Thursday, May 28, 2015

Faith Works 5-30-15

Faith Works 5-30-15

Jeff Gill


Treatment works, Recovery happens




In this space some years back, I mentioned that I've had a few colonoscopies.


Yeah, I'm sure you were waiting for me to get back to that subject.


No details, right? Right. But it was a necessary subject because, among other things, my doctor conducting the colonoscopy (is that right? do they conduct them? perform doesn't sound quite correct…) had read the column, and afterwards asked me if I would write about the experience. That it wasn't so bad, very tolerable, and oh yeah – they save lives, so go get them when your doctor calls for one, please?


Happy to oblige. A colonoscopy is a basic procedure, a minor inconvenience, and a lifesaving part of staying healthy, especially when you have a family history of colon cancer. Why not share that I've had more than one, and they're just not a big deal. People have assumptions and concerns and fears that make them put off colonoscopies, so anything I can do to reduce fears and encourage use of them when needed is a public service.




Folks seem to have some of the same issues around mental health care; fears and misconceptions around behavioral health services keep people from making use of the services that are available, or to give up when they're waiting for the ones that take some time to access. They see mental health issues as being a label you wear forever, because the problem sticks around and the treatment is either pills that make you dopey or you're spending decades laying for a 50 minute hour on a sofa telling a shrink about your childhood. In other words, people have some assumptions and anxieties that are largely based in stereotypes and confusions and frankly outdated images of what behavioral health care is, and does.


So may I note that I've made use of behavioral health in my life? Details aren't important; if you really have to know, get ahold of me, and we can talk, but I may tell you about my colonoscopy first.


But I have, both in college and after, made use of mental health resources to help deal with life and circumstances that were leaving me out of step and turning in circles in my life. I needed a solid, dispassionate listener who also could make practical, evidence-based suggestions about practices I could engage in and new patterns I could follow that would change how I responded to difficulties.


Or as the phrase in behavioral health goes: Treatment works, recovery happens. The biggest barrier I've noticed as a pastor is that even very smart people are somewhat stupid about what counseling and psychology and treatment or recovery are. They really do get stuck in movie stereotypes and old cartoon pictures of therapy.


If you think that mental health is just a life sentence of "crazy" and that treatment is no more than oppressive medications or mysterious conversations with someone sitting out of sight as you lie there answering questions, it makes sense to avoid pursuing treatment. But today, mental health care is complex and flexible and adaptive. It's very similar to talking about chemotherapy, which used to be largely one kind of awful experience, but now is many, many approaches with much more going on to make it tolerable – and successful! – than once was the case.


Starting with our community's invaluable 2-1-1 hotline, you have access to behavioral health supports in this community that can address a variety of issues, from depression to anxiety to addiction to major mental health problems. And pretty much all of them have effective, proven treatment strategies that work. You can talk to your family doctor, you can call Mental Health America, you can call 2-1-1 even if you're just wondering how to help a loved one, a family member, a friend, and say "help!"


And help is out there.


Odds are, that help won't be something you'll need for a lifetime. But if you do, keep in mind that an illness of the mind is really no different than any other chronic medical condition: if you walk with a limp, you walk with a limp. Get your physical therapy, and life goes on. The same goes for mental health hiccups that we all, at one point or another, can have.


For men who won't see a doctor about anything, that's an entirely different column! But if you need mental health care, make the call. Accept the support. It's there for you, and it works. Bless you.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's used mental health care services and doesn't care who knows it. Tell him what you don't care who knows at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Faith Works 5-23-15

Faith Works 5-23-15

Jeff Gill


Memorials throughout the Bible



There are many memorials in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.


Memorials are often stones put up as a marker, or piled together to stand out in a place. Stones were easy to come by in the Holy Land, milk and honey being a dream and a promise, but rocks were always right there.


On the journey from Egypt to the Land of Promise, in the wilderness, there were memorials placed by Moses and the people Israel to honor manna's appearance to feed the people, or to mark a revelation of God's word to the people.


