Everyone Counts or No One Counts

Every One Counts or Nobody Counts

Francis Schaeffer from L’Abri wrote a book that Jack reads so often that the appearance of the book could be described as ‘shabby’. Dog eared pages, coffee stains on the cover and other signs of good scholarship and a care free habit of Jack’s. Books are meant to be read. Over and over if necessary. Truth is a full meal of life and digestion takes time and circumstance. An irritating and comforting habit for the Gator family. ‘Where’s Papa?’

‘He’s in his chair in the living room, he was asleep last time I looked’ (with a book that is now on the floor or sitting next to him underneath his coffee cup)

Research is entertainment to some people, like Jack. He reads at breakfast a lot. It helps communication with the rest of the family if it is 4 am. Distractions such as conversation and passing the maple syrup are not an issue. Then. Sip the fresh brewed coffee from Berkeley’s storehouse of Jamaica Blue Mountain and Hawaiian Kona with a little Tanzanian Peaberry for the punch. Jack tries to not make too much noise with the grinder. Jack has gone to the length of hiding the grinder underneath his bathrobe when it is running. Anything to further his alone time.

Jack learned all these secrets from a next door neighbor some time ago. When Jack was living in the big city, his next door neighbor was Miss Thrope. She did not care for Jack or anyone else for that matter. Being reclusive, they were both intrigued with one another. Jack was in his twenties and Miss Thrope was a bit older, around 70 or so. A chance meeting at 6 am when they both were taking the garbage out put them briefly together. Quick shy glances and a slight uplifting eyebrow now and then did the trick. They were intrigued as members of the same extended family can be with one another. Miss Thrope said something, a bit sarcastically perhaps. “Like the classic two ships passing in the night, eh Mr.Gator?” Jack immediately responded, “More like two garbage trucks passing down the alley” It was then, the impossible friendship began with a little chuckle from them both.

Jack had to leave the neighborhood because being an academic works if you can get tenure or better yet, a position of a Don or a professor of the literature teaching and syllabus for the courses. Jack, however, had a manual labor job that was ‘up north’. It helped Jack get fit (he lost his conditioning in Boot Camp in San Diego.) Another story in the upcoming collection of stories.

Jack did stay in touch with Miss Thrope via email and such. They skyped and posted pictures on Facebook. Both of them were writers of a ‘different’ genre. The same authors were on their ‘best seller list’ as well. Aristotle, St.Francis, Origen, Pascal, Bunyan, MacDonald, Chesterton, Lewis. Just a few come to mind as this is written.

It didn’t take long for those ‘next door neighbors’ to discover they could talk for hours about an obscure and beautiful writing from Shakespeare or Milton. New stuff flew into their physical mailboxes, Jack as well as his good friend and confidant, Miss Thrope. They critiqued each others writing and columns written. No one knew what to make of it. C.S. Lewis had Mrs. Moore at the Kiln’s and no one knew what to make of them either.

Miss Thrope is now gone from all of us. She wore out herself. She made it to her late 80’s, and Jack misses her laughter and intellect. Two peas in a pot as Stan Laurel said. Jack is still Jack, even though he is married to a wonderful gal and they have three sons. None of them write steady, the youngest shows great promise though.

Jack still eats his breakfast alone most days and retreats now and then to another place in his mind. He likes the description of his life and Miss. Thrope. Her first name was Ann. Put it together, It’s pretty good.

Jack Gator

How much can we Get Away With?

There is a common rule among all drivers now. 5 over. If you are in a hurry, 10 over. If you are in a real hurry, pass everyone even if it means a turn not far ahead (or passing on the double yellow.) In the early morning commute, the vehicles stack up behind you like a string of expensive glowing pearls. Keeping a common camaraderie among them month after month..”Oh here comes old one eye up from Bad Elbow, wonder when they are going to get that headlight bulb replaced”

Big rigs with huge grills, metallic white sharks so close that their headlights aren’t visible in your rear view. Hid headlights that allow them to see 17 miles ahead Old clapped out Chevy something or another, wheezing along with hydrocarbons sleething into your ventilation intake. Black Suburbans with lots of antennas, incognito.

