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