Thursday, May 17, 2018

Notes From My Knapsack 5-24-18

Notes From My Knapsack 5-24-18

Jeff Gill


150 Memorial Days in Granville



Monday, the village of Granville will mark our 150th Memorial Day observance. The parade will step off from Broadway and Main about 10:40 am, head to Maple Grove Cemetery, and at 11:00 am our community will remember those who have lost their lives in this nation's service.


150. It's a round number, the sort we mark without wondering why the 149th or 151st doesn't get quite the same attention, but one hundred and fifty occasions to do something as a community does seem to call for some sort of public comment.


1868 was a year when the Civil War was three full years in the past. Those intervening springtimes had seen cemeteries from Waterloo, New York to Richmond, Virginia welcome family and friends to tend the still fresh graves of their loved ones lost in the battle to preserve the Union. In early America, the tradition of a "decoration day" existed before the 1860s, a time to go to the church yard once the frosts were past and it was safe plant flowers, or just to pull weeds. With the sacrifice of the Civil War, this informal pattern began to become a special sort of day, with communities planning to come together and pray and sing and speak to each other.


So it was that on May 5 of 1868, General Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic asked all the members of that nationwide veterans' association to locally observe May 30 as a day to be "designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion." He didn't call it Memorial Day, though that term was used fairly early on; most now called it, in capital letters, Decoration Day. As Decoration Day, it quickly became a state holiday around most of the country . . . and believe it or not, Memorial Day was not a federal holiday until 1971, when it also was made a "Monday holiday" along with a few other holiday adjustments. Some of us still have a nod in our hearts and a prayer of our own when the calendar shows May 30, the "traditional" date as Gen. Logan established.


I'm honored to be asked back to offer the invocation and benediction for this program, which is indeed our own 150th in Granville. Other wars have come and gone, seasons of change have passed through, but we all stop whatever else we are doing and come, in subdued and attentive throngs, to honor those who have died in harm's way. We've not missed a year from the start of this tradition, and are quite certain as a village that we have done so for 150 years running.


Much of what is said and done will be familiar; if you've been to one before, it will be much the same, yet it's always different. New names on the "Last Roll Call," different young readers, honored guest speakers.


If you've not noticed, one subtle tradition of Memorial Day speaks to what we want to remember with this commemoration. The American flag is, from its first raising on Memorial Day, at half-staff. Then American Legion Post 398 & the Sons of the American Revolution will salute the flag, and our honored dead, with rifle fire and solemn attendance at their posts, buglers from the Granville High School Marching Band will play "Taps," and then the flag will be raised at or just after noon to its rightful place at the top of the pole.


We begin the day, with the lowered flag, in sorrow, but we conclude and depart will a lift to our banner and our hearts, looking to the heights for hope – praying as one people for peace.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Faith Works 5-19-18

Faith Works 5-19-18

Jeff Gill


If you want to make God laugh…



Plans aren't really anything that the Bible teaches against.


There is that aside in James 4:15 about always qualifying our future expectations with "if the Lord wills," and folklore debates whether we're talking about Native Americans or a small watercourse "if the Creek don't rise."


Even so, planning doesn't strike me as being a lack of faith. Not planning isn't an excess of faith, either, or so I'd say. Making a plan requires a certain amount of confidence in a number of possibilities, a hope for your future that allows you to project forward a potential that you can begin working on today.


I've read that procrastination is really an expression of insecurity and anxiety about one's own capacity to do something well. In this line of thinking, we procrastinate so we can say afterwards "hey, that wasn't my best effort, I could have done better, but I just didn't have the time." Or didn't take the time. A psychological self-inflicted handicap that keeps us from truly trying our best . . . for fear that when we saw what our best really was, it wouldn't live up to our own cherished image of what we're capable of.


In that sense, planning is precisely an act, a leap of faith. Faith in action, faith that, well, works. If you set out to anticipate what you want to get done, lay out a plan for it, and mark your progress against it, you do set yourself up for the possibility of failure. You may make plans you can't fulfill, even with your best efforts.


This is where the real impact of faith on planning comes in, with forgiveness. If we can imagine ourselves as forgiven even if we don't succeed, if we can forgive ourselves for falling short or do so with others who disappoint us, then we can take the risk of making plans.


But it's consistently amazing to me how rare making plans actually is. For people, of all ages, for organizations of any kind, and that would include churches.


I work with youth in a variety of settings, and no one is really all that surprised that a juvenile, a teenager, a young adult doesn't have much of a plan for the future. They tend to be very much taken up with the moment at hand, and for many of them, future planning means next week. It's about a seven to ten day horizon we're working with as we talk about their "plans."


But many, maybe even most adults have more of a thirty day horizon. This month, and spilling into next month a bit, but not very much about next year, or a couple of years on. If I'm talking about you, the good news is that you've got lots of company!


The bad news is that lack of planning, of anticipating the future, is pretty much a sign of anxiety and fear. If you have nothing but doubt and hopelessness about your future, then you certainly wouldn't want to spend too much time in your head "going there." So you live day to day, and stick with the challenges you think you really can cope with. The future, not so much.


Planning for next year and the next stage of life and around big transitions ahead can evoke its own range of anxieties and fears. "Dostadning" is a Swedish name for "death cleaning." It's a decluttering discipline and a form of preparing for downsizing that's catching on in some quarters, but certainly provokes a fair amount of negative reaction, too. "Dostadning" takes a basic willingness to admit and face the reality that you may be moving towards restrictions, smaller spaces, fewer rooms to store stuff in; it can also touch on your desire not to make your children or heirs or friends have to go through the painful process of sorting through and throwing out lots of your stuff.


It also requires you to concede that someday, you will die. Is that a prospect you can face?


Swedish idioms aside, I think there's a great deal about planning, or not planning, that is rooted in our basic sense of ultimate purpose. As in, do I have one, and are my values something more than what I own, the stuff I have, the accomplishments to my credit?


Faith and planning have a great deal in common, and one supports the other, step by step, day by day. From now 'til forever!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he has made unsuccessful plans before, and is still willing to make new ones. Tell him your plans at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.