The usual crowd found bellying up to the fuel bar, old acquaintances and odd new models. An occasional tuner with the uneven hot sound of cam work, masculine exhaust tones and turbo blowing off after passing. The triple porthole Buick bar where everyone knows how to ballroom dance. “See you at the Legion later!”

So, the unwritten rule, as stated, is at least 5 over for the pearl parade. Adjust that cruise button as needed beyond the basic when the string stacks a bit. An occasional maniac passing the whole string on a curve, over the double yellow because they estimate safety with oncoming headlights. Rebels living on a thin line, snorting adrenaline glee.

Jack has done that recently. Passing an old motor home that was towing a trailer, it seemed there was enough passing length to do it. The motor home, impossibly, began accelerating and another truck with a trailer moved up where Jack’s car was. They did not slow down to let Jack back in. Blocked and an oncoming car was now ahead of calculation. Jack had to floor it. Blessedly enough, the newer V6 responded and at 80+ Jack pulled in just in time in front of the head on death rendezvous. Greta was not thrilled. There was no other recourse except to head for the very steep ditch on Jack’s left. More death, a bit slower perhaps.

Of course, Jack had a good excuse to defy death. This time. The oncoming driver just flashed his lights. As though Jack could do something else but sprint. “I’m not slowing down for this idiot!” Death coming near.

So, if we tolerate the ease of breaking the speed limit (not TOO much, just enough to be unnoticed by the flashing blue/red lights donuts folks. Plain cake, doesn’t get on your uniform. They know the five over game too. The cops work hard and are on the line for us. I’m not critical, I know a few and they like humor.

So, the question is: How much ‘sin’ is 5 over the limit? 10 over perhaps? There are some folks that believe the more they sin, the more grace abounds. There is a long name for that attitude: antinomianism. Neat name for professing Christians that don’t worry about Jesus too much. “I’m OK, not as bad as the prodigal son!” So the question bears upon us: What do we do with the sin limit? What is it? Oh, and by the way, in case you miss it,

I am threatening you with the worm that never dies and the fire that never goes out. 1.

There isn’t any get out of hell card. We are all deserving an ‘ unpleasant eternal existence’ unless we realize that and come to a place where we want to be saved. Saved from what? Saved from the Father is the best explanation. He does not tolerate any of my sin. None of it, zero. We make up a ‘sin limit’ “I’m not so bad, really!” We Are.

Take comfort in not being perfect. There was only one perfect man and he died for me and you and actually, every person on the planet including ones not yet born! The incredible writer of over half of the New Testament put it well: “but I am carnal…for what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do…Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

It seems so simple and yet is the hardest thing to do. Admit the truth about yourself. Talk to Jesus, do it now before it’s too late. He will speak to you and give you joy. Talk to Him about all these things. Every day is a good idea. Saved and loved, It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

1. G.K. Chesterton and Jonathon Edwards 2. Paul of Tarsis

The first signs of things to Come

Signs of otherness. Different ways of looking at the world. Wondering about the people involved in these things. Speculative questions, because history of things of the past can only be derived from writing of eyewitnesses (the best type) or records from the time and place. The more corroborating evidence,the more assured history can be derived. Autobiographies are the best. They have to be believed of course. Fiction does not read as history does. Historical accounts usually have odd things and twists of life that authenticate them.

A few examples: Gator had the earliest General Class Amateur radio license when he was in grade school. The examiner at the downtown courthouse said that. That examiner didn’t specify whether it was just in the state or the nation. Thirteen words a minute Morse code and the ability to sketch a power supply and an oscillator circuit. Things like that. Laws and rules of radio frequencies and basic electronics/electrical knowledge to round it off.

Gator remembers too asking his 3rd grade teacher when the class would be studying soil and earth crust stratification. She laughed and said “later for that” Odd, Gator thought. I really wanted to know those things. ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself and the class’ was also said. Don’t stand out was the message. It won’t go well.

