Monday, December 31, 2012

Knapsack 1-03

Notes From My Knapsack 1-03-12
Jeff Gill

Tracks in the snow, traces for a moment

One of my favorite parts of a decent layer of fresh snow is to see animal tracks, and to follow them even if for just a little while.

Granted, around here you're most likely to see deer tracks, although they can have their surprises. Ditto dogs, except when they aren't dogs.

When the "dog track" imprint is more elongated than rounded, and the trot is almost perfectly in line from one print to the next, you are likely looking at coyote tracks. They go through my yard with very little variation, just passing through.

Doe and young deer tracks can also be on a virtual straight line; bigger bucks, with wider chests, have a certain stagger to their gait, left to right. The classic paired lobes of the deer hoof may not look terribly different in the snow, size-wise, but the gait can give you a hint. When you see truly large hoof prints, you might even see the spots where they stop to lower their heads to forage a bit, and leave faint swoops of tracery where their antlers brush the snow.

There's a rhythm and look to the quadruple arrangement of rabbit tracks that probably is recognizable to the least outdoorsy of us. Each leap leaves almost more of a tripod of support marks, with the front paws landing in each leap, and the drop of the hind paws if often close together, and actually in front of the side-to-side forefeet - so as you walk along watching a rabbit's trail, the "sets" may not be quite what you think, as we tend to see the forepaws and the big, long hind marks behind as going together.

Squirrels are smaller than rabbits, often leave a fainter mark, and their rear doesn't swing up in a rabbity leap, so you see a sort of parallelogram set of four prints, the wider side at the top, or in the direction the squirrel is going.

A raccoon print is maybe my favorite to find, but harder  so far this winter. They're tucked away, not hibernating as we think of bears, but in a pretty low activity state, much like Uncle Charlie after Thanksgiving dinner. They don't like getting snow between their elegant fingers, anyhow. But the long toe/fingers of raccoon prints are some of the most eloquent to read, in my opinion.

Recently, closer down to Raccoon Creek, I spied . . . nope, not raccoon prints. I saw what I'm fairly certain were mink tracks, little starbursts in the snow, pattering in a wild, almost random pattern, but with a general tendency back to the river bank. No bigger than quarters, with five toes pointing out and around like an echo of stars on a flag. I'd never seen mink tracks before, and am happy to be corrected by anyone who knows.

Haven't seen any opossum tracks, which is fine because they're not one of my favorite wildlife acquaintances. Their tracks hint of raccoon, but with their opposable thumb jutting out at right angles to the rest of the print. Even more indicative is their tail, which tends to drag along, leaving a wandering line to accompany the search for food, which is important to possums given their lack of ability, which bears and raccoons have, to store up body fat. They're more likely to be out during the day this time of year, ironically, even as the days are shortest, on their search for food of any sort . . . and that opposable thumb means they're more likely to have gotten into your garbage cans than the 'coons were.

If you have some down time this winter, and there's been a snow, and you're got a good pair of boots, just go find a set of tracks (there's some not far from your front door, I guarantee) and see where they lead you.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him your tracking adventure at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Faith Works 12-29-12

Faith Works 12-29-12

Jeff Gill

Joseph & Mary's Christmas Letter



Dear friends and family back in Nazareth: season's greetings!


Mary reminded me that we really shouldn't get into a new year without sending you all a note to update developments in our little family.


Yes, we ran off and went ahead and got hitched. It's a long story, and we look forward to explaining how this all came about when next we're at home. You could say that the Roman announcement of a census forced our hand.


I had to go back south to my family homesteads near Bethlehem (as a scion of King David's line and all that). It just, well, made so much sense for Mary to come along. It was sort of a last minute decision, so we apologize for leaving Galilee so quickly and not giving you all a chance to give us a rousing send-off. Stuff happened.


It would be nice to tell you that the family down here in Judea made up for the hospitality we missed out on from you, but in fact, between the hordes coming to town for the census and all the off-season travelers, we were almost left entirely out in the cold. Our lodgings are simple but adequate, even if they would never be approved by the Triple-A.


