Saturday, March 18, 2017

Notes From My Knapsack 3-23-17

Notes From My Knapsack 3-23-17

Jeff Gill


Good News for Seniors



As a pastor of a congregation in Newark, I see and worship with and work alongside of a whole lot of senior citizens.


Contrary to what the clerks keep trying to offer me on "senior discount day", I'm not one yet. And in fact, it keeps me both feeling young and looking forward to getting older to be among lots of lively, vital elderly people.


Yes, I also visit and lead worship in nursing homes. Which we're not supposed to call them anymore, but you know.


The scenes in those places can be tragic, and various levels of dementia can be frightening to deal with, just in terms of making you think "what if that happens to me someday." Yet it is a great joy to see someone largely zoned out or even unaware of you suddenly smile, sit up, and speak or sing when the Lord's Prayer or "Amazing Grace" are shared. They may recede back into that place they were in, inside their heads, and not respond to your smile, but familiar words and music can bring their smile back, even if for a time.


With Newark & Licking County having a large number of people "aging in place" we had a speaker to church recently, talking about how you can do that, and what it looks like, as well as talking through the various levels of care you can find in our community.


Amy Huddleston shared with us, among other things, that by 2040, the United States will have over 550,000 centenarians – those reaching the age of 100. Yes, there are more dementia cases each year in total, but our ability to blunt or slow many forms of that is improving, medically, and only a portion of those of us getting to our 90s or beyond will have to face that… or our families face it.


I worry when I hear people, often right around my age, who are starting to feel and experience the limitations of aging in our 50s, say "I hope I never get that old." Not enough people have exposure to some of the octogenarians and nonagenerians I know, who are still kicking some heiney and perfectly able to take names.


And as both a pastor, and someone getting older everyday myself, I see some developments that I think are very encouraging for those of us still working on getting old. It looks very promising that we will have self-driving cars in the near future: that takes away my biggest concern for some seniors I know, and reduces the need for people to leave their homes just because they can't drive.


Home delivery is a big deal now, from books to electronics to now groceries. Again, when this is more generally available, what a gift of autonomy it could be to seniors who have to ask for someone to get their groceries for them (and don't always get what they asked for).


Interactive monitors were featured in a story here not long ago, and I thought about home-bound seniors immediately. Voice controls for lights and TV help arthritic hands. And then there's . . . robots. First they vacuum for us, next they clean the bathrooms for us, and I can imagine they might get to where they can help us keep ourselves clean, when elbows don't bend and backs don't twist so well.


Grandmas already love those wireless picture frames that send grandkid pictures directly to their end table, but tech might bring even more peace of mind, to seniors and to their families.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him where you see technology helping maintain senior independence at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Faith Works 3-18-17

Faith Works 3-18-17

Jeff Gill


Family of faith, family of God, forever families



We are all born into families.


Some of us keep them, some of us leave them, some of us marry into new ones.


We seek family in everything we do. The myth of the rugged individualist swinging an axe to chop down a tree to build their own cabin is complicated by the fact that the metal axe head was dug by miners, refined by steelworkers, crafted and delivered and sold by others to a concern which had bought hickory handles elsewhere, put them together, and sold them yet again to a hardware store where it was purchased.


That brawny lumberman is part of a family even while chopping all alone. Unseen but very present is a whole cast of characters, an invisible gathering of participants, a certain choir of harmonic singers.


And most projects, our everyday work, calls for co-workers. The congregation I'm a member of has an adult Sunday school class called "Co-Workers in Christ," though they usually get called the Co-Workers Class for short. They know that in prayer and study and service they need each other.


Like most long-standing adult Sunday school classes, the Co-Workers began as a young married class. At one time, we had four adult classes, all of which were young marrieds to begin, and you could accurately guess the decade of their founding by looking at the average age of the attendees.


Married couples soon learn, if they didn't know before the wedding, that family life is not and cannot be about just two people. God bless all single parents however they came to that role, but two parent families aren't even enough. You need supporters and helpers and grandparents and aunts and uncles to raise kids, to do anything that couples and marriages and families want to be about.


We need each other in this life, and I suspect there's a reason most of our conceptions of the life to come involve reunion, and being reunited with family and friends and those we love. We need each other in the next life, and perhaps even to reach it.


Jesus talks about his Father, and Paul speaks in the earliest Christian writings as do the earlier Psalms about adoption, of how we can be not only brothers and sisters in Christ, but sons and daughters of the Most High.


In the work I do around our community I see a great deal of family fragmentation; not broken but shattered families, where children are taken from parents who are unable, incapacitated by drug use and confusion, to care for them safely. Around 400 children are in that situation right now.


Many will be a part of restoration and renewal, as their parents find a better path and families are reunited. Some few, but not few enough, will end up needing to find a forever family, an adoptive home where they can know security and stability in their growing up.


One of the more joyful experiences I've ever had in our stony old courthouse is to be present at adoption finalization hearings. Judge Hoover always tries to do it up right, making it more than just a legal event. And grim nervousness that a courtroom always evokes usually gives way to smiles and celebration. They know, these children do, that they now have a family to love and support them.


We all need that. Even when our birth family is far away, distant across the country or long enough ago in time ties have parted, we need to know whether young or old that there is someone for us.


"God-with-us" is one of the names we have for Jesus, "Emmanu-El" in Hebrew. We need to know that the arc of the universe does not bend against us, away from love, apart from family and connection. So our church families become places where we find more and more visible reminders of what God's intention for us really is; so we share with our biological families and geographical neighbors the joy that is ours in faith communities and religious connection.


Family life, the work (and it can be hard work at times!) of living together as family, is a witness. We live it out just by being a family, sometimes. The best witness is caring for one another, showing an unselfish love that is the reflection of "the love that moves the sun and other stars," God's love at work making of us all, one.


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