Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Faith Works 1-12-08
Jeff Gill

Yeah, More Football

If you’re weary of football and don’t want to hear anything more about a sport whose ball doesn’t even bounce properly, I understand.

Please summon up your last resources of pre-Lenten forebearance, and consider the “Souper Bowl.” Technically, the Souper Bowl of Caring.

Held on the same weekend as the Roman numeraled Super Bowl (XXL this year, or something like that), this is a now seventeen year old (XVII) event, started in 1990 by Brad Smith, a youth pastor at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina.

All it was can be summed up in the prayer we still use: “Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl game, let us be mindful of those who don’t even have a bowl of soup to eat.” The youth at Spring Valley challenged the congregation to buy canned goods for the food pantry when they bought their munchies for the game, and also took donations of cash for the food pantry on the collection Sunday.

The next year they invited other Presbyterian churches to join them, and got a few dozen. Some churches had team-based challenges and piles in the narthex, and others just stood at the church door with pots in their hands to collect.

A couple years later, they went multi-state, and then Brad became Rev. Dr. Smith, and now . . . well, now the Souper Bowl of Caring is 14,000 youth organizations, generating over $8 million last year for food pantries, at a time which just happens to be a real challenge for them, after the rush of Christmas and before the advent of warmer weather.

Personally, I suspect the actual total, with in-kind amounts gathered can by can by youth groups in this innovative and very productive fashion, is waaaay more than the $41 million of documented cash contributions. And it really doesn’t matter.

The point is to make some of our purchasing decisions accompanied with a conscious choice to help the hungry while stuffing our overloaded gullets on Super Bowl Sunday, baptizing the pagan rites of championship football into the waters of compassion and caritas.

To read more about Souper Bowl of Caring, go to: Their story is a marvelous one, including Rev. Dr. Smith going from another youth pastor with a crazy idea to executive director of a national foundation to help manage the wild beast he’s helped create.

Many Licking County congregations already have youth doing some kind of special food pantry promotion on Souper Bowl, I mean, Super Bowl Sunday, and whether there’s a formal relationship with the wider organization or not, what a great day to make a little extra effort to feed those in need?

The Licking County Food Pantry Network does great work, and any canned goods or cash contribution we add to the effort will be well used; your local food pantry probably has a productive relationship with them already. Pick up a can or two of soup, some beans and veggies, and some canned meat or peanut butter, and take it to church on Feb. 3.

Even if you don’t have a “Souper Bowl” program going on, it’s a forward pass for a first down to defeat hunger. And we all win in that game.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; yes, he stayed up last Monday night and isn’t sure why he did. Share your puzzles of life an faith with him at

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack 1-13-08
Jeff Gill

Change Your Life, Step By Step

A cynic might say that I’m about to tell you what you already know, and never will do.

Could be.

An educator would observe that people need to hear things six or seven times before they really “hear” it, which experience tells me is true.

Candidates for national office will say that they have a program to implement most of these steps, which cause most of us to roll our eyes and look for the remote, which is generally the correct response.

With the beginning of a new year, though, life-changing decisions are very much in vogue, as is the usual February collapse of those good intentions. But if you would change your life for the better, a few commonplace everyday thoughts for you:

What would happen if we filled store parking lots the way we do church pews? Everyone knows that no one wants to be in the rows closest to the front, and a seat in the farthest reaches of a sanctuary is often hardest to find.

Step one is MOVE. Anything that gets you moving about a bit more is a step in the right direction, so why not park farther away from the door? C’mon, everyone’s pushing a cart on the way out anyhow, so it isn’t for carrying stuff out that we jostle and wait and pound steering wheels waiting for a front row parking space.

Plus, you’ll hardly ever get door dings out beyond the last car.

A few stairs here, a little stroll there, and you’re exercising as much as many folks who paid for gym membership last week . . . but never go. Just move more, step one.

Step two is EAT COLOR. More salsa on your food is one step (Cholula and Tabasco don’t quite count here, but actually, they just might). Add some pickles here, a slice of tomato there, even just a handful of salad on the side to start, and your diet and digestion are entering new territory.

Food that is all grey, brown, and tan, with splashes of yellow-brown, is food that is sticking to your artery walls. Oatmeal is about the only real exception to this rule, and if you pile brown sugar or syrup on it and mix in cream, we’re right back to where we started. A handful of frozen blueberries thrown in the mix, or raisins, or an orange on the side, and you’ve got the color thing goin’ on.

Yes, fruits and vegetables require a side trip to the produce aisle when shopping, some cleaning and storing and preparation. Doing all that gives you an extra jump on step one, tho’, and gives you the dietary basis to make step two happen.

The other thing about “eating color” is that is usually requires intentional eating, not casual snacking. Unwrapping cellophane or tearing open a bag barely requires thought, which is the whole problem. When you eat color, your brain gets involved, and often tells you things, like . . .

Step three: SLEEP.

Is this one of those magic TV diet secrets: “let pounds melt away while you sleep?” Nope, just the wisdom of letting your body set the rhythm of life, and not the pattern of stimulants and depressants. We often eat and drink stuff we know darn good and well we shouldn’t because we’re trying to wake up, stay awake, or get relaxed enough to go to sleep.

A healthy sleep pattern pays all kinds of amazing benefits, and it comes out in our bodies, our lifestyles, our very lives.

Which also means we find the right time and space to MOVE, which takes us back to step one; lather, rinse, repeat. Three steps, no big deals, and you can change your life.

You may want to try that plan or not, but what I do want to make sure of is that you’re all invited to come Sunday, Jan. 13, to “The Works” just south of Newark’s Courthouse Square, for a 2:00 pm lecture kicking off the Licking County Bicentennial year. I’m coming in the garb and guise of one Chaplain David Jones, the second recorded European visitor to the terrain of what’s now Licking County, a county that formally came into being on March 1, 1808, carved out of Ross County, which came out of Fairfield County which itself was taken from Washington County, the original county of the Northwest Territory.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he’s been digging away at the story of Rev. Jones since 1989, and can’t wait to tell someone about it. Tell your unappreciated story to him at