In fact, as if things couldn't get more complicated, Mary had her baby here in Bethlehem. My carpenter's guild insurance was no good down here at Ephratha General, and we were quite worried about that, but it became a moot point when the baby was born swiftly and smoothly and really without even a cry. Yes, it was what some call a home birth, and it wasn't what we planned, but all turned out perfectly.


My family was of little help, but the kindnesses of strangers have warmed our hearts. A group of sheepherders from out on the edge of town came by our "room" and helped set everything to rights and made us feel like we were right where we were supposed to be.


Meanwhile, I'm working on picking up some contractor paying gigs (brought my tools, natch), and word on the street here is that there are some foreign dignitaries floating around the neighborhood, looking at various properties. If one of them wants a vacation home here in Bethlehem, I could make enough to get us back to Nazareth by Passover. I'll be looking to make contact with them (there's a bunch of them traveling together) as soon as I put these letters in the hands of a provincial courier, or pretty much anyone traveling north.


Hope to see you soon and tell you more in person – let's just say God has been good to us, and we are thankful! May you be as blessed as we have been, but with better beds!


All our love,

Joseph, Mary, and our brand new bundle of joy, Jesus!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A modest proposal, without irony

A modest proposal
Jeff Gill

My concern for young men, and what it means to grow up as a young man in America today, is why outdoor activity, particularly through Scouting, is my biggest personal commitment after my family and my faith (and to be fair, the latter is also my job, a package deal for me as a pastor). What I have long worried about for young men in general is what the recent series of mass shooting events say to me, even more clearly than anything about gun policy or mental health access -- the biggest problem for & with boys today is that their lives are simply too unreal.

Video games, pornography, big screen sports, electronic fantasies with no closer contact to actuality than the rumble function within the hand controller. Over and over I end up talking to young men in trouble whose future plans are literally "uh, game designer, or Navy SEAL." Never mind that they have never tried coding in HTML, nor have they ever run more than a hundred yards in their life, or walked even a mile.

What they need are sunrises. They need to lose a boot in the mud walking through the swamp in a short cut that didn't work out. They need the taste of burnt food that, after long miles and only water to drink has a taste in your mouth which satisfies body & soul. They need to be part of a team, a patrol, a group of friends who build something, start something, finish something that they can step back from and say "We did that" and smile. They need to feel rain in their face and a rope taut in their hand, watching the wind on the shore for hints of a change in direction. They need a rush of concentration as the rock bumps past on one hand and the eddy swirls on your other, as your partner in the bow fends off a submerged boulder hiding behind that bend. And yes, in these contexts, they would benefit from a gentle trigger pull and a mark leaping into view within the black circle.

Shooting sports, exercised in the absence of further realities, can become just a slightly more heavily equipped video game, spraying ammo widely into a hillside or hosing down a propane tank until the requisite "boom." Firearms, understood as precision power tools that can bite if misused -- that is what they are, first and foremost -- need their own setting of reality to make them healthy and safe.

But the degree of alienation and a-socialization I see in more and more young men (and yes, occasionally young women, but I'll leave that question to others) is something that I think is not caused by video games or pornography, but those are the pre-eminent signs and indications and addictions that result from a severe lack of reality and connection to the actual world, alongside of actual people. We can try to trace it out to the beginning of suburbs and the end of sidewalks, to the rise of personal automobiles and telephones replacing handwritten letters, to the hungry void of television, to the cult of safety keeping parents from letting their kids play in the creek or wander through fields, and all our guesses and assumptions would be open to challenge.

The answer, though, I think is unchallengeable. More reality, more sunrises and sunsets and starry nights and campfire cooking and looking at the geese flying overhead as you stamp your feet to keep them warm, more connections and conversations with peers who are experiencing the same realities through their own eyes, and learning how they see it not quite the same as you: these are the cures for more ills than we can name. I'm not certain what laws or policies we need to build a better country, but I know what youth need, and it isn't more of what they're getting right now.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Faith Works 12-22-12

Faith Works 12-22-12

Jeff Gill

Slaughter and the sorrowful season




No one wants to mourn at Christmastime.


No one wants to go to a funeral during Advent, least of all for a child.


Nobody is interested in sad songs and weeping while the carols are playing and laughter is in the air. Nobody, that is, except for those who must.


