Thursday, March 08, 2018

Notes from my Knapsack 3-15-18

Notes from my Knapsack 3-15-18

Jeff Gill


An amazing spectacle never to be seen again



Robins spend the whole winter in these parts now.


Some of that is global climate change shifting the zone boundaries north for what birds can or will tolerate, and some of it is the number of bird-feeders and available habitat, but it's no longer true that you should look for "the first robin of spring."


But whole families of robins? Maybe so. The snow buntings have started to pass through in the spring migration back north; meadowlarks and song sparrows are on their way across the Raccoon Creek valley, and phoebes, wrens, and warblers can't be far behind.


The red-shouldered hawks are easy to see in the still-barren tree branches, but the maples on my street are starting to bud. I watch for the lively explosion of litter onto the sidewalks and driveways when the buds are shoved aside to fall to the ground, for the extension of new life into the still frosty air.


Orion is starting to edge over closer to sunset after dark; the mornings just got shorter and the evenings longer thanks to daylight saving time, which isn't really my preferred choice. It does increase the odds, though, that some night soon on my way home I'll get out of the car and sniff grilled meats on the air – there's always a few intrepid souls upwind who get an early start on cooking out. I'm rarely home soon enough to try it, but I respect the chefs and enjoy the smells as a sign as sure as a crocus or daffodil.


From spotting the green spears through the worn mulch of last year to the trip down to the garden center for a new mower blade, the rituals of springtime are familiar, and fairly constant. Yet I am certain that every spring is just a little bit different . . . no, a great deal in difference from year to year, from where I sit or stroll.


Winter is a great enemy of outdoor exercise, just the round the block stroll let alone a jog or bike ride, but longer days and warmer evenings should make an opportunity for many of us. We get out, multitudes on the bike paths through our village, but other trails invite and welcome, to see the natural world a little closer up.


They keep doing studies to prove it, but there's not much we don't already know. From old adages like "stop and smell the roses" (give them time) to our gut level knowledge about the effects of sunshine on our faces, we are aware that nature has a healing effect on body and mind and spirit. Wandering the Bioreserve that Denison tends for us, hiking up Sugar Loaf where Scouts and the community have worked for years to keep a path winding around to the summit and the boulder monument there, or even down to creekside and subtle trails that ignore property lines, maintained by deer hooves and a few bold boots, we feel something calming, something soothing.


Or just a gentle, unhurried stroll around your house, not so much to look for the tasks undone (which are legion) but to the signs indeed of life. Where the soil and seeds and stirrings all around are a springtime show like no other before, and none other that will ever come again.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what Mother Nature is up to in your neck of the woods at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter. 

Faith Works 3-10-18

Faith Works 3-10-18

Jeff Gill


Families helping families are the key




Brian Harkness is a friend of long-standing here in Licking County, and a fellow Christian minister, serving as pastor of Hebron New Life United Methodist Church.


He's been hearing me talk for years about our challenges in serving & protecting children from abuse and neglect in our area, and he has been reaching out to Kim Wilhelm, our Licking County protective services director (within the Job & Family Services office, and referring to child protective services or "CPS" which works alongside of adult protective services).


No part of our county is immune to this growing problem, from the downtown areas of Newark to the rural edges, including the southern stretches of our county. Seeing how the issues around addiction and abandonment were growing in the Hebron/Buckeye Lake area, Brian contacted some of his United Methodist resources in the central Ohio area, and soon was talking to Sean Reilly, executive director of the United Methodist Childrens Home Family Services (or UMCH Family Services) about creating a pathway for church families to help struggling families by caring for their children for short periods of time.  A form of what's called "respite care."


This concept is intended to include people struggling with areas from addiction to homelessness, but could encompass illness, time in recovery programs, or other complications in helping a parent trying to walk the walk to stay on the path.


The goal is to create a buffer between those who are struggling, and ending up where Children Services has to request placement of kids into foster care.  Right now there are over 525 kids in foster care in Licking County. Yes, over five hundred and twenty-five. I remember when we were worrying that the head count "in care" was approaching 350 and we thought that was unsustainable.


