Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Notes From My Knapsack 10-8-15

Notes From My Knapsack 10-8-15

Jeff Gill


My political position



We're heading into the Cuisinart phase of our national electoral process, with the purée setting coming next spring. My own political recipe is as follows:


1.) I think you should vote. I believe voting is a meaningful activity, both in a practical & symbolic fashion. The meaning you derive from it is directly in ratio to the amount of care & effort you put into making that act.


2.) I think you should be involved in your local political process. This is not just putting up yard signs. Go to school board or village council meetings, even when you don't have a fox in that particular hunt. Do some public service, whether electoral (running for office) or volunteer (serving on a municipal or district panel by appointment), or supportive (clean-ups, set-ups, voting official, or even just serving on a jury without whining about it).


3.) I think the more local the election, the more important your vote, and you should think and discuss and act with that in mind. I believe it is not anywhere nearly as significant whom you vote for in the presidential election as it is when you vote for village council, school board, county commissioner, or state representative and the like.


4.) I think you should pick a party, and speak up in it as well as through it. To some degree, I don't care which; with respect, much of what passes for "I'm an independent" is really just "I can't be bothered." There are honorable exceptions, and I'm always willing to believe you are one, but generally, I think we all know there is no perfect fit for anyone. Just decide on some key principals you adhere to, vote in a primary (that's all it takes to "join" a party anyhow), and find a way to express both where you agree, and where you disagree. GOP, Dem, Green, Democratic Socialist, Libertarian -- none of those will fit you perfectly, I'm certain. But pick one, and push it.


5.) I think kindness & compassion are political values that can be expressed through the body politic, within the commonweal. The fact that arguably neither are much in evidence now does not mean you can't try to find and affirm a path to those two values through the political process.


6.) We will not agree on the shortest path to those principals, even if you share #5 with me. But if we keep the end in mind, the way ahead can be seen, in outline, and we can get closer to those goals even by different lines of approach.


7.) Politically, I am by nature a Mugwump. I will often find myself with my mug on one side of a fence and my wump on the other. Shouts of RINO & DINO are not going to move me from my fencerow. Sometimes the view up here ain't bad.


8.) Much of what passes for political discourse in this great land of ours today is actually maneuvering & manipulation by those with and/or in power to hold onto it, or powerful forces with access to money & media to gain further benefit for themselves under the cover of claiming the public's benefit. When I or anyone else calls out such behavior, it is neither a repudiation of anything I said above in this list, nor is it even an absolute rejection of a particular candidate or party when implicated in such behavior. That possibility was anticipated by the prescient Mr. Madison in his checks & balances built into the foundation level of this country; and corruption, whether mild, venial, or comprehensive is not a sign that the entire American Experiment is failed. It just needs more variables controlled for before the next run, and that's what elections are for.


9.) If you get involved on a nuts & bolts basis in your community political life, you may be surprised what that activity does to your political positions. Sometimes, the view from close up is clearer than the perspective from your sofa. Get up and come see.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him your partisan non-negotiables at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.



Notes From My Knapsack 9-24-15

Notes From My Knapsack 9-24-15

Jeff Gill


Making a list, checking it twice



Apparently Granville has made some lists.


They are provoking some discussion, and perhaps more in line with the list-makers' intentions, causing some clicks on websites you'd never heard of. Nicely played, internet.


We're beautiful, and we're snobby. Or in the top ten of those categories. Perhaps.


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so is snobbery. We moved here the last week of 2004, and I have yet to run into snobbery. A little provincialism, but you can get that in Newark or Hebron or Buckeye Lake. No, I'm not from here, and effectively speaking never will be (when I lived in West Virginia, after my son was born, another non-native said to me at a party "Jeff, our kids will never be from here – I think it takes three generations for that to count"). But we've always felt included.


I think Norwich is beautiful, and Somerset, but I never see them on lists like this. Size, no doubt, and proximity to major traffic plays a role in these lists. Mount Pleasant is a refreshing surprise up above the Ohio Valley, and there's a small town up near Bowling Green I got routed through on a highway detour years ago I'd like to get back to when I can stop. Milan is delightful and often overlooked, almost due north of us but on the road to nowhere.


Granville probably deserves to be on lists that don't include us, or maybe it's more the case that some lists haven't been made yet that should be.


Top Ten villages where residents know how to pack a picnic basket for outdoor concerts: the summer GRC offerings on the Fine Arts Quad are always eclectic and enjoyable, with the enjoyment not always tied to the quality of the music. The fun is in seeing how people refresh themselves on their blankets and lawn chair clusters. Granville knows how to do this, whether it's fruit snacks and string cheese or paté and a nice Riesling.


