clipboard.

To err is human. To arr is pirate.

I feel like getting something done today, so I’m just going to sit here until that feeling passes…

Tip of the week: When going through airport customs and the TSA agent asks, “Do you have any firearms with you?” do not reply, “What do you need?”

I just read a list titled “100 Things to Do Before You Die.” I’m pretty surprised “Yell for help” wasn’t one of them.

I when a fly or small bug lands on your computer screen, has your first reaction ever been to try and scare it with the cursor?

People think I’m too patronizing (that means I treat them as if they’re stupid).

“Dammit I’m mad” is spelled the same way backwards. Think about it

.Wife just told me that her birthday is tomorrow. Wow, like maybe more of a heads-up next time.

Son: “Dad, there’s a monster in my room, can I sleep in here?” Dad: Look, it’s you he’s after, why make it my problem too.

2020: We aren’t allowed to go out in public. 2022: We can’t afford to go out in public.

MacDonald: “All that is not God is death”

with credit for inspiration and quotes from Mitch Teemley


It has been said by visitors. It has been mentioned by friends near and far. The sanctuary, the retreat and safe place. A place of renewal and freedom. A few folks have been helped here. It is a home of those who have been called to offer a retreat or even adoption. It’s not easy to do so. But it is fulfilling.

There have been several who have been adopted and offered residence as long as they need to be here. Many such places have been scattered throughout the world. I’ve been given one, it is the least I can do to offer ours.

A reason for being bold, the main reason for anyone in my position to never back down. Never deny the power of Jesus. I have been told not to speak so ‘loudly’ about the Creator of my life. Your life. All life.

He is not some ‘shelf” god or someone that can do every thing that we think we need. Comfort, security and some sort of wealth. Opportunity, fame or a good reputation just because you think you deserve it. We don’t deserve anything from this world except a guarantee we will run out of gas. Run out of time after we stop running after the ghosts of those idols. No where to turn except the grave. There is hope however for us.

A promise from the pivot point of all men was a celebration this year. Again. The death of God and his appearance a few days later to hundreds. Deny it. Noting makes truth disappear. History is now challenged as just a story that can be changed as we wish. Libraries and professors of history are amused with absurd rejections of truth. Jesus’ death and resurrection is in history. Undeniable. The people that accepted death rather than deny this history are many. The logic and reality is that none of us would accept execution by torture if we were living a known lie. I would deny that pivot point of all mankind if I knew it was not truth.

There are a other streams of thought that engender death for a cause but none of them are noted in history of God dying for us. Loving us and mankind. None of them. The Japanese god emperor did not offer his life for you. The hijack and promise of worldly rewards after death did not die for you. The wisdom of eastern wise men did not die for you. None of them died and came back to life to be seen by at least 500 people. One of them taught sacrifice and love for our fellow men. Some of them promised death to those who did not believe in them. Several had scary underlings that punished you for not obeying their orders. These gods (small g) are false. I have lost a satisfying writing position because I would not deny this truth. As though the one savior of all mankind was an opinion. To we who believe the truth, there is nothing even close to an opinion about Jesus. Either you know Him or you do not. I do not condemn or criticize the wrong decisions made. Makes me sad.

Many much more erudite writers than I have done a very good job making this decision clear. My favorite one is C.S. Lewis. His favorite was G.K. Chesterton. I recommend reading their writing. If you can read this good advice, and I assume you can because you are reading this. Try it, those two authors alone woke me up. (Not the foolish way that word is used these days.) Awaken O sleeping ones and read history and make up your own minds. My life has been affected and even saved with miracles undeniable to me. Often these things are not believed by some. That’s OK with me. I know they are true. I was there. I am a warrior and not afraid to speak of the love of my life. Jesus. Be afraid, that’s OK too. We have all been afraid of affection. A big dog runs at you and knocks you down and with his paws holding you down, begins to lick your face. It’s a silly image but sometimes that’s the surprise and shock of having fear overwhelmed with affection. Just my way of trying to express the flood of love unexpected.I’d really enjoy talking to anyone with curiosity and hunger for truth about these things. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Time to Move on From the Inter-County Leader

The past 3 and a half years with the Inter-county Leader have been very pleasant and rewarding. Editors that showed me respect and gave advice were necessary for a fledgling writer as I. Gary and Robert, thank you.

There were lots of context, grammar and spelling errors that needed to be fixed (thank you Sue)

A growth of my ability to focus and express the way I think occurred. Quite a few people I met were pleased to put a face on the ‘Gators Grace Notes’ column. “Oh, your the Gator!” I would ask them what it was that intrigued them about my writing. Most of the time it was the encouragement they found that there was another person out there that had thoughts akin to theirs. Impossible stories of danger and rescue. Stories of a building faith and a lot of humor coupled with sarcasm, puns,and stumbles. We all have such stories. None of these stories are insignificant.