A big part of our problem is, of course, the increasing availability of cheap addictive substances. Opiates, especially heroin, get the biggest headlines, but meth – crystal meth, speed, meth as a powder, a liquid, in chunks, shards, or tablets – still far outstrips at least the quantities confiscated by local law enforcement. By a three to one margin, or more.


So we've seen an uptick in parents of small children getting addicted, and struggling to recover. And my own horseback impression is that while children being found by law enforcement in close proximity to drugs just left out in the open, or babies abandoned while a parent is looking for more drugs, are certainly not becoming less common, the real driver of the numbers UP of "in care" children is that in the past we've had parents fall into problems, lose their kids for a season, and work their way back into full custody again. Now, for every five new children entering the system, instead of five going back home, we have one or two. And over time, that kind of imbalance drives the numbers of kids needing placement up, as the number of foster homes ready and able to take them in struggles to keep up.


This is where Brian, in his conversations with Kim and Sean, started thinking about where churches could be of service. We've all shared information with our congregations about how to become foster parents; that's a big step, and one that still has lots of need and plenty of training ready (call them at 740-670-8725, or go to ). But is there an intermediate step where folks who weren't ready to take on the larger responsibility of foster care could be of service to their community, and to these innocent kids?


Recently they found an organization that already provides the framework for this, and has over 100 churches across the country enrolled in a program called "Safe Families."  They provide all of the policy outlines, background checks, and best practices, as well as training and support for the families in our churches who would be willing to take in kids for short periods of time.  This is NOT foster care, and custody remains with the parents, which gives the participants chances to build relationships with the whole family.


The three of them had a conference call with staff from "Safe Families" and they all were very positive and excited about the program.  Brian said as a pastor, "I figured if the professionals embraced it, then it should work for us."


His next step is to have a representative from "Safe Families" come and talk to pastors and church leaders in this area.  So, there's a meeting at Hebron New Life UMC (just on the west edge of the village on US 40) on Tuesday, March 20th at 10:00. 


Brian says to anyone reading this "We would love to have you there!" and I heartily agree.



Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your work to make this a better place to live for old and young alike at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Worship 2nd Q 2018

Updated worship texts & themes below; not a final list as Karen's schedule is still being worked out with school and the commission on ministry, so subject to change, but this gives everyone the overall arc of this spring.

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Worship texts & themes, 2nd Q 2018

Wed., Mar. 7 - Karen preaching at Second Presbyterian, 12:15 pm & lunch following

Third Lenten dinner, Mar. 7 - From the Dead Sea to a Living Cross #1

Mar. 11 - Psalm 107: 1-3, 17-22 & Ephesians 2: 1-10 "This is the Gospel"

Fourth Lenten dinner, Mar. 14 - From the Dead Sea to a Living Cross #2

Mar. 18 - Jeremiah 31: 31-34 & Hebrews 5: 5-10 "Accepting God as God"

Last Lenten dinner, Mar. 21 - From the Dead Sea to a Living Cross #3

Mar. 25 (Palm Sunday) - Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29 & Philippians 2: 5-11 "Ride On, King Jesus"***

Mar. 29 (Maundy Thursday) 7 pm service with communion
Mar. 30 (Good Friday) 7 pm service with choir
Mar. 31 (Holy Saturday) 11 am at Lodge, Easter egg hunt with lunch

Apr. 1 - Easter Sunday - Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24 & Mark 16: 1-8 "Ahead Into Galilee"

Apr. 8 - Second Sunday of Easter - Psalm 133 & 1 John 1:1-2:2 "Take it from the top"

Apr. 15 - Third Sunday of Easter - Psalm 4 & I John 3:1-7  "The Wild, Wild Us"

Apr. 22 - Fourth Sunday of Easter - Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24 & Acts 4: 5-12  "In good health"

Apr. 29 - Fifth Sunday of Easter - I John 4: 7-14 & I John 4: 15-21  "Love, love, love"

May 6 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Psalm 98 & I John 5: 1-6  "Yokes and burdens"

May 13 - Ascension Sunday - Acts 1: 1-5 & Acts 1: 6-11  "Why do you look up?"

May 20 - Pentecost - Acts 2: 1-11 & Acts 2: 12-21  "Blood & Fire"