Top Ten Fourth of July parades: I mean, c'mon. Why hasn't someone done this list, and why wouldn't we be on it? It's awesome. Even the politicians at the front are fun, and this year, one of them came back to the end to help me with the shovels trailing the horseback units (hat tip, Scott Ryan!). We may not have Rose Parade level floats, but as Linus would say about his pumpkin patch: they're the most sincere.


Speaking of pumpkins: Top Ten downtown Hallowe'en celebrations! Ours are entirely unofficial, door-to-door, indigenously originated, good fun festivities. Even the older kids know the boundaries (mostly) and enjoy their shaving cream finale with good cheer and exuberant high spirits.


Top Ten Christmas season observances: the Granville Candlelight Walking Tour, first Saturday of December, is awesome and delightful even when it's warm and not snowing. Candles, choirs, candy, carriages. When a gentle fall of flakes drape the luminary lit landscape (hat tip, Troop 65!), it is magical. 'Nuff said.


Top Ten Autumn landscapes: it's coming soon, and seriously, who can top us? College Hill's glories crowning the Broadway streetscape, the golden tunnel of Newark-Granville Road from Cherry Valley Road to Clear Run, the full fall spectrum across the Welsh Hills seen from Piper Stadium at a Denison football game. There's nowhere quite as beautiful as Granville from every angle in the height of autumn.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what top ten list you'd put Granville on at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Faith Works 9-19-15

Faith Works 9-19-15

Jeff Gill


Disruption and healing



One of the critical roles of faith communities for members is to be a stable presence in the midst of disruption.


Disruption can be as disturbing as a death, or as simple as a change in plans. And on a personal level, some people take a major crisis in stride, but are completely dismantled by a minor setback.


There are personal blows that hit an individual where it matters: job loss, a car crash, the death of a pet. And there are family impacts that shake each member a little differently: a move, the moving of neighbors (and the arrival of new ones), major milestones like a graduation that changes relationships all through the family system.


In the mainstream Christian tradition, the starting point is God. God was and is and will be; from God as creator all things were made, and anything that is to come finds a resting place in God's purposes. As redeemer, in Christ all people find hope and promise for a future with God forever; through the Holy Spirit, all creation is sustained moment by moment by moment.


Jesus said "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst," (Mt. 18:20 NASB) and it's that confidence that God is present, and caring, in which a ministry of presence becomes so important.


We can add elements to that ministry of presence: casseroles, a sliced ham, cards and flowers. Candy is usually pretty nice, too. (Sugar free for diabetics!) But they're simply tools to help us in visiting, and to maintain the memory of that act of presence, as outward expressions of what's usually most important inwardly for all concerned: you were there. You took the time, you showed up, you cared enough to call or write.


Someone else being present in the midst of that moment or place of disruption is the most effective reminder of that spiritual truth Jesus stated, when he said "in coming together, you bring me into the picture" (Mt. 18:20, Jeff's paraphrase).


People know you can't change the reasons we all came to the hospital, it's understood that the moving van is getting loaded pretty much no matter what anyone says, in prayer or personally, but your being present is a reference point, a solid place to stand in your mind and heart, when everything around feels like it's turning into broken glass.


Clergy are expected to be more at ease, and more reassuring in their demeanor, in a hospital or nursing home or scene of crisis. We've got special training, most of us, and generally more experience than the average person in standing on the edge of chaos. There are words to say, and prayers to offer, and scriptures to share . . . we each have our own preferred tool kit of those close at hand, in mind, ready to use . . . but there is so often nothing to say but to stretch out an arm, offer a hug, to shake a hand and offer up oftimes no more than a sympathetic look without words.


Prayers are usually very welcome, in any case.


But there are also those situations where, whether minister or lay leader, friend from church or neighbor with good intentions, you come into a circumstance and quickly feel that you're not where you're wanted. It happens. Some folks want, and perhaps many of us at certain times, to have our space and silence to ourselves. If you sense that you're not welcome, it can be as much of a pastoral gift to gracefully back away. Even then, I believe there's a blessing to simply have let someone know you showed up, and that since it's not about you anyhow, it's okay for you to go.


Because that's really the power of presence in those situations. If it's about you, then the expectations and the blessings are about you, and that's usually not the case. You're there to represent and embody and open up the connection to the One who will be there even after you go, and sooner or later, you will go.


Make sure you leave room for God to show up with you, because it's God you want to leave behind.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about how you've offered the ministry of presence in your care for others at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.