Monday, December 02, 2013

Faith Works 12-7-13

Faith Works 12-7-13

Jeff Gill


Closed for the holidays



Let's just jump right into it, shall we?


Why are the stores and restaurants and drive-thru windows all closed for Christmas?


We got the national retail debate going for Thanksgiving, and I don't want to be caught short going into the heart of the holiday festivities.


As you may know from personal experience, some stores opened up not on Black Friday's dawn (doesn't that seem like a good book title? "Black Friday's Dawn"), nor at midnight even, but on Thanksgiving Day itself at 6 or 8:00 pm. Apparently five to seven hours is the shopping equivalent of waiting an hour after eating before going swimming.


For some, this was a tragedy, a travesty, a crisis of national proportions. Stores, open on Thanksgiving Day! Oh, the humanity, the clerks & waitstaff forced to leave behind the football games and battles over who does the dishes that evening!


Yet we know the days of "better get gas, tomorrow's Sunday" are long in the past. Sure, a few serious drinkers know they can't restock until 1:00 pm or so on Sunday afternoon (sleep it off, campers), and car lots give us a little time to prowl without sales staff on site.


Once, some of us recall, Sunday was a desert of doing. Whether you were observant or not (let alone what day you called the Sabbath of your tradition), you had to take a break. I was discussing this general issue on Facebook the other day, and a friend reminded me that when he was growing up in Wisconsin someone went down to the pop machine on Main St. and unplugged it.


That's some serious Sabbathkeeping.


If you recall the newspaper having a graphic on the front page counting down how many "Shopping days until Christmas!" it's because there once were days when you (gasp) couldn't shop. And you don't see that graphic anymore, do you?


Now, we expect the TV stations to all be on 24/7 (we didn't say with stuff worth watching, but the waving flag, national anthem, test pattern end of the day is a thing of the past). We've always assumed that police and fire and hospital staff are on duty, but now we get flak at our congregation's volunteer-run medical loan closet ministry if we close down for Thanksgiving: why aren't you open?


And there were voices calling hypocrisy upon anyone who bemoaned Thanksgiving hours, but were happy to shop then, just as we once had people decrying the end of "blue laws" for Sunday closure in morning worship, and then muttered un-Christian thoughts when they went to a restaurant and found they had to wait in line for dinner (sermon must have been too long).


So let's just blow out the doors and get it over with. Everyone has to be open, all the time. No closing for Thanksgiving, open on Christmas Day, and let's promote hiring by staying up all night, and not just with the drive-up window the way some fast food places cheat and do, but dining room, too.


SpongeBob fans know that the Krusty Krab once stayed open round the clock, to the square-pantsed fry cook's everlasting glee. It was good enough for that little Poriferan, so why not everyone, Squidward and all of us alike? Of course, the episode "Graveyard Shift" doesn't quite turn out as planned.


And where will our current cultural experimentation take us? Is this the goal: 24/7 activity? Our shifts at work, the hours on task, the "open for business" permanently switched to the "on" position, all moving us towards… what?


Actually, I can answer that. It's death. Yep, d-e-d dead. We are built, evolved, designed, whatever, to have regular periods of rest. If we don't, we die. There's a reason leaving the lights on and waking up prisoners regularly as they doze off is called "torture." We seem to be bent on torturing each other to death.


In a complex modern economy, it may not be feasible or even truly desirable to have everyone pause at once, to have us all rest at the same time. Edison banished night and Bezos has banished "closed," but our bodies still crave sleep, and dreams.


Religious occasions aside, there is a very organic something to trying to hold onto a date or two where, insofar as you don't hazard public health, everything. Just. Shuts. Down. It would be good for us, because that's how we're made.


I'd say more, but I'm out of coffee.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's not good at resting, either, but c'mon. Tell him your own personal hypocrisies at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Notes from my Knapsack 12-5-13

Notes from my Knapsack 12-5-13

Jeff Gill


A story on the way home - pt. 9




Nelson stood looking at his grandfather.


He gazed placidly back, this elderly fellow with a tube under his nose and a blanket draped easy chair in the middle of a trailer home. Nelson had only just learned he had a grandfather, let alone one with his name (or he his), and had followed the winding trail of documents and receipts and paid utility bills to this cluster of mobile homes next to Rt. 16 off of Weaver Drive.


"Your sister," the man said, waving the younger Nelson to a less upholstered seat across from him, "she had tracked me down here. Don't ask me how, I don't know."


"She just showed up here?"


"Pretty much. Your father had brought me here when he taught for a while at Denison, and after he'd gotten into some kind of hot water, I guessed with a student, one of those young women that were always chasing after him or he them, he headed south to some new lecturer job. He'd invited me to come with him, but by then, I'd made some friends here, gotten involved with some folks…"


(At this point, Nelson's newly discovered grandfather very slowly offered up what for all the world looked like a wink, but his brain refused to process it as such until some time later.)


"Anyhow, your father wandered off again, something your sister assured me you were both used to, and I stayed put. Had an apartment in town, but after your father died down in Dallas, or was it Houston? Regardless, the money got tight, and I learned one of these fine modular homes (the wink appeared again, to the same level of bemused denial in Nelson's mind), and it fit my budget better, so here I am."


"And my sister knew you…" There was little Nelson could say, given how little conversation he'd had with her in recent years, not to mention some unspoken unvoiced unissues that kept them both dancing around candor.


"That's right," said the elder Nelson, as if his grandson's last statement was a masterpiece of clarity. "She didn't want to burden you with an old coot you might not want to know about, and since she said you were pretty bitter about your father, my prodigal son, she was waiting for the right moment to tell you about me. Which, the universe and circumstances divine and otherwise seem to think is now."


"Now wait a minute, I'm not bitter about…." Nelson paused in mid-statement and thought about what he was just about to say. Yes, his father had been more absent than present, and had been less than no help to his mother as he and Cheryl had grown up. And yes, he probably had referred to his biological father as…."okay, so I was not impressed with my father's paternal skills."


"Your sister was afraid learning about me would just cause you to pass along the rejection your father never noticed to an earlier, deservedly blameworthy generation." There was no rancor, no irony in his grandfather's voice. Just a matter of fact expression of mistakes made, and regrets noted.


"In fact, sir, grandfather sir, honored ancestor," (with that, a small smile blossomed on the elderly man's face) "I'm pleased to meet you. And what on earth do we do now?"


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; tell him what you think happens next at or @Knapsack on Twitter.