The by-line in the top of the columns, Grace Notes, is a reference to a musical staff note that has several diagonal lines through the staff. This indicates a rapid staccato that note hammered on’ rapidly and too fast to notate. I am a long time musician and used to read music pretty good. Another meaning of grace is the forgiveness I am given for straying a bit of the path I am walking. Eternity has already sent these stories to the publisher. He reads every one. I believe Jesus really enjoys my writing when I mention his name and His guidance and Grace.

I am now spending a lot of time amending, redoing and proof reading the book I have almost finished. The title of the book is ‘A fools highway to Redemption’. It is my life story and most of the columns I have written (and continue to write) will be in that book . It might be a thick book! There are well over 165 short columns so far.

All columns can be found at my web site, The menu page needs some work in categorizing. There are so many listed that I need to put them in drop downs of genres. {adventure, faith, satire and so forth. Drop me a note if you know how to better do this in the Word Press software! Email is encouragement and friendships are precious to me. Those things, given to published writers, are very meaningful and uplifting. Keep it up to the writers you enjoy. We thank you for those words. I am still writing columns to Bottom line News and Views, published in Ashland Wisconsin.

The name I use, Gator, was given to me decades ago when I was asked by the leader for a photo. The article was about a fiddle contest that I was judging. The only photo I could find was of a little alligator, rocking back on his tail, playing the fiddle. It worked and it stuck. I even had vanity plates saying MRGATOR! The Jack part came much later when a friend, Jesse Selin, thought I needed a first name too. We decided on C.S. Lewis’ nickname, Jack. It’s got a little masculine ‘punch’ to it. Jesse also drew the line drawing of the Gator overnight just as a fun project. . I still love it.

I’ll let you all know when the book is available. Again God bless America and God bless you. 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

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 life 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 only see words of success were coming forth for their Lord and Rabbi. So, be alone with your Creator that loves to speak to you and I. 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

Never Betray beauty, never betray the Sword and Never Betray a Friend

It was a child’s romance. A romance perhaps brought into full bloom by trauma and the need to escape it somehow. Fresh from the military that tortured him, Jack’s path beckoned him strongly to dissolve himself in marriage. A sudden formal engagement and the promise of the life he had never known seemed right.

The only job Jack had was performing songs learned from warm and scratchy vinyl recordings.Joan Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary, Carolyn Hester. The job at the YMCA for youth was better right awaythan the red line brig in Spain and got Jack the attention he craved.

The romance began with a girl from the YMCA gig. Jack was living in the basement with his mother and her Swedish 3rd husband who were upstairs. Relegated to the room with a washing machine that supplied needed noise for Jack and his girl friend. This living arrangement was to be endured till the marriage anticipated, but the engagement ended as quickly as it had begun. She kept the ring and never came back. Jack’s beloved disappeared. Jack frantically swam through all the places she should be, and finally, a good friend told him: she had run off with an actor from the famous Guthrie Theater. She was gone. Most likely living with the actor. A pattern Jack observed when at the YMCA gig, she dumped the guy that brought her there. Foolish Gator forgot that.

Stunned again by sudden betrayal, Jack went deep into the rabbit hole and gave up the promised good life and got involved with another vet who hooked him up with some heroin smugglers in California. Money, a mansion in the hills of Berkeley and using his Military skill set, Jack became a member of the air force of drug smugglers. Mexico to the California desert. Heroin gave Jack relief from all the pain of his life. The poppy blooming in Jack’s core became the path to victory. No back pain, no mental anguish, no fears. Just nirvana and complete oblivion. Most of all, no pain from the betrayal of love.

Deep into addiction, a voice entered Jack’s room in the mansion. Five simple words: “Life or death, choose now” The stupefied Gator chose life and was instantaneously delivered from the death path. No withdrawal. Of course, the swell new job was over and the usual reaction was another betrayal and a narrow escape. Jack had no idea where the voice came from. Decades later it became clear that the lover of his soul, Jesus was wooing Jack to life. So, Jack left the flying close to the ocean trade, still alive and another life came upon him. A brief stint at a commune in Oregon, then back to home and the ’40 acres of musicians’ neighborhood. Some time in another commune, and then with his own room near the cafe’ (everyone in his building worked there) He also a was another musician on the acreage mentioned, did a little touring. He sold his truck with the camper and was given a lead to railroad track work and finally, it brought the money and credit he needed. The city gang was left for the railroad gang, but Something was awry and had to be done for freedom from the inside pain upon him again. Never trust your heart to another. That was entrenched into Jack’s very being, trauma of the past.

Through a old city friend, Jack found his fiancé locked in a mental ward downtown! Jack knew her family and the girls father was a well known pastor at the big downtown church. He used her father’s name and bluffed his way in posing as a youth pastor to see her. She was heavily drugged and overweight, groggy but she came into focus for a short time and asked Jack “why are you here?” ‘Because I love you!’ came quicker than thought, and it was over. The hurt, the rejection, the betrayal. Better than the heroin that never lasted and had blinded Jack to the fact that his miracle of deliverance was love, not hiding in drugs. This was Jesus seeing and telling Jack what Jack really was. Then the light grew slowly but surely. The Lord had plans of more deliverance to take Jack to places he could not imagine. Places of trust. Real fulfillment. Real music with love.