No death seems well-timed, really, and to say this is the right or the wrong month or week is a sort of non sequitur, a statement without meaning. Death comes as it may, and we respond in faith and hope according to the measure given to us.


A massacre, a mass killing during December cannot but feel particularly heinous, even though we know it would be just as appalling in April, or May. The mix of children's excitement over gifts and surprises, combined with our helpless imaginings of events like those just past in Connecticut, creates a nauseating brew of anger and despair in the pit of our collective stomach.


That feeling, though, has a place in the Christmas story. It always has. We just tend to gloss over or skip past it, as we try to keep the "joy of Christmas" alive. Death, instead, keeps creeping back into the story.


Just after the commemoration of the birth of Christ, marked on Dec. 25th, is the liturgical feast of what are called "the Holy Innocents" on Dec. 28th. They remind us of the passage in Matthew's gospel account after the Magi, or "wise men" had met with deceitful, fearful Herod and told him of a Great King who is to be born.


Herod said he wanted to meet this infant king, and after getting enough information to go on, he sent his soldiers to kill every male child under two, just to be on the safe side.


Just to be on the safe side.


The story reminds us of Pharaoh, in the beginning of the book of Exodus, when the death of the firstborn of the Hebrew sons is commanded, leading to little Moses being set adrift in the Nile in a basket. The anguish of the mothers is seen with skillful indirectness when Cecil B. DeMille shows an Egyptian soldier wiping blood off his sword with a swaddling cloth, as the mother sits stunned into silence nearby.


Silence is one response we can offer, and it is better than some words that have been shared in recent days. Sorrow can be expressed wordlessly, or in very few. And there are tears.


But from tears, there are so very often stories. The stories that explain why we grieve, what we will miss, how we are painfully remembering what we've lost right now. And the stories unfold, and connect, and carry forward, and next thing you know, you're laughing.


It's not that you stop crying, but you laugh all the same, tears changing course as your face creases into a smile.


Stories have a way of giving birth to the next story, and the next, and given time you find everyone telling stories, and while the tears are never entirely gone, they aren't the whole story.


So it is with the Christmas story. There's a heritage in that long-ago act of terror by Pharaoh in Egypt, and the present threat of Herod's uneasy security and ruthless ambition . . . and the shadow of Roman crucifixion leaning across occupied Judea.


You do no justice to the story by sweeping those realities aside. But you also talk about that stubborn donkey on the road up from Jericho, the motley crew of shepherds you met on the last, endless trudge from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and the marvel of gifts from foreign potentates who came bearing not only precious goods, but a whispered warning with angelic emphasis.


The incidents behind you haunt your delight in the baby born in a stable, but you don't let them keep you from recounting the traverse of the Sinai, that ferryman's outburst as you crossed the Nile, and even – glancing around at your listeners to gauge their trustworthiness – the dream sent from Heaven that led you to return home.


Tears may not make much of a gift at Christmas, nor do they stay long on the hearthstones, but the shedding of them has a place in the story, and always has. May your Christmas celebration tell stories, one to another, that include those who mourn, those who rejoice, those who wander, and those who have found their way home.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; tell him about your journey home for Christmas at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Faith Works 12-15

Faith Works 12-15-12

Jeff Gill


Spicing up our Advent preparations



You may know the Christmas carol that begins "Angels from the realms of glory."


It has a later verse which begins "Sages, leave your contemplations, 
brighter visions beam afar:
 seek the great Desire of Nations; 
ye have seen his natal star."


When I was very young and low to the pew backs, with plenty of time to doodle on the margins of the bulletins and contemplate the mysteries of hymn lyrics, that line puzzled me.


"Sages, leave your contemplations…"


The word jumped out at me: my mom had a rack of spices, green capped ampules filled with various herbs and seasonings, hanging next to the stove. They were older than I was, and some were near to gone (oregano) and others still full and seemingly untouched (cumin). Others were, over the years, knocked off the counter and broken, to be replaced by off-band small bottles that fit the rack (celery seed).


It was the kitchen equivalent of the Crayola 64 colors box, with the many and mysterious names to read and marvel at: cornflower blue, burnt sienna, forest green.


The spice rack included a foretaste of folk music to come: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Sage was there, in a sans serif type I can still see in my mind's eye. Just one word, four letters, a regularly if not frequently used spice (unlike chili powder or white pepper).