He wondered why his classmates talked about leaves in trees and stars and other things far away. He was very nearsighted and finally was examined and got his first set of glasses. ‘Four Eyes!’ Bullies, finally finding an in road to beating Gator up. Gator’s favorite was a Croatian boy. Face washing in the snow was one of the highlights of winter. All that young boy wanted was to have a friend. Gator was perfect, an outcast and very different. Third grade children do not talk about ionization of the atmosphere and radio signals blocked from the sunspots. Gator turned out pretty good and he really knows now what he has been prepared for. All that curiosity he was gifted with, all those other gifts. These things were designed to help Jack write about another man. A man that Jack doesn’t need a radio to communicate with, a man he can hear in his mind and spirit. Clearly.

That man lived a long time ago, and did such astonishing things that are written down in a very reliable history book. Quite a few books actually. That young man, not a child, but a young man of no reputation, did things that no one has ever done since. He was at a social event, a wedding with his Mother, and the guy who was throwing the party ran out of refreshments. A social blunder of the first sort, especially at so important an event. The revelers had drunk all the wine and it was getting a bit embarrassing for that host.

The young man’s mother, she knew his father very well. She pointed out the problem then, and her son told her it was “not His time”. An odd thing to say in lieu of his life from then on. Never the less, Mom told the waiters to do whatever her Son told them to do. As recorded, after a short time, her Son told the waiters to fill up all the empty jugs with water. A lot of wine jugs and a lot of water. One of the guests drew a flagon of the fluid from one of the jugs and pronounced it the best wine of the celebration. “Most hosts save the cheap box wine for the end! This wine is exquisite, the best I have ever tasted!” Water to wine, bypass the vineyard and all that messing about with stomping grapes and aging. This was the very beginning of the young man’s tale. Just a peek behind the curtain of eternity. So, Discerning historical events isn’t too hard to do. No one would make up a story like that. The things that Jack writes about are similar. No one can make up stories like that. If you know where and how to look, you know. Other historians, distant in the past, or right now on this page, desire to tell truth. It is so fascinating and astonishing to discover a world outside of ourselves that tells us who we are. Tells us what we are and why we are here. Of course, the young man was Jesus and his Mother was Mary. His Father I leave to you to discover. It’s a great family tradition. Don’t get confused, Just talk to Jesus. He’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Abandonment

It was a long time coming. A revelation of the deep things Jack has stored within himself. It was quite a few years ago when Jack was just out of the Navy. He was living in his Mother’s basement and going to junior college. The third house that had a remnant of the Gator household, now containing Grandpa, Mom and the Swedish fireman. Not pleasant but the best Jack could do after getting discharged down in Virginia with one more free plane ride to ‘go home’. Not like coming home to a small town and getting the welcome back treatment on main street. Big city home and new neighbors that are somewhat crabby about mom’s Buick convertible, Grandpa’s older Chevy Biscayne and the Swede’s ‘spaceship’ with the huge tail fins.

A job came up for Jack, working the YMCA youth program. That is where Jack found the love of his life. A quick engagement and suddenly, she disappeared. Jack looked all over the big city, usual places, he could not find her nor anyone that knew her either. Weeks went by and the tension was unbelievable. A little Later, Jack found out she had left him for a famous stage actor.

That was a traumatic event that got filed away in Jack’s emotional file within him. It never occurred to anyone, especially Jack, that there was an emotional paradigm that was operative for decades.

Jack found his old fiancé in a mental lockup downtown quite a few years later. Same friend that told him about the actor. Jack bluffed his way in posing as a youth pastor. His past love was in a bad way, drugged. She came out of the fog briefly and asked Jack bluntly: “Why are you here?” Without thinking about an answer, Jack just told her; “because I love you!” A shift occurred within Jack. Unknown to Jack that was not the whole story for him. The fear and conviction of being abandoned again was deep in Jack.

Every time that a person, often Jack’s wife, would somehow disappear, the trauma would slide into Jack and unbeknownst to Jack, he would be back getting that phone call about the actor and his old fiance. The reaction would be to assume that the disappearance was some inadequacy in Jack or flat out abandonment. When it finally came to light; that emotional response, it was stunning and explained a lot of Jack’s odd behaviors and emotional oddities. Anxiety, depression, expected abandonment. It finally came forth around the kitchen counter, piled high with peppers from the garden. Jack kept focusing on a pepper that had a damaged part that jack really wanted to cut off. A very interesting focus when viewed afterwards. Cut out the damaged part. When he was brought back to what was being discussed about this age old wound, Jack had a life changing epiphany. Expecting abandonment around every conversation, every giving of attention and love. Why fight it, no one really cares enough to let you in on the secret dashing off to someone that is much more important.

