Thursday, August 14, 2014

Faith Works 8-16-14

Faith Works 8-16-14

Jeff Gill


Pain, multiplied beyond imagining



There are columnists and journalists whose greatest danger in their labors would be carpal tunnel syndrome.


We muse and type and hit send, feeling strong emotions from the comfort of our living rooms or offices.


Reporters who are on the front lines, experiencing the cold and thirst and windburn alongside the struggling victims whose stories they want to tell, deserve the respect of all of us. To be in northern Iraq, or even the northern suburbs of St. Louis, is to feel a calling, a vocation, to serve and accept the burdens of service as a necessary part of living out your passion.


Back here in the living rooms and offices of America, or even in the worship centers of US churches, we catch a glimpse of what not long ago was a line of print in a bulletin, a few words from the parson before these issues and concerns were wrapped up in petitions to the Almighty.


Our dilemma, as praying pastors, as Christians and other praying folk at home or on the road during the week, is that our prayers can't be an affiliate network to the news media. We can pray over what we learn from the evening news, out of the magazines and newsletters coming in our mailboxes or online, and cable TV news always has an assortment of fears and anxieties to grab at us. But that's not the whole story.


Many of us are members of denominational bodies which send out mail and now e-mail alerts about mission stations under fire, critical needs overseas, names of servant leaders who need our prayers. It's not hard to get your name on mailing lists for parachurch organizations which now do the same, telling us about how much our prayers are needed in areas of disease outbreak, flood zones, urban slums filled with hungry children.


Which do we pray for? How often? Do we put a list of nations and cities in the bulletin each Sunday, or add a block to the newsletter to remind the members about missionaries we support or programs that we can ask blessings for?


As a serving pastor, I'm mindful every week of how much we don't pray for. There are folks who have had surgery that we lift up by first name a week, or two, and then we stop being specific…but I know the road to recovery is still hard for them.


International issues are tricky because we know the most about the situations which get the most coverage. We should all probably have been praying more, more often, more passionately, about the Second Congo War and its aftermath. To which you may say "um, was that after the First Congo War?" Yes, exactly. Maybe you watched "Kony 2012" on your computer, maybe you lifted up a prayer for peace and blessings into that tragedy, maybe you sent in a contribution. How's Joseph Kiny doing these days, anyhow? We have no video footage of him, so we don't know.


Back in the spring, your church may well have offered up prayers for the 200 girls kidnapped in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram. Have you…. No, don't feel guilty. I know, you haven't thought about them, let alone prayed for them, for weeks. (Months.) Have they been rescued? Even found?


There's no video feed, not even a Skype link, to that neck of the woods. So the story, and the prayers, fade away.


I believe God is at work in some way in that situation, but our prayers are not much in the mix. Should they be? Shouldn't they?


We tend to let the media drive our prayer life. That's not entirely bad, as global awareness makes us more sensitive to people and places we would never have thought of before. But if our prayers, our hearts, our spiritual disciplines get whipsawed around by the latest trend on Twitter, there's some reason for concern.


How do we discipline our prayer lives, so that we can include new areas of attention and intention, but also maintain some enduring areas of intercession that are in line with our own personal vocation? That may be one of the great challenges of spirituality in this media-rich and prayer-poor age.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he appreciates many of the prayer requests and reminders he gets through You can also follow him @Knapsack on Twitter.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Knapsack 8-14-14

Notes from my knapsack 8-14-14

Jeff Gill


Mysteries unveiled, thanks to the internet



We're getting down to the last of the Denison gateway inscriptions, though not the end of my narrative about "Carved in Stone" around Granville. From "Education Safeguards the Nation" at the elementary school, to the Denison gateways, a few more carved considerations up within the campus but in plain view of the village, and finally a few words set for the centuries in granite that are a bit outside our town, we have many of these around us that are easy to overlook even when we're looking right at them.

Of the two pedestrian gateways, built in 1904 each with two pithy quotes flanking the entrance to the stairway up from the Fine Arts Quad to the academic areas above, we've discussed three quotes. Edging over to the beginning of Burg Street, our last enduring observation goes like this: "Languages are no more than the keys of sciences; he who despises one, slights the other."

Most sources refer to this quote as "unattributed," or even "anonymous," which just means that somewhere since President Emory Hunt picked it out over a century ago, no one's been sure where it came from.

It's kind of appropriate that the obscurity of the quote is tied to the quotation, which is hard to track down in part because the original is in French, from an author named Jean de La Bruyere. De La Bruyere was a student of Pascal and Montaigne, a contemporary of Racine and Corneille, and over to the English side of the channel, he strongly influenced Joseph Addison with his single bestseller: a collection of personal essays called "The Characters, or Manners of the Present Age," from whence this quote derives.

Addison, for himself, went on to create the idea of short essays in cheap, public settings like broadsheets and newspapers, each largely unconnected to the print piece that came before.

Or, you could just say that Addison invented the role of newspaper columnist!

So there was a time when de La Bruyere was a big name, but that time is long past, and his name has tended to fade into the darker corners of scholarly illumination. When I first started investigating the authors and contexts and reasons for these large public quotations here in Granville, I was able to simply type in pieces of the full phrase until I found my match, and my no-longer-anonymous author.

What the internet could not help me do, back in 2007, was figure out what, if anything, brought these four sages together, or what motivation caused Denison President Emory Hunt to select them for this august setting.

The internet has grown, as has my knowledge of how to dig about in it; the possible explanation for "why these four apothegms?" will be our next subject…


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him where you find pithy inspiration at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.