Joshua had the twelve tribes mound stones from the streambed of the Jordan River to mark where they crossed, dry shod, into the new countryside. Altars, places of worship or assembly, all had their memorial observances.


Passover, itself, grew in the life of the people as a memorial in time, the date and circumstances of the event they did not want to forget, when the Angel of Death struck Egypt but spared the Hebrews. The Jerusalem Temple was meant to mark where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac, an association Muslims still connect with the Dome of the Rock on the same spot.


For the disciples, they came to the Mount of Transfiguration (some say it was Mt. Tabor, others Mt. Hermon) and the appearance of Moses and Elijah was so striking to them flanking Jesus that they said to him "we should build something" to mark this event, a suggestion Jesus mercifully ignored. 1900 years later, Mussolini went ahead anyhow and put up an edifice to honor and remember Christ and Moses and Elijah, a church building now atop Mt. Tabor that leaves everyone a bit uncomfortable.


The Roman Empire was all about memorials, but they weren't quite sure how to respond to Jewish ones; just before the time of the Gospels they had tried to add their symbolism to those of the Temple, and found themselves with a revolt on their hands. Memorial meanings are tricky across cultures, and trying to validate or rewrite memorials through later changes can provoke angry responses. Adding a memorial of one people to those of another almost always ends badly.


The most enduring memorial, though, in the Bible is one that by definition cannot endure. It's a memorial made of the loaf and the cup, the memorial given by the hand of Jesus himself, the meal of which he said "This do in remembrance of me."


What lasts is the meaning, even as the body and blood are seen and shown and shared in the memorial of that meal in an upper room on the edge of Jerusalem. "This is my body, broken for you . . . this is my blood, shed for you." It vanishes through being consumed, but it endures in not just the memory but the behavior, the actions of those who by eating and drinking together come to see how they are now "one body" themselves.


Today we have memorials which are deep-set V shapes in the earth with reflective marble walls, glass panels with etched images, online guestbooks and holographic videos. They are not just a heap of stones standing out in a wilderness place, asking the passer-by to wonder "what happened here?" They aren't simply standing stones, although we still place them in our cemeteries and memorial parks, unhewn and towering above their plots and pavements.


Memorials can take many forms today, but they all still call us to remember, and perhaps more to the point on Monday, to take action based on those memories. To not stand so much as to be moved.


May you be moved this Memorial Day weekend; through your meals shared in remembrance whoever you eat them with, and in those places where markers make us think. God be with us to act in accordance with the memories we would honor.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you would remember at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Notes From My Knapsack 5-21-15

Notes From My Knapsack 5-21-15

Jeff Gill


A Body in the Well (conclusion)



Back at the tavern, Job Case sat with William and Sarah Gavit on one long bench alongside the large hearth in the public room. Opposite them, closer to the fire himself, was Hezekiah Mirk. Case and Mirk were closest to the warmth, boots to one side, woolen socks steaming.


"So, Chief Justice Gavit, what do you propose that we do?" Case had just finished describing the scene at the well southwest of town, and the conversation he had just had including Mirk with Caleb Munro's widow, Tirzah. "That was near enough to a confession of murder."


"Was it?" asked Mirk gently. "She repeated what her . . . second husband had told her. She might have misunderstood, she could have misheard, we don't know."


Gavit smiled grimly. "You have the makings of a lawyer, Mr. Mirk. That's correct, her statement, even sworn in court, is not a confession. And you told her, Mr. Case said, that her account matches the wounds you saw on Munro's body?"


"That's correct. His face is not marked, and his skull is . . . depressed from the top. If we could call back this Judson fellow, and he's battered about the face and front, I'd be tempted to credit her, or rather his story told us through her. A man choked with rage, blindly lashing out again and again, charging forward and plunging into that open well headfirst…" Mirk looked at his hands in the firelight, and the other three knew he saw them in a different light than they did. Stories of Lundy's Lane had been told, not by him, but of slaughter and blood unimaginable.