So in this Christmas carol, a flavor is being invoked, my youthful mind reflected. Sages, more than one type of sage, or perhaps multiple containers of the same, should stop with their, um, contemplations? Then the lyric went on into vision and seeking and seeing. I didn't know what a sage was, even though I had some sage at home in the kitchen.


Truth be told there's much about any Christmas, traditionally observed or spontaneously put together, that we enjoy more than we understand. Even when we purport to get it, we're probably missing something, like when the family we married into does the gift exchange, and someone opens up a wrapped . . . pineapple, and everyone laughs uproariously. Uh, yeah, funny. Five minutes later, they're still laughing, and you're acutely aware that you are laughing, too, and have no idea why (and make a note to ask your spouse later "what's the gag with the pineapple?").


Later that night, you ask about the family tradition about the gag gift. "What gag gift?" "You know, the one about the pineapple." "Oh, well, that's Uncle Ted." "Right, I see, Uncle Ted – but what's the joke?"


They can't tell you. It's been so long, and the joke is . . . look, it's just funny, okay?


So it is for some who stumble, perhaps drug by their family, into a worship service where we give thanks for a homeless couple, a baby with uncertain paternity, visits from seasonal migrant workers who claim to have had a hallucinogenic experience out in fields by night ("I'll bet they have" thinks the Christmas Eve guest), and then run into foreign dignitaries who are into astrology on their way out of a cave heading out of town.


And from all this, you get good news from God for all the earth?


Sometimes, we end up doing the religious version of "look, it's just funny, okay?" to people. We get it, or think we get it, because we're used to it. But in fact the oddity of the whole Christmas story, when taken seriously as a narrative, is itself part of the point. God's love doesn't work according to Robert's Rules of Order, or by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. This kind of love shows up on the margins first, and is told to us by those least likely to have made it up, whatever you think they were up to out in those cold and windy fields.


The carol continues, from those sages leaving their spice racks and recipes and contemplations, singing with us, telling us to "Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the new-born king."


Do we know what that really means? Probably not, but we can start to understand by pulling up a chair, asking some questions, and singing along when the conversations reach a puzzled end. Sometimes, the answer is right there in the song if you give it a few more verses.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; tell him your Christmas spice favorites at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

front page graphic - Newark Christian 12-12-12

Apparently, the graphic from the front page didn't come thru -- I'm still learning the opportunities and challenges of this stuff! pax, jbg

Newark Christian - Dec. 12, 2012

[Editor's note -- this is issue two going out electronically the same day as the print version hits the mail system; please send to any additional e-mails that you believe should get this! Ironically, I just got mine from last week in the mail today . . .]

The Newark Christian

  Serving God's Transformation of Licking County


Vol. LXXIII                          December 12, 2012                                    No. 38


Christmas Blessings

On Christmas Eve the Crothers and Schmitt families will again sponsor our meals to the community.  We cook, box and deliver meals to those in our community who may be in need of a hot meal on Christmas Eve (meals on wheels does not deliver on that day).  Most of our meals go to the Senior citizen apartment buildings.  Last year we were honored to fix 700+ meals.  We expect our numbers to be higher this year.  We need help in delivering the meals.  It doesn't take long, the routes are very well spelled out and normally you will be taking several meals to one location.  Anyone is invited to help; being able to drive and take along a helper is a bonus.  If interested in helping, please be at the Fellowship Hall between 11 and 11:15 am on Monday, December 24.  We will leave with meals by 11:30 am.  If you have questions please call:  Judy Schmitt (403-1754) or Steve Crothers (438-4777) Blessings to all this Christmas season! God Is Good, All the time! Judy Schmitt


Have you been counting your blessings?

We are all so blessed. If you've been following along on the "Count Your Blessings in November" calendar you should have a jar full of change by now. Please bring any money you've accumulated to the church now. Thank you again for supporting the Mission Team!


Youth All Ice Skate Night

On Sunday, January 6, all youth ages 5 and up should meet at the church from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. We will be going to the Lou & Gib Reese Ice Rink. Please dress for the weather and bring $5.00 and money for the refreshment stand. Parents and friends are welcome to attend.

