Thursday, November 30, 2006

If you are looking here for the seven scenes of Licking County, running from Thanksgiving weekend to New Year's in the Community Booster, just scroll down a bit -- they're posted there together.

Peace & Grace,
Faith Works 12-2-06
Jeff Gill

What Lasts Forever?

Diamonds, of course, are forever, as James Bond and the DeBeers family and Botswanan miners all know.
Scientifically, let alone theologically, that’s not quite right: they’re only about a billion years old at best in their current carbon lattice formation, and the super hard material (10 on the Moh scale, to all you geologists) will not survive the rapid expansion of the sun in 5 to 6 billion years.

So not forever.

They are well known parts of the holiday season, since engagements are common in the Midwest during Christmas break, for a variety of reasons that have to do with gift-giving, having the family together, and colleges out of session.

Even non-collegiate folk have picked up on the growing tradition, making December a leading period for jewelers along with retailers and discounters. If you watch TV, you already knew that.

Ushering in the holiday season, we all got to see Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes wedding pictures along with the family photos passed around the Thanksgiving table. As garnish, a cheery newspaper story from new government data: 4 in 10 babies were born out of wedlock last year.

And the trend is only likely to increase in the near future, since these aren’t teen unmarried mothers, whose birth rate went down to the lowest levels on record in the same year. Add the fact that abortions are declining as well, and you have a new social pattern at work.

Let me pull out my old fogey hat, and then spell this out in simple terms.What was once a standard social sequence of meet, then a) get to know each other, b) get engaged, c) married, and d) move in together, e) have sex, and f) have a baby. . .is now this –- meet, e) have sex, d) move in together, a) get to know each other, f) have a baby, b) get engaged, and then c) get married (maybe).

Before you point out that people have been sneaking e) in ahead of c) for some time in human history, let me offer my real point.The Sexual Revolution is one of those tags for an era that is so imbedded in the popular and media imagination that you can’t imagine changing it, but I’d sure like to try.

Don’t let the little ones keep reading past this point, but there was no Sexual Revolution. As a pastor, I’ve been talking to elderly people since the 70’s about their lives, struggles, triumphs, regrets, and hope for a future they won’t see themselves. And if I’ve learned anything from all that conversation, mostly casual and sometimes heartfelt, occasionally in spirit of confession, is that they did it. It. Yes, that. No, that too. Uh huh. Yeah, and anything else later generations like to think they uniquely discovered. They did that, too. (You can turn off your imagination and let it cool down now.)

Trust me just this far: there was no sexual revolution. We had a Marriage Revolution, and it is still going on. That label hides too much of the reality of what it is American society, and most churches (especially Christian denominations) are still struggling with it. Every time a sloppy connection to a so-called "Sexual Revolution" gets made, ask yourself how the whole news story or cultural reference would sound if they had said Marriage Revolution?

Yes, from the 60’s forward we’ve had a new openness to nudity and sexual references in popular culture, which qualifies as a Sexualized Revolution, but that’s a separate consideration, and will keep until after New Year’s.

Questions of The Pill and birth control? A Marriage Revolution. Hook-ups and cohabitation? A Marriage Revolution. Quantity and sequence of, um, partners? A Sexual Revolution? Nope, I think it is revolutionary only in the context of how we’re looking at marriage.

Suri Cruise’s parents are now married – and getting to know each other, perhaps? – and Britney and K-Fed’s two aren’t, while their step-siblings never were, and fiancĂ©s are often introduced as the parent of their children. This is the elephant in the living room, or sanctuary, of many churches today. Do we talk about the Marriage Revolution that we’re all enlisted into during this time of year, or just shake our heads about the wacky doings of Paris Hilton as easier (and safer) to bemoan?And personally, I just think you can’t call someone a fiancĂ© unless there’s a date set. Moving in together isn’t sufficient qualification.

But I could care less if you buy a diamond. My Lovely Wife got a peridot, in fact. It should be good for a couple billion years, anyhow. It’s only self-giving love that has a chance to last past the six billion mark.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he’s been married long enough to know that toasters and blenders definitely don’t last forever. Tell him something revolutionary at

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FaithWorks 11-25-06
Jeff Gill

With slow, irregular movements, he worked his left leg around to a better position. He had been up in this tree stand since Orion began to dip down to the western horizon.

That constellation was striding across the sky when hunters first crouched silently waiting for dinner in these woods. Thoughts like that were why he hunted, the opportunity to get out and away from all the noise and buzz and just, well, think thoughts. Even pray sometimes.He didn’t pray that God would send him a big buck; somehow, that felt wrong, like praying (which he knew he didn’t do with the regularity he ought) when the Browns were down by a touchdown. What he did feel coming up and out of him as a natural, effective prayer, was that he would be careful, that he would be safe.

And praying that no half-wit with a new shotgun would stumble his direction, either.These woods were full of deer; the challenge, he thought, was just not to scare enough of them off by accident. So he wore his blaze orange along with a full kit of camo, he had a rain barrel that sat out back for all the washing of his hunting kit, which was stored in a special bag that hung in the shed away from the house. He didn’t use special scents, which the gear stores were full of, he just worked at keeping his own scents to a minimum.

His homework through the year of tracing the paths through the leaves, watching the deer stroll by without a motion on his part, setting out a bit of salt, placing two tree stands, all came down to this week.

It really was a spiritual discipline for him, and he tried to use it as one, with time set aside for silence and reflection offered to God along with the hunter’s preparation routine. This very moment was a prayer of sorts, with God all around, and he trying not to distract his mind and spirit into the opposite direction.

No, you couldn’t hunt God, but he also had come to the realization over the years, and a few bucks of his own, that you can’t capture this moment with a gunshot, either. When everything comes together, you already know that the end result will call on him to do the hard work of hanging up, bleeding out, and carrying away, the check station and the butchering and the packing away of the venison. There is an intersection of the preparation before and the intention to follow of which the right shot at the right time is only a part.

Whatever the deer’s role in all this was from God’s point of view he wasn’t sure. What he was sure of was that God definitely didn’t honor the wasteful and cruel dropping of a deer and leaving the carcass to rot in the woods; and God surely didn’t honor the carnage along the highway of roadkill, either.

If the deer was used well and not shot just as living target practice, there was an integrity in the act that fed back to you. That’s as far as he’d figured it out, but he did know that God sure let them reproduce at crazy rates, and it was hunting, disease, or roadkill for most of them. His freezer was full from bow season already. If he got a deer today, there was a food pantry his church worked with that would end up with the result.

Haze in the east was shimmering, barely at the level of starlight but stretching across the sky opposite the exit of Orion the Hunter. He saw his breath, and thought "what an amazing thing that is," even as he worried about letting that plume show too well.

Crystals of frost, blossoming on branches just below his stand, almost grew fast enough for him to see them expand. How weird it is, he thought, that if this were going on right outside my window, and I was standing in a warm spot with a mug of coffee in my hand, I wouldn’t have the patience to stand still and witness this.

On that thought, he caught a blur of movement, a hop, and then slow, steady movement on four hooves, almost moving right at his perch. If they turned left, he wouldn’t need to shift the gun at all, just a lift and pull. If they turn right, the adjustment he had to make would certainly spook them right off into a trot.

There were three, and they paused, just out of what he considered his range. Muzzles prodding at downed logs, shifting brush, then starting upright, looking around, nearly looking at him. They are beautiful creatures, he thought. He was thankful for them as they were, and he would be thankful for one of them as food for the hungry, while the other two ran away. He would be thankful, as he was thankful right now for this moment.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio. Share your story of where you hear God with him at

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