Friday, October 18, 2019

Notes From My Knapsack 10-24-19

Notes From My Knapsack 10-24-19

Jeff Gill


Candidates and platforms and primaries, oh my


If you're reading this to find out definitively whom to vote for, feel free to move along.


We just had a major invasion of politicians and media and consultants and various primary season folk just down the road in Westerville. John Kasich has colonized Otterbein but was keeping his head down as the Democratic Party blue wave crested. David Pepper, the state party chair spoke passionately if unconvincingly about how Ohio was turning blue.


Late October, it's true; most of us are turning a little bluer, huddling against the western winds and watching warily for the first snows. The Old Farmer's Almanac claims it will be a snowy winter ahead.


But first, for all the furor about the candidate who will run against the Current Occupant of the Executive Mansion, we have our own election coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 5.


I'm showing my age by making a point of the day, because we're heading towards 50/50 on early voting versus day-of ballot casting. By the time I get in line at 6:30 am, a quirk of mine, the election may be done, but there's a special quality to joining fellow citizens in the pre-dawn grey and shuffling forward to find out what electronic atrocity will be inflicted on us. The Luddite and pragmatist in me wants stubby lead pencils, a broadsheet with boxes to X, and a sturdy wooden box with a slot on top and a lock on one side. That's what I'd presume makes of a re-count a worthy exercise, and the sacramental act of casting a ballot would feel less like swiping at the register at Ross' Market.


Forget the foolishness in the national news and the pseudo-debates on the television (seventy-five seconds? What would Demosthenes do with seventy-five seconds?), and turn your attention as a citizen to politics with personal application. We have levies to renew, candidates to affirm or reject, and for many in the village and township, some extra effort in writing in a candidate, something most of us haven't done since we last voted in disgust for our pet dachshund over the options on the ballot.


Don't be afraid, it's do-able, but it takes a little more time and attention and effort, and that's exactly what should be part of voting, in my humble opinion. Write in a candidate for township trustee, and may the best scrawl win, I say. How's that for even-handed partisanship?

Truth is, we don't have many contested races; locally, the school board forces you to make a choice of three out of four, and county-wide along with the Senior Levy replacement there's races for both Municipal Court Judge and Clerk. There's been much discussion in recent years of the lack of people running for offices, and the general flabbiness of democracy you get when there's not a vigorous contest between competing views on the issues.


Some of the lack of candidacy may trace back to our general lack of attention to elections. An informed citizenry can become an engaged citizenry. Some of the advertising on the air right now about ballot issues and petitions is intended to make everyone feel anxious and confused about what's going on around the electoral process, and enough of that can create disengagement.


Get informed, ask around, talk to people, and vote, early or often. Okay, not often. Hey, I grew up around Chicago.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's not running for anything. Tell him about your interest in the democratic process at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Faith Works 10-19-19

Faith Works 10-19-19

Jeff Gill


Reading in the early morning light



We've still got two weeks until time change and setting our clocks back an hour.


Getting up is now increasingly an "in the dark" sort of thing, and I have to make a confession.


When the sun is up earlier, I tend to be more active, more likely to get up and go and have gone before the sun is even entirely going. And that changes my routine.


The safer part of my confession is that I probably do more morning Bible reading in the winter months than any other time of the year. Which obviously means . . . yes, I know.


My prayer and devotions tend to stay fairly stable around the calendar, but just sitting and reading scripture is more likely when the mornings are both dark, and cold. So I've got a huge disincentive to go outside and move about (which creates its own challenges, health and fitness-wise), and reason to enjoy the living room lamp and a soft chair and the warmth of my home. Terrible reasons to read your Bible, but there you go.


As a preacher, I probably read more of the Bible in any given week, let alone year, than most people. But the parson's challenge is to actually go deep, read slowly, and dig into how the words and the Word are speaking to you. We've read some of these passages so often we could skip actually looking them up, and then . . . you see the problem. And it is a joy, in fact, to stop my assumptions and earlier expectations in their tracks, and to catch new inferences in old passages. The rags torn away from Lazarus as he leaves the tomb; the healing first aid done by the Samaritan on the road in Jesus' parable; the missteps and justifications of David in front of Nathan the prophet; Deborah sitting at peace under her tree, overlooking a valley in the land of promise.


Even so, the temptation is to read for use, to commit what they call in seminary "eisegesis" which is the opposite of "exegesis." Exegesis is to "draw out" from Biblical texts meaning and application, while eisegesis is to "read into" the passage what you brought to it in the first place, to insert your assumptions into the words so the Word of God becomes just the words of Jeff. Not so enduring, if you catch my drift.


One way to avoid that temptation? Prayer, yes; prayer first and last for a preacher. Prayer to get you opened up to the word and world of Holy Scripture and turned away from Jeff World; prayer to let God speak through passages that have been proven Godly and Godward directed over millennia; and prayer for the humility to let God speak through you in a sermon, or as the Bible says, "Lord, I am not worthy."


Prayer, and there are other ways and means; for many ministers, the original languages are not just a source of meaning but a process of deliberation that tends to weed out your own verbiage. You can quote the Greek and Hebrew too much as a preacher, but it's a useful exercise just to get you to slow. Down. Focus. On the words. One at a time.


If you aren't into languages, fear not. Centuries of good Christians couldn't even read. They let the Good Book, the library of faith gathered and sifted by the Holy Spirit over three thousand years and more, be read out loud to them in worship, and re-stated in hymns and anthems, and made visual in art and architecture. There's more than one way to read the Bible. That's why I'm comfortable with those who read on tablets and phones as much as in well-worn volumes in homey quilted carriers or sturdy leather cases. Our Bibles do tend to reflect something of ourselves, and what you carry, what you will carry around and keep close, is going to work just fine.


I could do a whole series of columns on translations (and think I have, actually), but the best translation is the one that keeps you reading. And my preferred version in my teen years wasn't my college Bible, and now I find myself leaning towards a couple of translations that hadn't been done back then. The point is: keep reading, and reflecting, and inviting the words to speak to you, to let the Word of God at the proper time be made manifest, to become vivid truth, in your life.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he should probably read the Bible more. So should you! Tell him what truth you've seen manifested in your life at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.