Gavit looked at his wife, then back at Case. "We are left with your question, then; what shall we do? We could try to get Tirzah to call back Judson from Lancaster, inspect his wounds, take his statement."

"If he'd return," shrugged Case.


"That's right," Gavit went on. "Or we could send to Newark for a warrant, recruit a bailiff, and go bring him back before he flees farther. What do you think, Mr. Mirk?"


Hezekiah looked up and directly into William's eyes across from him. "Or we could do nothing."


"Nothing, Mr. Mirk?"

"We see to Caleb Munro's proper burial, we report his death. The circumstances of his return are well known in the district. Who is there to file a charge? If anyone believes justice requires one, they can travel the few miles to the courthouse and do so. We honor the man's service in the late war, we allow his friends to help see to his burial and marker, and speak honestly to what we know if asked."


"If it's up to his friends," nodded Case, "he will have a plank for a tombstone. But the village will honor him, and bury him rightly."


After a long silence, Sarah added "There are many problems in this world that are best served by letting them alone for a season."


William stood, and then did the rest. "We all have work to do, and perhaps I can send the parson down to let Tirzah know what's to be done for Caleb."


"Husband," Sarah said, "I think that right, but I should say that my guess would be that she will have been long gone by that time."


A year later, an envelope arrived from Natchez, Mississippi addressed to William Gavit. It came with money enclosed and a note saying only "To cover the costs of burial for Caleb Munro."


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's enjoyed sharing this fiction based on stray facts of life in Granville 200 years ago. Tell him a story at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Faith Works 5-16-15

Faith Works 5-16-15
Jeff Gill

What a wonderful world

"I see trees of green, red roses too;
I see them bloom for me and you,
And I think to myself what a wonderful world."

The world may have good days and bad, and we may know sickness and health, poverty and wealth, life and death.

We make our way through all of this with very little that we can count on. Even the stones of the earth and the blue of the sky are temporary from a deep perspective. Just in the lifespan of a human, let alone a redwood, we don't have much in our lives that endures. Youth, careers, plans, even dreams have a way of advancing and receding that is independent of our intentions or actions.

Childhood homes go up for auction, teenage haunts are paved or demolished, places we took prom dates to that "had been in the family for generations" are a parking lot for a fast food chain today. The clouds pass by from west to east, the sun swings round from its rising to its setting.

"I see skies of blue and clouds of white;
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night...
And I think to myself what a wonderful world."

So anything, anyone you can count on, is precious. That helped make diamonds popular, because they are considered so hard and permanent that they endure. The market in resold wedding rings, though, has lowered prices somewhat. They're not hard to find, cast off, needing cash in return for lost love.

We lose our elders and our family and friends, sometimes in the order we expect by age, other times through shocking turns of events that make us wonder yet again who will last, who will stand with us. It can get lonely through the years.

"I see friends shaking hands saying 'how do you do,'
What they're really saying is 'I love you.'"

The traditional wedding vows, and in fact marriage preparation whether done by me or most other pastors, do not ask if you love each other. And in today's romance obsessed society, that would be greeted with amusement. "Do we love each other? Why do you think we're standing her?"

What the service does ask is "will you love?" First I ask of the woman "will you have this man to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?" Then likewise of the man. "Will you love her?"

Because the question is certainly not do you love this person today, which is obvious; but WILL you love them, through the years, as you learn more about them, as you learn more about yourself, as you learn together what it really means to be as one, through the times of friendship and times, yes, of competition (do spouses compete in ways explicit and implicit? for moral advantage and to gain obligation? oh yeah, it happens...)? Will you love them when they have their unloveable moments, when they need forgiveness, when they need you and you are wanting not to be needed by anyone, but just to nurse your sorrows or angers alone? Will you love them then, and beyond?