Lies that Jack has embraced for at least a half a decade or more. Has anyone else ever made that unconscious decision to pull the pin again on that emotional grenade? It doesn’t go off with a sudden bang, it’s more like a nerve gas release. A vaccine to remove attachment to anyone that Jack would give a piece of his heart. The more pieces, the greater possibility of withdrawing. An unpleasant disconnect that was not apparent to Jack. Another ‘checking out’ to his loved ones. “I thought you might have called when you got there” or “I was out with our son in the shop, all you had to do was text me” etc..Expect, oh yes expect adoration from everyone because soon, they will dump you for someone else. Make sure you get the ring back. One of those trauma/wounds that lingers like a deerfly in the raspberry patch. At the end of this conversation, both Jack and his patient wife began to pray.

Revelation and freedom can indeed occur, it really can happen with a distinctly unique ‘tool’ that the Gator’s keep handy. Easy tool to find, you just have to want to find and use it. Prayer. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Mr. Smith goes to Washington ( p.s. updated previous column)

A great movie coming to a government agency near you! Some of us remember the movie but this is a powerful remake. The plot is basically: A semi-secret agency in our nation’s capital has made moves initiated by insane people acting on their odd convictions and they are using political power and their captive Fourth Estate (look it up) to promote, indoctrinate and mold public thought. It’s against the constitution in many ways. the First amendment states freedom of speech. ( Not freedom from religion but freedom OF religion) Debate, thought and discourse cannot change this basic right.

Already that article of freedom was trampled in 1962 which removed the foundation of this beautiful country. A lawsuit by a known atheist successfully removed any mention of faith, prayer, the Bibleand anything pointing to our original pledge of allegiance. The universal statements of our founding fathers and our first Presidents. You perhaps have noticed the words ‘Under God’ have been dropped in some public pledges. Gator is certain the next move will be removing “One nation under God” from our currency. Gator looks at the twenty dollar bill and President Jackson has a serious expression. Perhaps seeing the way things have gone with the disgruntled and proponents of decadence and oppression (in the name of freedom of course) Of course, we don’t have the freedom to disagree. Haters, oppressors or everything phobic. Islamophobic was not a talking point ten years ago in New York on Sept. 11th

Gator has watched these things escalate, political correctness is the insidious phrase used to alter the past, wipe out books that say things truthful. Science! They shout, it’s inhibited by Religion! Read Plato’s logic which is one of the solid philosophy truths we know. “If there are no absolutes, the the individual things which are about us, have no meaning” The particulars, the individual things that are about us. At that time, thousands of years ago, very wise men spoke these things to one another about reality and reason. People like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Even Saint Paul went to Mars hill and was asked to speak about God. They did not have him arrested because he talked about our God of creation.

The absurd begins to be the cause of nodding of heads when the talk of banning great childhood books that are accused of having ‘racist images’. Books of great scientific knowledge that state men and women are created by God and they are created as men and women. A recent quote seems to fit an absurd thought: “I was trapped in the body of a woman and then my mother gave birth to me” Good sarcasm. Perversion is now taught in our schools and any mention of truth can get you fired as a teacher. I wonder now what biology classes teach. “It’s not my fault, I was created that way” But it takes sperm and ovum, a womb. A Man and a woman. A medical exam can tell which we are. Thinking we are someone else is a definition of insanity and is indoctrination by absurd theorists who demand re-writing of scientific truth.

