Thursday, August 28, 2014

Faith Works 8-30-14

Faith Works 8-30-14

Jeff Gill


May all your labors be blessed



"Do what you love, the money will follow."


This quote, and others like it, are fairly popular in advice and counsel to both young and old. "Follow your passion," "don't stay stuck in a job you hate."


Is that in any way reasonable to say to someone?


Or more to the point, should we be saying that to people in general?


There's no doubt that there are people who need encouragement to take a reasonable risk that's right in front of them, and be willing to accept a short term lessening of income or deal with a little more uncertainty to make their occupation a skill or gift or talent that brings the worker joy and the world blessing.


I've done that, and will again, as a pastor, as a friend.


As a motto to be silk screened onto a large poster for general consumption, I'm not so sure.


"Do what you love, the money will follow."


Well, first, it doesn't. Not all the time. And maybe not even often. It CAN likely occur more than our fears and self-doubts and desire for security allow us to realize, but if every graduating high school student, let alone college graduate, simply focused on "what they love" as a vocation, does anyone think this will work out well for more than a fortunate few?


And I ask these questions with a great deal of personal hesitation. I am blessed to do work that I love at least 87% of the time. Everyone has elements of their job they don't love (Santa Claus probably has problems with staff morale; the Pope has to do all that traveling), but I can say that I am in work that I love, and at the same time I made choices that could have turned out quite differently. A dispassionate observer might tell me "it could have been different better, it could have been different worser," yet I would just reply that I am blessed to be where I am and do what I do to help pay the mortgage and keep Subway sandwiches in my son if not always home cooked food.


I am one of the fortunate ones. I am doing what I love, and make enough to live well and help others generously to boot. So I'm a poster child for "Do what you love, the money will follow," eh?


Only if you ignore many of my peers who can't say the same, on one end of that equation or the other. And of course not everyone can be a parson.


Nor can everyone be artists or teachers in small, selective schools or be stars in mixed martial arts. What people love will vary from person to person: even so, can every last person do what they love, or is someone going to have to drive the garbage truck or shovel the horse manure? You can love the latter on occasion, but if it's three times a day 365 days a year, it might not be so lovely.


Tim Keller, the preacher and teacher at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan whose many books have gained him a wide audience in American Christendom, wrote "Every Good Endeavor" last year. The subtitle on this work is "Connecting Your Work to God's Work."


A friend recommended it to me, and I started out with a slight skepticism to where I thought it was going, and then Dr. Keller grabbed me with a long recap of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Leaf by Niggle," a greatly underappreciated novella of his which Peter Jackson should under no circumstances make a movie from.


I'll leave the story to your own discovery, but the point of the tale is that our work has more than just one dimension to it, whether we paint pictures, or sweep streets.


I am happy to recommend this book on Labor Day weekend, a traditional time to honor the dignity and importance of work and workers, no matter what the occupation or income.


And if anyone is interested in discussing it, I plan to be up on the second floor of Brews in Granville on Sunday a bit after 5:00 pm. Bringing people together to discuss how God and everyday life come together is part of my job description, and one of the parts of it I love most. Drop by if you want to be part of a discussion on this subject and this book.


But if you hate your current job, you might have something to say we need to hear as well!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he loves his work. Tell him about miserable jobs that had some unexpected benefits for you at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Notes from my Knapsack 8-28-14

Notes from my Knapsack 8-28-14

Jeff Gill


You could look it up, sort of



For my summertime narrative about inscriptions "Carved in Stone" around Granville, we've worked along College St. to read and consider the sources and meanings of the four large carved quotations found two on each of two pedestrian gateways built in 1904.

These have long been attributed to President Emory Hunt of Denison University, but even that is somewhat unclear, as have been the original authors; some print resources over the last decades have referred to them incorrectly, or even the words I talked about in the last column credited to the prolific writer "Anonymous."

But it was a Jean de La Bruyere in his collection of personal essays called "The Characters, or Manners of the Present Age," who made that observation about languages, in French originally.

Now, I do not speak or read French, but it was purely through the use of internet search engines that I was able to track down this relatively obscure quote. Although, to be perfectly fair, they're all somewhat obscure, today and even one hundred and ten years ago. That relative obscurity had me digging, back in 2007, as to where these phrases came from. There's no original document in the Denison Archives, explaining how or why these were selected, just a hint years later that Dr. Hunt picked them, a well-read and erudite man.

With all due respect for the fellow, it just seemed to me that there had to be some other origin for this set of citations than "a smart guy sat down, asked himself what four epigrams would be edifying for students, and pulled each of these out of his head as the perfect phrase to impress upon pedestrians." Could have happened that way, and if so, I may never prove it, but I wanted to keep looking.

Well, I can't prove exactly how they were picked, but my second series of researches has me pretty sure I've got a good idea where they came from. Since 2007, even more books have been optically scanned and are accessible online, often with search options. I had a leading suspect for a while, a volume entitled "Suggestive Opening Exercises for Schools" of 1889. To be candid, I'm a little sorry I can't tell you more about this delightfully named work…maybe another day!

That book had two of our gateway quotes and a nearly identical third. So I searched on.

You need to know that optical scanning and indexing is wonderful, but like any automated process, it has gaps. There was a book, scanned online, which had three of our four, and other citations of de La Bruyere listed, but not our "languages" quote. So I spent five bucks and ordered a copy of "Cyclopaedia of Practical Quotations" in the 1884 edition.

When it came in the mail, I quickly found my first two Denison quotes, on pg. 225 of this 900 page doorstop, both the Longfellow snippet & Crabbe verses, edited verbatim. Also identical, on pg. 226, our de La Bruyere, whose name had not been scanned clearly and so was not found in my browser indexed search. Then…the Franklin quote? Pg. 232. So on eight pages of a 900 page volume, all four quotes presented exactly as reproduced in stone on College St. are found just a flick or two of the finger from one another.

Perhaps Dr. Hunt was rushed (he was president, after all), or it may have been some other solemn functionary whose intentions were good, but whose time even in 1904 was pressed. Whoever, however, it seems beyond doubt that someone tasked with selecting these four formidable assertions for the ages reached up, picked this book off a shelf, maybe had one in mind (the Longfellow, I'd guess), and from finding that one picked the next three that fit.

Of such contingency are many great and lasting decisions made.


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