Saturday, March 08, 2008

For a little more context, click the video at the head of my link blog, and read the note posted with it at YouTube . . . more to come.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Not to be confused with an endorsment, but what a nice and fully informed advocate for her mom . . . I can only imagine dinner table conversation as she grew up:

Chelsea Clinton, standing with a couple of happy Republicans -- the Little Guy said she was smart (true) and she did her best to defend the Democrat stance on federalism (didn't sell me, but a good effort)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Faith Works 2-8-08
Jeff Gill

Striding Across the Sky, Among the Stars

When the melted snow of daylight hours is freezing to a glaze below your feet, and a wind creaks the young oak in the front yard, it may not be a prayerful time to be outdoors.

A few nights back, I was caught looking up, not quite frozen, but feeling a still moment that brought a memory of warmth to the nighttime.

Directly overhead in the southern sky was Orion, the Hunter. One of the winter sky’s most recognizable constellations; three stars for a belt, a dangled scabbard of two more angled back, a jaunty red Betelgeuse as cap, arm outstretched towards the bull’s horns of Taurus, aiming for the heart made of the Pleiades, the seven star cluster hanging to the west.

I’ve looked at and pointed out this sight many times, on Scout campouts and collecting for my paper route and going from car to meeting and out again later to head home. When the winter evening is far gone, Orion is now chasing his prey past the height of the sky and down the far slope, Sirius chasing his master with all the enthusiasm of a dog on the hunt.

Those longer ago recollections of looking up and seeing this great figure striding across the sky, shrouded by my own breath misting up into the night, are now mingled with a very particular time of this ancient sight.

Fifteen years ago last week, I stood on the end of a dock at Kibbutz Nof Ginosaur, stretching into the Harp-shaped Sea, Har-Kinnereth, the Sea of Galilee. Thanks to the kindness of John and Marguerite Jones, may they rest in joyful peace, I was at the last night of ten spent in Israel, with a caravan of clergy that had landed at Tel Aviv and was now about to round the bend of Caesarea the next day and return to Lod airport where late the next night we would take flight back home.

We had been out on these waters the day before in a fisherman’s boat, reading just what you’d expect a bunch of Christians to read from the Gospels in a moment like that. The outlet into the Jordan River we had crossed, and rolled up through Tiberias to this guesthouse in an Israeli kibbutz.

Night fell, my roommate was watching (no, really) “Tango and Cash” dubbed into Hebrew on the TV, and I walked out to the dock, and to the end. It was warm, though the Israelis thought it a cool March night, so I was alone.

At the end of the dock, I saw Orion standing on his head in the still water, and then looked up to see this vast figure in his usual posture, walking out of myth into my awareness. Hebrew myth had him a giant, a fool, who challenged God and was bound to the heavens as punishment; Greek myth wavered between Orion and Adonis; the Babylonians saw a shepherd, while Norse mythology a goddess weaving, either Frigg or Freya.

Jesus saw this constellation, on a cool spring night. This I knew more certainly than I was sure of any other site or object that I had been shown the last ten days. Jesus looked up from his journey and saw just this, as had the boy I was knocking on doors years ago, as my loved ones were, a bit lower in the sky, right now – well, not right now, but would in about five or six hours, but these stars, this sky.

I looked at Orion, and saw Him. And I see Jesus still, not in the shape of the stars, but as one looking on them, perhaps now from the other side. To see the stars over Kinnereth’s lake, to see their reflection in those waters, is one of my more permanent memories.

Somehow Jerusalem became a bit more real in that moment, and the cross, and the empty tomb (or tombs, we saw a few). Not the items or objects, but the reality of the event, and the connection to my life, and all our lives.

How’s your Lent going? And don’t forget to spring your clocks forward, ready to rise . . .

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your star-strewn story at

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack 3-8-08
Jeff Gill

No Doubt Who Wrote This

Larry Fugate and I share at least this one quality – our writing is not likely to be confused for each others’ or much of anyone else’s.

For those of you who enjoy our commentary and columnizing, thanks for your patronage! In the newspaper business, from the days of “Benj. Franklin, printer” to the present internet-ified era, we’ve never been quite sure if you want the ads and put up with the content, or want a heaping helping of fresh, informative text and sift through the ads to find it.

A healthy balance is probably what we all benefit from, advertisers not the least.

I’ve written for publications in a wide variety of venues, and worked alongside quite a few journalists, freelance writers, and others who make part or all of their living in the salt mines of prose construction.

Some of us write better than others, a few write easily, while not a few are just prolific. Some of us write better on some days than others, others can handle deadlines while they leave many distraught -- but we all know that writing creatively when the Muse is not in residence can be worse than shoveling sand.

Writing columns is a uniquely rewarding task, but I’ve watched a number of folks over the years dive into the work with enthusiasm, and then suddenly hit a wall a few weeks or months in. They realize “I have no good ideas today, and not only do I need to come up with one, but I’ll have to next week, and the week after that, and . . .”

And they quit. No shame in that – like knitting or welding, it isn’t for everyone. Especially if it isn’t a required task for your job, though clergy know this sort of dilemma when it comes to preaching (plus, for many, a regular newsletter column). Clergy, and writers who have to keep writing columns or personal essays or what have you for their work, learn how to deal with “a season of dryness” and push through, or they find a new field of work.

When you’re writing columns for no pay, no job requirement, and no reason other than to see your name in print, you usually can just wait for lightning to strike. Which is what makes the tale of Tim Goeglein so odd.

Mr. Goeglein was personally hired by Karl Rove to work in the White House Office of Public Liason, co-ordinating Bush administration initiatives with faith-based and religious conservative groups. He’s from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and while he’s been in Washington, D.C. he’s semi-regularly sent “guest columns” on a variety of subjects back to his hometown paper. The frequency of them has increased the last few months, no doubt to prepare the way for a return home to run for elected office in Indiana.

This is where I feel both sad and angry. There’s a blog written by a former columnist in Fort Wayne, who now lives in Detroit, called, and I often comment there myself, having been referred to Nancy’s work by a friend years ago. Nancy and others of us were throwing comments around in the wake of William F. Buckley’s death last week, and I looked right away to see what Tim Goeglein had written, since – to be perfectly candid – his writing style was so odd as to make us all enjoy making fun of it.

Nancy looked further the next evening, and read, or felt a bit more oddness than usual, and did a simple Google-check of a phrase.

Between the end of that sentence and a week later is the revelation that the fellow had stolen vast swaths of other people’s writing, in (as of this writing) 20 of his last 38 columns, in some cases almost the whole length of the piece.

He even plagiarized the pope.

And you can imagine that, once this was all out and started to echo around the internet, Tim Goeglein was humiliated and finally turned in his quickly accepted resignation. I’m thinking running for governor is out, too.

Plagiarism is paradoxically easier to catch, and more common today, than perhaps at any point in history. Ask a teacher in high school or college, let alone an editor, how they feel about plagiarism. For that reason alone, as a chastening example, the job loss seems fair. Crooks on “Law & Order” don’t seem to understand that cops can pull cell phone records, and writers should know that Google goes both ways.

I’ve often come to the end of a column thinking “I wish I wrote that better.” Trust me when I say that worry has never caused me to then think “so, let’s see who else said it better, and print that as my words.” Why a White House official would do so may be the story that is yet to be told.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he doesn’t much like any form of theft, including plagiarism. Tell your original story to him at