Samantha Frizzell (call office for number)


2013 Diaconate

Please plan on staying for a meeting right after church on Sunday, January 6. Thanks!


Can you help?

Volunteers are needed to help keep the Church cleaned and in good condition until we are able to hire a new custodian. There is a sign-up sheet on the Welcome Center for anyone willing to help out.


Dear Church Family,

We just want to thank you all for your prayers, cards, meals and concerns. Bob's surgery went well. The Physical Therapy has started. During the first P.T. visit the therapist said the walker was temporary and to have a cane handy. He said to beg or borrow one if need be because we won't need it long. We told him our church has a Medical Loan Closet. He asked if that was Central Christian and then he said "Those people are great, we use them a lot for our patients". We said "Yes, we know!" Thank you! Love and Prayers back to you, Bob & Claudia


Altar Flower Chart

The 2013 altar flower chart is now on the Welcome Center. Please select a Sunday to acknowledge a person(s) or an event (in memory or in honor of).  There are envelopes with the chart so you can easily make a donation of $24.00 for these flowers.  The flowers are yours to take following the 10:30 am worship service. If you have questions please call the church office.


Afghans made in 2012

     Regular        Baby

Jan 5 0

Feb 10 2

Mar 4 3

April 10 2

June 5 1

Sept 3 4

Oct 5 3

Nov 6 7

Totals 48 22

Special Afghans – 2 for Rick & Sue Rintamaa

    1 for Jeff Gill

These were done by eight people in the "Happy Hooker Club". Thanks to everyone for their help by donating yarn. We could not do it without your help. God bless you all!


Notes From My Knapsack

          It has been a year of transitions, of changes, of adjustments major and minor.

We have today a significant date, numerically speaking, with 12-12-12, something we won't see again for a very long time; we've got coming up a date that marked a change in eras for the Mayan people on their calendar, with a 364 year cycle ending with a dozen of those cycles concluding on Dec. 21, 2012 to boot, which means . . . something. I forget what, and can't be bothered to look it up. Mayan elders say the world's not ending, and if they don't think that's what it means, then why worry about what some off-kilter modern Americans say?

For me, 2012 was the year for a major new beginning in my life. My son started high school. Oh, and I was called to be your pastor, that too! (Parents will understand the order I put them in.) Here at Newark Central, we've begun a number of new things, kept a bunch of traditions just the way they are, and made some shifts in what we're used to.

In other words, life. In all, life is going well here. And in all things, as it says in granite out near Mt. Vernon Road, "Christ the chief cornerstone" from Ephesians 2:20. We build out and up and remodel and refurbish and renew, but the cornerstone does not change, the benchmark remains the same.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus because in him we know where we come from, and where we are going; the promise of God-with-us, "Emmanuel" was fulfilled. The baby will grow, his story will unfold, yet God's purposes working through Jesus will not change, even as we understand those purposes in new ways with every passing day, and year.

Which is why I'm looking forward to 2013!

In grace & peace, Pastor Jeff


"God and Stuff" grades 7-12

     On Sunday, January 13 after the 10:30 service all youth in grades 7-12 will meet with Pastor Jeff and Samantha for lunch and enlightening conversation. Please bring money for lunch and your Bible.

Samantha (call office for number)


Calling all youth grades K-6….

On Sunday, January 13 all youth in grades K-6 will meet at the church from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm for a movie and games. Please bring a snack and a game to share with everyone. Until then get ready to have some winter fun!


Samantha (call office for number)


Do you hear it?

When we listen closely as we come to our Lord's Table of Communion we hear the pouring out of the cup which reverently brings us to the cross where Jesus poured out His blood for our salvation. O' listen and hear as we come to the Table of God's mercy and love….we are blessed.

