Hello..Hello..Is Anybody There?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a. Clifton Chenier and his Louisiana red hots

Authentic Christian Truth Seen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Gregory Koukl

A Drifter from North Dakota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mission Field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Traditions of Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chosin Reservoir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lost Ring and the Saved Soul

It was a restless night for Jack. He discovered the morning before that he had lost his wedding ring. He had worn it since 1992 and it meant a lot to him. It has an inscription inside with his wedding date. There is another one too in italics: “Through headwinds and tailwinds” Jack and his bride met on bicycles under very strange and beautiful circumstances. Unbelievable ones. That is a story for certain. It involves a Lutheran Pastor, a bartender in Washington state, A camp cook and the bartenders grandparents. It’s been written and published already, ‘A bicycle built for two’ Jack will send you a copy if you are curious! You can find it at Gatorsgracenotes.com as well.

So, back to the ring. The whole Gator clan began looking for the ring. Could be it was stripped off Jack’s finger when he removed his gloves outside? (It’s happened several times) Search the garden, the wood shed, the garden tool shed, the glove box in the house and car. You get the idea. Jack felt it was perhaps thrown off his hand in the night when he shook off a carpel tunnel cramp. The only way to search the room’s carpet was to move the bed. An awful lot of dust and the usual vacuum cleaner task. Incredible mess. After the bed was moved 90 degrees and the cleaning began in earnest, a dusty journal of Jack’s emerged. Details of Jack’s ministering to his old navy best friend that was in hospice in Maryland. Hadn’t been seen for sixteen years. No ring was found. They left the bed turned ninety degrees and cleaned a lot. It worked very good and had been thinking about it anyway.

Driving alone to an early prayer meeting, Jack began haranguing his Lord about the ring. The usual rant we all when things are difficult and not making sense. “Where is my ring? You know where it is Lord!” The answer was, of course, immediate and kind. Jack was reminded that his gold ring would not follow him into eternity. Neither his 18th century viola nor the 100 year old Gibson Mandolin. The story of Jack gently responding to his best friend Chuck’s dying request will go with Jack. He answered Chuck’s question “So what’s the good news?” Indeed, there is very good news about forgiveness, redemption and the romance of Heaven. A lot of you know exactly what It is about. It’s fact, not fiction. Impossible it would seem that the God of the universe would die for me. Jack asked Chuck to meet him when it was his time to die. Chuck cried when their parting embrace ended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still missing after five days. Gone for good, impossible to search through leaves and grass around the farm. Sad, but resolute in surrender, Jack went for his usual lap swim at a high school pool about 20 miles away. Early morning, around six am. Jack began swimming in the lane next to the wall lane and on the third lap looked over into the deepest part of the pool under the lap lane and saw a round object that was dark. Looked like an O ring but perfectly round. Could it be? That is where Jack was doing his Backstroke five days earlier. He asked the gal that was swimming in the lane if she dives. She said “sure” and Jack asked her to dive down 10 feet and bring up that round object. She did and popped up with Jack’s wedding ring. Not so shinny after five days in chlorine and bromine, but it was Jack’s ring. The inscription said so.

Wonderful release of his sad loss, Jack held on tight to the ring and did a short swim and texted a picture home of the ring. Impossible it was still there in plain sight. Not vacuumed, not in the drain close by. Go deep jack. The surrender of the lost ring after the discovery of the journal was perhaps the key? “How has God been working in your life this week?” Jack’s good friend, his pastor asks that every Thursday morning at the men’s Bible study. This Thursday Jack has got something to share with the men. An encouragement of choosing the best thing. The good news indeed..It’s pretty good, Jack Gator

Chief Cornerstone Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack Gator

1. Chief Cornerstone 2. Louis Armstrong

Grace Notes and Alligators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watchmaker in Paradise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Gregory Koukl