It can be done. I've always enjoyed hearing the anodyne sentiments of those married fifty and seventy-five and even eighty years, often so simple in expression they seem beyond what can actually be lived outside of a greeting card.

Then you realize that this Tuesday you will have been married thirty years, which is not forever, but it ain't nothing, neither. And a woman has said yes, she will love you. And has, through the years, right up through tomorrow. I haven't made it easy for her, let's just say, and leave it at that.

But she's been my rock, and my reliable source of strength, and my partner through thin and my own frequent thickheadedness. And I will love you, Joyce, as long as life lasts in me.

"Yes, I think to myself what a wonderful world."

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your secrets to saying you will love someone at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Notes From My Knapsack 5-7-15

Notes From My Knapsack 5-7-15

Jeff Gill


A Body in the Well (pt. 6)




Hezekiah Mirk and Job Case paused at the banks of the Pataskala to take off their boots and roll up their leggings.


"Heaven's my witness, I don't know what I'm even going to tell Tirzah Munro," said Case absently. "Her . . . first husband dead in the Avery well, and her second . . . newest . . . um, husband disappeared, and she . . ."


"That's her, isn't it?" asked Mirk. They both looked up from the log they were sitting on, across the river. There where the path from Lancaster crept sideways down Flower Pot Hill to end at the water's edge, a tall woman stood with her fists on her hips.


Case only nodded, then stood and nodded towards her, almost but not quite a bow.


"He tripped." She did not shout, but the words were said loudly, with emphasis, and in the same way she said them again. "He tripped."


"Who tripped, ma'am?" asked Mirk, rising awkwardly to his feet, one boot on, one boot off, a woolen stocking in his hand.


"My Judson tripped Caleb as he flew at him in a rage." The light breeze and gurgle of the flowing water did not mute the clarity of the statement, across a rod's worth of creek bottom. She folded her arms, and went on.


"Caleb heard somewhere on the north edge of town, as he came back, poor soul, from his long trip to Montreal and down and around back to Ohio, that his wife had remarried. He didn't come looking for me for explanations last night, he went looking for my Judson."


They nodded, both feeling at a distinct disadvantage sinking into the mud, one barefoot and the other half so, but also knowing they stood as witnesses to a statement she wanted to make in her own time.


Tirzah, once Mrs. Munro, looked down at the water flowing past her feet, then looked up sharply and continued. "Caleb found him at work at the distillery, took him out, and hit him. Again and again. His face is much battered. Judson's no man of violence."


They both nodded at that, encouraging her to go on. The mud was cold, too.


"They fought, though Judson kept trying to explain what had happened, just blocking the blows, but Caleb would not hear. He simply swung, and swung again."


It was clear to Mirk that a turning point was coming in this tale. He said gently "And Caleb's face, ma'am, was not marked, which supports your account."

For the first time, Tirzah smiled. Both men could see in that smile something that would drive a man through a Great Lakes winter. And the smile faded, as she understood and envisioned what Mr. Mirk had seen to tell her that.


"Yes," she said. "He tried to tell him. But he was backed to the well they'd driven to get fresh, pure water for the workings; Caleb rushed him in a rage again, and Judson stepped aside and tripped him, hoping that sprawled on the ground he could have a moment of pause to reason with him. But the kerb of the well mouth is low, and Caleb hurtled in, head first. Judson stood there, listened a moment, and realized there was no living man to come back out of that shaft, so he came back here to tell me of the tragedy."


There was no love in Tirzah's eyes as she said that, but her emphasis on the word "tragedy" was clearly meant to include all three of them.


"Where is Judson now?" asked Case.


"Halfway to Lancaster, I'll be bound," she replied, letting her arms fall to her sides. "He felt that he should get away, at least for a time. I can call him back if need be."


Mirk and Case looked at each other in puzzlement. What should be done next? Other than putting back on their socks and boots, that is.



Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you'd like to learn about Granville history at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.