A Listener



Joys and Concerns

·      Jim Green, June Betts, and Jean McDonald recovering at home

·      Ruth Bope additional complications

·      Edna Patton at Kindred (McMillen Drive, Newark)


Looking Ahead
December 16 - "Bringing the baby home, part 3",
                              Luke 3: 7-18

December 23 - "Bringing the baby home, part 4",
                              Luke 1: 46-55

December 24 – Candlelight Christmas Eve Service at 6:30

December 30 – "The Year in Review", II Chron 7: 12-22

January 6 – Youth Presentation "The Last Noel"


Daily Scripture Readings


Dec            12            1 Thessalonians 5: 14-18

            13            Ephesians 2: 4-10

            14            Matthew 1: 18-25

            15            Luke 2: 8-15

            16            Genesis 18: 1-14

            17            Romans 8: 35-39

            18            Exodus 33: 12-17

            19            Luke 6: 27-31

            20            Matthew 6: 9-13

            21            Luke 1: 26-33

            22            Deuteronomy 11: 13-21

            23            John 1: 9-14

            24            1 John 1: 1-7

            25            John 1: 35-41

            26            Matthew 6: 19-21

            27            1 Peter 1: 23-25

            28            Ephesians 1: 11-14

            29            Romans 8: 22-30

            30            Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

            31            Luke 4: 16-21

Jan            1            Psalm 119: 1-8

            2            Jeremiah 29: 1-7

            3            Revelation 2: 1-7

            4            1 Kings 17: 17-23           

(Taken from The Upper Room)


Please note....

     ….home communion for shut-ins will be served on Sunday, Dec. 16.


Braden Scholarship recipients…

Thank you so much for the generous gift to help me achieve my education goals. The body of Christ is such an encouraging thing to see when it is truly being the hands and feet of Christ! You all have blessed me more than you will know! Thank you for shining the light of Christ! This gift will aid in my future of teaching for the glory of God! With much love in Christ, Abbey Medley

I have just finished my second to last semester at Boyce Bible College in Louisville, KY in the Biblical Counseling program. Your generous gift has helped pay for this past semester and your kindness has certainly been a tremendous blessing to me. I am grateful to the Lord for the Braden Family Scholarship and am honored to be a recipient of such generosity! Thank you, Amber Walsh


The words "Thank You" cannot express my true gratitude for the opportunities which your assistance has opened up for me. Thanks to your contribution toward my educational goals, I will be able to focus on excellence more than necessity. Hoping my success will reflect brightly upon your generosity. Sincerely, Amber Coon


I would like to thank you for the scholarship that I received from your church for this school year. I attend Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky, and I'm currently studying Biblical Counseling. This year and a half that I've been here, the Lord has been so gracious and kind to teach me so many things. I am very grateful for the blessing and privilege that it is to study here. Part of the reason that I am here is because of the kindness that has been shown to me through Central Christian Church. I am very thankful for the gift of money that I have received from your fellowship over the past year and a half. The money that you have given has been put to my tuition and has helped me greatly over my college career. Through your giving, I am able to stay here at Boyce and learn more about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! From the bottom of my heart, thank you. In Christ, Nathaniel Walsh


From a Van Horn Seminarian…

I want to say a very sincere and grateful thank you for your generous gift. The monies I received will help me move through my final year of seminary without financial worries, which is a great blessing to me and my family. Your support of students, not just me, has a positive effect in so many lives. Thank you again! Blessings, Julie Cory




Monday, December 10, 2012

Knapsack 12-12

Notes from my Knapsack – Newark Central 12-12-12

Jeff Gill


It has been a year of transitions, of changes, of adjustments major and minor.


We have today a significant date, numerically speaking, with 12-12-12, something we won't see again for a very long time; we've got coming up a date that marked a change in eras for the Mayan people on their calendar, with a 364 year cycle ending with a dozen of those cycles concluding on Dec. 21, 2012 to boot, which means . . . something. I forget what, and can't be bothered to look it up. Mayan elders say the world's not ending, and if they don't think that's what it means, then why worry about what some off-kilter modern Americans say?


For me, 2012 was the year for a major new beginning in my life. My son started high school. Oh, and I was called to be your pastor, that too! (Parents will understand the order I put them in.) Here at Newark Central, we've begun a number of new things, kept a bunch of traditions just the way they are, and made some shifts in what we're used to.


In other words, life. In all, life is going well here. And in all things, as it says in granite out near Mt. Vernon Road, "Christ the chief cornerstone" from Ephesians 2:20. We build out and up and remodel and refurbish and renew, but the cornerstone does not change, the benchmark remains the same.


