Thursday, June 25, 2009

The view(s) from Finney Peak - posted from Flickr for my Dad! From north, clockwise around to west-northwest...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Solstice Sunrise at Great Circle Earthworks:

As i was shooting this, i kept looking up over the camera to see if i was . . . seeing what i was seeing! The glowing patches looked like lens artifacts at first, but then they began moving, right to left. There wasn't really any ground fog or mist directly visible when i walked in, but as my stills showed when i ended this and walked towards the Grand Gateway, there was just enough moisture above the turf to catch the light.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Faith Works 6-27-09
Jeff Gill

Summer Slump May Be Story Of the Past For Churches

There really was a day, a summer day for many congregations, when the sanctuary pews were empty, or at least emptied out.

Once upon a time, when travel was harder, but ironically, vacation was often longer, there truly was such a thing as the “summer slump.”

Part of me wishes for people the chance to take a two or three or even four week trip, even as I understand that in a time of double digit unemployment and workplace competition, the concept of “a month off” is not going to make a comeback – not this year.

It is true, as Rick Steves keeps reminding us all on his PBS travel shows, that Americans take both the least AND the shortest vacations of any industrialized nation. If we get four weeks off, we’re likely to take two one week vacations and a few days here and there . . . at the most.

This may not be as good for productivity as an economist might think (let alone a manager), since getting your head out of the details might be the best way to get your head in the game. Studies show this, and the Biblical injunction of Sabbath has something to say about it, as part of the very nature of Creation itself.

So faith communities might do well to speak up for time off, both on a weekly basis in Sabbathkeeping, and through the year for a sort of annual Sabbath. We could remind people of the values, contingent and eternal, behind remembering how God is in charge and we aren’t. Vacations do that for us.

Plus, some of the most interesting ideas in congregational life come from church members who go visit a place of worship somewhere else, and return saying “Hey, did you realize we could do THIS?”

What’s more immediately of concern, on the home front, is the tendency to echo the world’s ways and get so blooming busy through the summer that any rational believer would start thinking “I need some time off from this place.”

Somehow, it seems like we’ve gone in a generation from churches that often all but shut down from Memorial Day to Labor Day (other than the odd church that did a VBS or an occasional rummage sale) to being twice as busy in June, July, and August than we are any months that don’t have “ecember” in them.

What can we do to improve this situation? I think it can be a Godly and gracious thing for churches to think and speak as if vacation time is part of a healthy, inspired life, not something to apologize for. You know the flip side: the folks who are first to say “oh, a vacation; I’ve never taken one in the last fifteen years.”

No, church leaders can affirm and celebrate time away, and also lift up worship as a healthy part of this health-filled decision; we can offer to help identify locations near where you’re going to attend worship, or we can provide materials for family worship out on the beach or up in the mountains. Little “vacation worship pacs” in the narthex say to everyone “time away is actually time that is part of a fully engaged life, and worship has a place there.”

The alternative is, well, what we have, where the whole “um, yeah, we’re, uh, taking some time off” along with the horrendously unhealthy “what happens in Blank stays in Blank” leads to the auto-assumption that no sane person goes to church on vacation.

Truly, some of the most powerful and personally productive worship services I’ve attended have been during “time off,” when I was utterly just another worshiper, with no other expectations or assumptions weighing my soul down.

And for those still hesitant about taking their growing personal faith and taking into corporate worship: there is no better way to try out church attendance, without worrying that a congregation you know you can’t stand will chase you for months, than going to Sunday services hundreds of miles from home.

Maybe on vacation is where you can start to find the path to your heart’s true home.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story of worship on the road at, or follow Knapsack

Knapsack 6-25

Notes From My Knapsack 6-25-09 – Granville Sentinel

Jeff Gill


Stepping Cautiously Into Adulthood



When does a child become an adult?


I have the honor and responsibility of writing a column every Saturday in the Newark Advocate for the "Your Faith" page, and last week's "Faith Works" asked Licking County faith communities to think about their rituals and observances and milestones for young people that mark their passage into adulthood.


Out at Camp Falling Rock last week, I had the chance to think about this watching a record setting Cub Scout Day Camp play out, with over 400 kids and more than 100 adults spending Tuesday through Friday clambering around the fields, rocks, waterfalls, hills, and high points (real and symbolic).


Pack 3 of Granville was also represented by 34 Cub Scouts and over a dozen different leaders and parents (some one day, some all four), anchored by Cubmaster Ed Hock, who was very pleased and proud with the turnout.


For these kids, from all around Licking County and a few Packs out of neighboring counties, there were many who had their first time in a rowboat, first time shooting arrows from a bow or firing a BB gun, who had never launched a rocket they made themselves from a two liter bottle (air pressure style) or walked up a creek looking for crawdads and frogs. A few may even have never been in a pool before, or walked up a hill so steep they couldn't see the top of it when they started.


That's part of why events like Cub Scout Day Camp are so memorable, for children and parents. They're full of firsts, of benchmarks and bright lines and beginnings of new experiences that may pale and wear smooth with repetition, but whose origin will never be forgotten.


Which is marvelous for seven and eight and nine year olds, who start to sense their place, and their ability to find it, in a world they now know is larger than the backyard and TV remote can encompass. But they know, as they watch the older Scouts helping out (which my son got to do for the first time this year), that they're still a long ways off from adulthood.


When is that, though? We put driving at sixteen, which is a major milestone for young people, but voting is at eighteen, "adult beverage" consumption is at 21, and quite frankly, we seem to keep back some sense of cultural acknowledgment that "young adults" are really grown up and fully responsible right through college graduation around 22 and beyond.


As we look around the country at an out of wedlock birthrate now past 4 out of 10 babies born to single mothers, I wonder if there's an element in this of young people wanting to prove in a definitive, inarguable way: "I am an adult." Fathering a child or giving birth to one is, indeed, a horizon you can only step across once.


Somewhere between a learner's permit and pregnancy is a place where as a community we need to help affirm the gift and privilege and responsibility of saying "I am responsible for my choices and actions and decisions." Even as we build a society where, blessedly, many hard landings are cushioned and buffered, can we also create a solid place to stand that says "Here I begin to shape my life with intention and purpose."


One possibility: I think I see and hear a bit of this sort of "rite of passage" with those who go on work trips and mission trips, to take their beliefs and values somewhere beyond their comfort zone and act on them, whether with drywall mud and hammers, or in conversation and conversion.


Those who come back from experiences like that know they are creating their lives, not just experiencing events; even as they better understand how dependent they are on others, no matter how independently they might adventure.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about a rite of passage you've known at or follow "Knapsack"