Maps and Destinations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

A Life with the beauty of Friendship

It was always there. A loss, not even known for what it was. An emptiness that fell upon every thing that Jack experienced through his life. He was empty of love and lost it when he was a child.

Jack weeps now when he realizes what he felt that time when the emptiness took hold of him. He always thought it was abandonment. A memory that diffused relationship with everyone. Jack tried to cope with that memory, not even aware he was doing that. Clever words spoken and written. There were many times when that empty feeling would diminish and it was always the same thing. Smiles and words that promise embracing mutual friendship. Jack needed to forgive the people that he thought abandoned him. They did not know Jack nor he them. Relatives that should have known those things. Inherited behavior, perhaps cultural.

Music was soothing and a smile inside at a moment of beauty got Jack hooked into that beauty. Songs and orchestral creations worked well. He still remembers some of those songs. Then, when Jack played music, the phrases of praise momentarily filled the emptiness. ”I loved what you did” or sometimes just a few notes spoken of. Jack always felt the emptiness fade a bit. He craved approval and contact. Applause was nice but fleeting, Playing Ashokan Farewell on the violin perfectly, without an accompanist on guitar for example. Fulfilling for a moment.

It was a coldness in Jack’s very core that drove him to play well, and now, to write well. A romantic spirit. Those moments are when the emptiness would back off. Approval and love of just him. Jack did not know why those times of contact and praise satisfied him. Wasn’t it like that for everyone? Seeking smiles and laughter from people and amazingly, an interest in him that might be a friend. There were a few friends that Jack could contact anytime for their care and seeing him for what he was. An empty man, perhaps like they were. Leaning on one another like an unmovable roof truss. Solid wood. With knot holes and defects but Oak or Gopher wood. A trust able to withstand bad storms.

They are Gone now from the inevitable event we all must experience. They died. How inconvenient of them to do so. Jack still loves them dearly and he knows they still do. One of them appeared to Jack just as he was dying. He was 2000 miles away, so Jack figures friendship is eternal. (One man in particular)

Most of those friends were the kind we all need. A phone call or even showing up without calling, just showing up. Not even a hint of inconvenience from the open door. “You were in the neighborhood? That’s over a hundred mile trip! C’mon Jack, tell me what’s going on”

The day of the wall phone is gone. Now we have Facebook and posts telling us what’s right with us. All neat and clean without any tears or embraces of understanding. Isaac Asimov’s robots now have cell phones and good internet. We edit conversations akin to open book exams.

The last two years of isolation and fear have reduced our civilization to rubble. The masks, no smiles seen from anyone. The old game of keep away. Friends were forbidden to come near and we are so much poorer, even crippled by it. We all lost and the stats and graphs and zoom meetings were just party favors for the worthless messages.

Jack is not alone in his quest now. The world needs good friends and we must learn again how to do it. Smiles are back and Jack has noticed that a slight smile and a nod are beginning to make a difference. Smiles and laughter ring out as bells from the steeple. Come. Gather together and be thankful for blessings and deliverance from evil. Look upon the world as a small child’s smile at an adoring adult. It opens our heart as we look upon our world. Not through rose colored glasses but with clear vision. We take off the disguise and reveal ourselves and see. This is who we were created to be. I’m not afraid of your visible smile. It’s civilization 101. Jack has

been masked for most of his life and he has the ability now to offer himself. Smile, It’s pretty good. Jack Gator