Small Town America and the Loss of History

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. the Neo-Ciceronian times

Tis the Season to be Jolly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compost Piles and Commuting

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

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

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

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

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

Why does Gator have to clean his Glasses?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. Andrew Arndt lead pastor of New Life East.

Rituals in the Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of a Face

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. St, Augustine Confessions, VII, xxi

Jesus on the West Bank of Minneapolis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John the Baptist and the new Covenant

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Tresspassing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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