The thought police are hard at work to destroy us and put us under their control. George Orwell put it quite well (look it up if you are interested, or write me) ‘New think’, tear down the statues of history, rewrite or ban and burn books of truth and also history. The pilgrims are now referred to as colonists. Of course, this is a simple path to fear of being politically incorrect. That can get you into trouble and get you reprimanded by the ‘woke’ people. The socialist play book instructs the power hungry to paint themselves as victims. Phrases suggesting that you are oppressors. The real story is that they want desperately to be the ones in power by controlling any thought or truth as an antitheses to your plan of righteousness. It Worked for Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky who initiated the socialist tyranny that still exists. The concept of equality of income and government support to endow us with re-written history. After all, the only thing Gator can remember that our government gave to me was a uniform, training and free air plane rides to a foreign country to serve our country. I even got paid and free meals too! Serve your country, do not demand your free country serve you.

Awaken my beloved friends and ones I have not met yet. Be free to disagree with me and use logic to speak to one another, not propaganda. A new shirt says: “What is printed on the back of this shirt is true.” The back reads: “What is printed on the front of this shirt is false” It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

The Secret Place

Everyone has one. It’s often the go-to place when your world does not make sense. A child’s ‘fort’ in an easily climbed tree or a cave of sorts nearby. A place found when wandering a bit perhaps. Created or found, a secret place is usually not such a secret from family. However, it is such a place that is a wonderful secret. Many times the only person who sees it as a secret place is the only person who knows of it.They Know what happens there and why it is there.

Jack’s secret place is known by the whole clan and they know where it is. “Up in the cathedral” A planting put in a ‘few’ decades ago that reminds Jack of the Vatican. Somehow, the Swiss guards let Jack in just to wander about. Jack had been living on the street for several months and most likely was taken by the guards for what he was: A street urchin seeking value and truth and wonder. The seemingly endless corridors that had perspective there stamped a vision into Jack. Long narrow corridors, lined with incredible artwork are, at the least, Cathedrals.

The Sistine Chapel was pretty good too but the Vatican itself was stunning to the artist within Jack.

This day was difficult as the family pooch had disappeared/run off/vanished. She even had on her electronic ‘call’ collar on and the hand held unit showed no signal bars from the collar. Out of range. Not good.

Everyone searched the whole property, up and down the township road too. Roaring about with the 4 wheeler that the pooch loves to race, no response. Oh oh. Hours went by and everyone retreated to their own secret places. Eventually, Jack did the same thing. Up the hill, into the pines and sat on the new bench (green treat wood) and began complaining to the creator of the universe about his beloved dog. Seems reasonable. He knows our hearts and impossibly, spends as much time with us as we want, just to talk. After all, He invented time so He doesn’t need a Rolex. More complaining from Jack as concentration on the conversations is difficult for him.

Please show me where she is! You know where, you know everything. Why is this happening to us, don’t you care? How can we find her? Can we do anything?

More of the same. That’s what nice about a secret place. You can get loud and passionate without concern for others around. They aren’t. So, just a day ago, God showed Jack that He heard him by dropping a pine needle right on jacks sweatshirt, right over Jack’s heart. When asked to show Himself, He did immediately and so now what to do.

Jack left his cathedral and walked the long way back to the homestead. Depressed but still moving. Mrs Gator gave Jack the remote control of the collar buzzer which of course, showed no signal from the dog.”Why don’t you drive around the block or something? Maybe you’ll get a signal!” Jack drove out the driveway and turned right and at the next driveway over the hill, he turned right again. Ok, this is where Mrs Gator looked before but it’s as good a place to start again I suppose. Long driveway, a mile in, Jack went left to the steep, washed out gravel road and stopped by a new home. Not willing to go down a very steep incline ahead, Jack put the car in reverse and looked at the data on the hand held. Five bars! The dog was ten feet away. Filthy and covered with burrs, she got in the back seat and Jack drove back home to a bathtub for the dog. Deeply thankful and knowing, he was led by a very quiet, still small voice. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Biography of Jack Gator Part I

Sometime ago, in the last century, Jack was born in Minneapolis at Swedish Hospital. His parents were doing OK as they both worked and Jack was put in the care of his Grandparents for a bit. Out in a western suburb called Golden Valley. At that time, his father was working for the Minneapolis fire department and his mother worked downtown for the school administration.