‘Never betray the sword, never betray beauty, and never betray a friend’. It’s a good way to see the life we live as men and warriors of the Word. Freedom from fear and self hatred is a special gift that can only come from our Lord and Savior. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Who’s On First?

It started for real in Grade school. Loring In North Minneapolis. Nice neighborhood, now infested with the North Side Banger Boyz and their opponents, The Dowling DMZ’s A nicer group of fentanyl dealers that just want to protect their neighborhood. Counselors are always telling us to set boundaries, Dowling Avenue is one of them. There are several other roads and boulevards,but that one separates the two social clubs.

They all have user friendly 9mm semi automatic pistols and when sales are good, they even give each other boxes of target loads. A deterrent for bad business practices. The hollow points usually kill. The target loads are a more ‘forgiving’ round for a reminder to wind up at North Memorial. Don’t even think about walking around in Camden. You might wind up in the nearby Mississippi. Little Chicago. The Themadons are far away on Lake st.

So when Norm was living there, he began the isolation and rejection cycle. Loneliness. Playing in the forbidden bedroom with his sisters piano at lunchtime. It calmed and reassured him. Beatings, violence, sexual abuse, Norm’s precious cat killed for convenience by Grandpa. rejection of every kind. Norm figured it was the same for everyone (closer than we think) He has cataloged all the trauma in other columns, it’s actually boring and embarrassing to bring them up. You know the feeling. Turning away in your mind and believing you are damaged goods. There isn’t any insurance form to fill out for a refund either. However, sometimes his mind pays a visit. Prisoners appreciate those things.

Norm usually expects rejection. From everyone. (Lately it really hit close to home.) As you may surmise from the photo above, Norm played fiddle for a living. This photo was taken at Duluth for a fiddle contest decades ago. Look at the station wagon on the right. It’s a collector car now. Sort of. Charlie Jirousek is facing us. 12 string guitar player extaordinare. Long gone in Safety Harbor, Florida. Norm prays that is indeed where he is now. Safe and secure at fleet landing with the Lord there, arms wide open for his troubadour.

Norm was in bar bands, fiddle contest judging, square dance bands and as a folk singer traveling the east coast playing guitar. The music given by the Lord to him is strong and he still hears a tune and can hear it, audibly, three times after it has been played. His son’s alarm clock tune or the washer/dryer tunes stick that way too.

Always, always the applause excited Norm and filled that big track hoe hole in his spirit. For a while. He grew to expect the anti-trauma quietness and fulfilling peace in music. He also had a brief addiction to Heroin that sort of did the same thing. Another God story. A real bad substitute for trauma. It seems not to last and the need increases.

Lately Norm had been playing in a church band a few times now and then and worship holds a place all of it’s own in his repertoire. Fiddle, mandolin and guitar with vocals if needed. It was pretty good at filling that rejection hole. The best kind of ‘clean fill’ you can get. Within the last year the gigs became few and far between. An occasional men’s retreat or a worship set. Playing along with an Ihop ‘modeled’ set for two hours and allowing sung prayers to come forth works well. Prayer room stuff.

All of it has come to a halt. All the fancy equipment sits in their cases, unused. Norm has lost one of his last refuges of comfort and assuaging that rejection wound. Now the wound is bleeding and even his family has not asked Norm to play with them in worship. Trauma again. Loss of worth wounds, again.

The usual pity party to go along with it gives Norm isolation vibes for everyone. No one asks him to play with them which he has been doing for over 70 years. Too old? Overplaying? Who knows. Maybe just the hunger displayed again. Pick me please, Oh Pick me, I’ll be good and even practice at home! Pick me Pick me. The wounded cry of the steam locomotive of Norm’s childhood. I have mentioned. the Long drawn out last sound. He can still hear it 70 years later. Lonely at the distant crossing as he lay in bed with the window cracked open a bit. Music of sorrow. Two longs, one short and a long again, held and released slowly. Steam engine sounds Lonely.

Norm’s old bar band was eager to have him ‘sit in’ this week and we are thanking providence that it didn’t happen. The family could use the money if he was hired though. Jazz with trumpet, guitar and bass. Fun but not worship. Nothing wrong with fun coupled with music, but it tends to bring out applause which feeds Norm’s ego and sense of worth. How do you shout out JESUS in a chorus of ‘lady be good’? Boldly I suppose..?

The other day there appeared a way out of the sadness! Norm decided to put away those precious instruments and not look for anyone to ask him to play them. Not even his wife. It took away the anxiety and fear right away.

There is no word from the Lord about playing again either. Possibly when the addiction is gone? He can still play at home to the music he enjoys on the internet. Alone. Better than an old bandbox jukebox box for sure. It’s like being back in his sister’s room, all alone, and playing his heart out and cleaning the tears off of the keys before going back to elementary school. It will work for an unknown period of time. It’s worship. The Lord hears it all.

Jesus will let him know when it’s time to come out of isolation and just be available. Right now it feels good and right to dump the hunger for that first baseman’s position on the ‘play’ ground.

Jack Gator.