We celebrate the birth of Jesus because in him we know where we come from, and where we are going; the promise of God-with-us, "Emmanuel" was fulfilled. The baby will grow, his story will unfold, yet God's purposes working through Jesus will not change, even as we understand those purposes in new ways with every passing day, and year.


Which is why I'm looking forward to 2013!


In grace & peace, Pastor Jeff

Friday, December 07, 2012

Print and hand to friends, family, neighbors - anyone!

You're Invited
Sat., Dec. 15
6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
to our FREE

Open House

      Central Christian Church 
Mt. Vernon Road & Rugg Ave. 

Watch & hear the Christmas story, 
and even get involved yourself if you like!  
Refreshments inside, with Nativity sets on display 
& a Children's gift shop sponsored by Amplify Ministries. 

Our Sunday services are at 8:30 and 10:30 am; 
Communion every Sunday, open to all.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Faith Works 12-8

Faith Works 12-8-12

Jeff Gill


Apocalyptarama, in VistaVision!



You'd be surprised how much I don't want to write this column.


I've known for years, quite a few years, actually, that someday I would have to address this subject. I'm willing to talk about just about subject relating to faith and life, but sometimes I just want to throw up my hands and walk away.


But since my editorial commission in this space is to write and think broadly about how faith is at work in the lives of central Ohioans, I have no choice but to speak now, with very little time to spare, about a subject of great controversy.


What I mean is 12-21-2012.


You may know it as the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the solar year on Earth, when the sun rises the furthest south on your eastern horizon, crosses the sky the lowest it will go, and sets frighteningly early at the southern point of the western set-points.


After about Dec. 25 (the solstice, or "stand still of the sun" means the sun's rise point stays put for a few days, as opposed to moving a smidge every day as it does except at the Summer & Winter Solstices) our days will start getting imperceptibly longer again, and by the end of January you realize that dawn is indeed creeping earlier, and the light is a bit brighter even at noon.


But on this longest night, we're all feeling the weight of darkness and a bit of the ol' seasonal affective disorder. If you are dealing with trauma and sadness in your life, the joy all around you in the community can itself feel like a burden.


That's why some churches, my own Newark Central among them, hold a "Longest Night" service on or around Dec. 21 (ours is 7:00 pm that Friday night) for people who need a quieter, more solemn remembrance of the Christmas celebration.


What will get even more attention is not the annual solstice or services for the season, but The End of the World. Not "the end of the world," but The End of the World. The Mayans predicted it, right?


Actually, no. Aside from the fact that most of the gags you see online and in comics are based on the round Aztec calendar stone from Mexico City, the Mayan calendar probably, but not definitely, simply marks a change of eras on this date. Or it may be calling for that change somewhere around the year 30,012. Scholarly opinion differs.


There was a silly movie with planes flying under bridges and the Himalayas collapsing under the seas with the Mayans having accurately predicted the shift of tectonic plates tied to the flip of magnetic poles or something. Yes, the magnetic poles of this planet have flipped, and will flip again, but if it happened tomorrow, you would likely be disappointed . . . or pleased. I think. Anyhow, it's not clear how it would impact electronics, but it would make it hard for Boy Scouts learning map and compass, while affecting the crust of the planet not a whit.


I didn't comment on the movie then, and I've been avoiding the subject of 2012 all through . . . 2012. It's been a subject kicked around for literally decades, this Mayan apocalypse, and it has largely turned into a self-referential joke, which is all it deserves.


Some are taking it "seriously" in the sense of a prediction from a native, indigenous wisdom tradition that the solstice ending 2012 is a key time for a spiritual renewal and a need for us to respect life and our global ecosystem. You'll get no argument from me on that!


But when the agitated edges of the remaining anxious apocalypticism lead people to vandalize ancient artifacts in the name of "saving the planet" from technology or some other modern bugaboo, I hate to even condemn for fear of just adding fuel to the fire.


No, I don't think the world is ending on Dec. 21. Nor is Jesus returning on any date predicted by someone with a TV show and PO box, nor is the Number of the Beast telling me anything about how to live. What I do like is the punchline on the best Mayan apocalypse comic, which uses an image of the Aztec calendar, but has a carver saying "I only had enough room to go up to 2012."


His buddy answers "Ha! That'll freak someone out someday."


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor; tell him your expectations of the world's end at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.