It worked for the family and besides, Jack had a sister that was four when he was born. She helped for five years. Sis went to school in the one room school right on the highway a few miles away. No buses then, they hadn’t been invented yet. I have no memory of how she got there. Maybe cut across the golf course

Life out there in the valley was pretty bucolic, a big truck garden to joyfully weed by sis and I. Grandpa was a Mpls fire department chief and my dad was a fireman at station 16’s. The both smoked pipes and it wasn’t high quality Latakia tobacco either. Seemed an odd habit for firemen.

Jack had a neighbor friend, Freddy and they lived right across the fence line at the southwest corner. I exploited Freddie’s friendship in a way. All I can remember of him was his super electric train set in his basement. Hours we would spend down there. I never got him to help weed the big garden and I never really knew him. Maybe that happens more often than I realized. It worked as he was probably just as bored as I was. No climbing trees, no forts. We did go fishing in Bassets creek however. It was right across the road from the big fancy Golden Valley golf course. The creek was fairly narrow but to me, it was a mysterious river. Adventure unknown.

Once I got a hold of a fish that was so big, I could not raise it from the water. No one believed the story but I still remember it. Maybe it was a big Sturgeon! Probably a nasty cat fish or bullhead. Looking back at it, I suddenly realize that it’s not the catching that was important. It was being a part of the fish and the water having business together. A. I just got to go along with for a brief time as they did business with me too. Lasting and poetic things we did. Catch the spirit and never release it for life.

The golf course was a good place to slip into (before the six foot chain link fencing) and golf balls abounded in the creek. Pretty good, easy money for my sister and I. It was a water hazard and the golfers were very grateful for us. These days we would probably be detained or scolded. Different times, last half of the twentieth century.

When I got old enough to go to school with my sister, we had to move. A neighbor that took offense at us, turned my dad in for being a city employee that did not live in the city. Grandpa fire chief had a bit more seniority and was close to retirement, so he got to stay there. He made stuff in his basement for the Shriners. I remember the huge scimitar with lights all around the perimeter he made. They might still use it for the Shrine Circus.

Grandma was a tough old Norwegian that made the best deep fried doughnut holes on the planet. She loved me and I loved her too. She was an orphan from superior but I never did hear how she and Gramps met. A lot of family history was just gone for me until I really wanted to know it. So there we were in a stucco and brick house in North Minneapolis and it was time for me to go to kindergarten. It was only five blocks away so I walked. It was OK. I enjoyed the time alone and got to eat my lunch at home alone with the TV on the linoleum counter. It was tuned to ‘Lunch with Casey’ A guy with a railroad engineer outfit and a sidekick named ’roundhouse Rodney’ We were rich. We had two TV’s with rabbit ears too! (too be continued) It’s pretty good. Jack Gator A. George MacDonald The Highlanders last song.

Painful Changes

An analogy, inspired by an author that Gator owes a greater debt than anyone for language. Imagine that there is an automobile that is sentient. With it’s own thoughts, desires and purpose. Then you own this automobile and are constantly tinkering with it: Redoing the paint and finish. Taking out critical things and making them better and more powerful. Putting the engine right with better pistons and timing components. Literally ripping out the seat coverings and replacing them with better fabric and even airflow types. Better mirrors to see what is behind and clear glass to see what is ahead. The basic model now being turned into a high performance one that is seen as needing these things. Not things the car wants to be done to it, but things the engineer knows will bring it closer to the ultimate car.

What would that tearing apart and scraping and stripping be like for an automobile that is aware of itself? The first thought would be “I could do all that is needed before! I could get from place to place in a reasonable fashion. Why make me go through all this painful change?”

And so it is with us. Our Lord and builder and designer of us has plans to improve us now that we have the ability to do our own modifications which are part of His plan. The changes are only powerful and go deep if we connect with Him and then begin the process within us. Gator goes to a church meeting at least twice a week. It’s as if a man, desiring physical healing, went to a lecture about medicine. Great teaching and preaching for sure but it is a window into truth for me. I must act on this revelation again. It is up to my will to go deep and open my heart to the Lord. My pastor is showing me the door and the doorbell. It is a door locked from my side and I have the key to open it.

