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.

John the Baptist and the new Covenant

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Tresspassing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training Ground

TRAINING GROUND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of a Face

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Was Made Alive when I was Dead

Photo by Julie P.Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Feast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Doors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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