All the good intentions we have are just that, thoughts. Our inner core cannot be changed by good intentions. Cannot be changed by a good friend telling us what is wrong. Worse yet, the good friend will usually tell us to ‘just stop doing that!’ As though a leaking faucet can be fixed by giving it good advice to stop dripping. The faucet needs a good plumber and I need our Creator. The one that knows me and would love me to change. The change cannot be done by reading the instructions I am given by loved ones. The change comes by me opening my heart to the only one that can actually change me.

I can change if I finally realize I need to. The creator of all things and us, could fix me in an instant if He wished. He knows these things but I must discover how to find Him and ask Him for help. There is no other way, no other path, no alternative treatment, no two for the price of one, no spiritual duct tape that will do the job. I must die to my raging, often wounded, basic core and ask for the warranty that is offered for my spirit man, my heart, my soul. Whatever phrase works for you.

I must answer the gentle knock on my door and accept the life offered. He could blow down the door if He wished, but the change must come from my desire, my surrender, giving up my love for the wrong things I have thought were right and the way I accomplished them.

My Creator knows me and desires me to know Him more. I talk to Him as often as I am able to. The way He showed me how to talk to the Father. A good way to start is to sing to him. Works for me. Singing scripture is another form of prayer. Worship with the Word, it’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Books and Sandwiches

Jack reads..a lot. There are open books scattered throughout the house, some dog eared, others left for perusal at some undefined date. Some of those books are older ones that Jack read some before. There is a bit of wonderment, even from Jack, why would he read once again a book devoured times ago?

There is a joy involved in reading again a MacDonald, a Bunyan or even a Dante that defies a description by observers or even Jack himself. “ I thought you had read that one” or “ I guess you need to go through your Lewis again” It’s not that at all. It’s a hunger and the joy of a meadow once trod upon that comes into view. Quite unprepared for astonishing beauty, the lay of the land forgotten and unexpected things underfoot. Vague memories, stirred into sight and remembered more strongly than before.

It’s hard to leave and there is a presence that brings a smile and appreciation of it. The time Jack was reading his care-worn ‘ Mere Christianity’, and it occurred to him why some folks, even his own, are a bit puzzled about this habit of his. Almost as though a reaction to eating again a well prepared meal from the Mrs, or impossibly devouring a sandwich eaten years ago. Of course, there are favorite dishes, and the memory of them is fleeting but pleasant. “Didn’t we put horseradish on this sandwich last time?” can always pop the bubble for the cook.

The point is, it’s not the exact same sandwich eaten long ago, but seen and tasted anew. Even the drawings or lithographs are seen with more experience and depth. Perhaps, akin to the horseradish, it is better for the lack of it. It is, however, the same book that was not quite as absorbing or understood before.

There is one book that Gator reads over and over and always finds something new. It’s fascinating. The undeniable, “That wasn’t in there the last time!” It feels as though one of the Gator family has stuck a page or paragraph into the book just to astonish and puzzle Jack. Fun game if it were real. But of course, none of us are talented as bookbinders to pull it off. Jack does know a good friend that could do it. That friend doesn’t need to put paragraphs into Jack’s favorite book. It’s his favorite book as well and Jack, at times, puts paragraphs into his book by just speaking them. It’s called scholarship. Good friends, they share the love of old books and they both have the same favorite.

As usual in this column, you probably know the book Jack reads as his favorite. It’s a history book which goes back to the time before time. At the last chapter the book looks ahead in time to tell us history to come. Amazing. Some folks dismiss this book as fiction instead of history. Some people re-write it to agree with their feelings. Some people read it and see themselves revealed in it. It’s a real thriller, lot’s of intrigue and miracles. Whole nations becoming rich and powerful and then serious mistakes are made that destroy those nations. Tough people and weak people. People who put trust in pieces of trees (really!) People that destroy their own children for gain (sound familiar to the abortion industry of today?) Fierce battles, foolish kings. Prophets, people that hitch rides on flamed out chariots and valleys of bones turning into an army. The Earth turning backwards, complete burning destruction to cities and even a woman that turns into a pillar of salt! The whole story hinges on the hero of the book. It’s a young man from a crummy town that can heal people and give them the truth about themselves and all life’s purposes. He gives his life for everyone and promises those who love and trust him a grand eternal life. Oh yes, the hero dies and comes back to life! It’s the Bible, still the world’s best seller, available at quality book stores everywhere. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Surreal Vision

A very pleasant late afternoon driving home. Riding in the Gator sedan with Greta in the left hand seat, Jack as co-pilot. A little controlled breeze from the sunroof swirling as it exited a slightly open right rear window. Delightful.

An exquisite meal at Watershed earlier with communion. Chianti, artisan bread with the Baruch, Ashem, Adonai toast at the end. On the deck overlooking the Osceola Creek. The rapids burbling and rushing below. Perfect.

Gator and Greta dressed to the ‘nines’ and being themselves as they enjoyed ‘eating out’ with a bit more class than the nearby burger joint up the hill. A few conversations overheard as a gifted raconteur regaled his table well. Stories loud enough to somewhat enjoy. He was enjoying himself anyway. Don’t we all do that at times? Grace.

Driving home, commenting on the beauty of the homes visible. Two story with carpenters lace and porches, some with widows walks and many flowering bushes and perfect accouterments. A river town built right. There was a lot of traffic but jake braking was forbidden, the noise of the vehicles would just be a small rushing inside. They could envision living there but without the other buildings, the maple trees and gardens. It would not be the same. Next window neighbors is the price for being able to walk downtown for nice things.

As they drove by a Friday night concert in another town on the river, Jack was suddenly transfixed. There were a lot of people on lawn chairs, watching a stage below them. The band was just getting started as they slowly drove by. Heading north of highway 8 to their exquisite farmstead. The opening notes where immediately recognized by Jack as Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom prison blues’ As the first lines began to fade the transition to old memories and surrealism.

Stuck in a prison vs living in the lap of luxury and just enjoying an old ballad that was never and will never be part of those listeners reality. Home to toast and honey afterwards. Driving a car or truck home without fear and without the air on for a change. “what’s in the fridge honey? Or should we go out?” More pretty swell homes overlooking the river and soon after, a half dozen trucks with boat trailers at the landing. Nice boats on the river. Perhaps fishing or just cruising on a swell night. Are you getting the picture?

We are millionaires in the world’s eyes and are worried about our 401k accounts. When our brief lives end, there is the auction with collectibles and coins. Antiques and machinery of all sorts. Not worth as much as when it was purchased, but hey, enough to pass on to the next family collector of wealth. Usually. Gator is not ranting about our wealth, not at all. His family is ‘doing well’ or as the usual greeting: “Hey, how are ya? I”m good” The usual banter when often Jack cannot remember the person’s name. We are good. Back to the concert and the old memories. “Stuck in Folsom prison and time keeps draggin’ on..”

Jack was recently in a men’s Bible study with a couple of dozen men around the tables. There was talk of jail ministries and suddenly, Jack asked the men: “Any of you guys ever done time? Even overnight for a minor infraction or a mistake by the police?” Those guys looked at Jack in an interesting way. The way perhaps someone is gazed upon when they are not wearing the right clothing or none at all.

Jack spent only a half a year in a Marine Red Line Brig in Southern Spain. Hard labor. It had it’s moments. We all marched double time to the mess hall and one of the guys had to bring that ubiquitous metal tray with food for the guard on duty. It was covered with an identical tray to keep the food warm. All the guys flipped the trays when running. It was a way to get back a bit for a ‘dance’ in the isolation cell. It was really satisfying when the meal was mashed potatoes with gravy and shortcake. The term ‘Red line brig’ means if one of the ‘re-trainees’ stepped over the red line painted on the entry way floor, the duty guard was free to shoot you with his trusty 1911. No one tested the resolve of the door guard. Actually some of the guards were bored out of their gourd and would chat a bit. It wasn’t too bad, really. Southern Spain gets a little warm in the summer when your shoveling sand or running a swing blade. The sleep deprivation and water to wake you up every hour for three days and nights was a bit over the top too. Just a little welcome courtesy to show you around the place. And of course, put you in your place.

In some ways it made Jack have some empathy for the prisoners he would minister to much later in his life. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator