Monday, July 18, 2005

Faith Works 7-23-05
Jeff Gill

Paradise, With Insects

Paradise. From ancient Semetic root words for "walled garden," a "par dis" is the term for the original garden, an Eden where creation is begun and maybe even fulfilled.
In the enclosures of ancient lands where precious plants and herbs were tended, a glimpse of divine purpose and potential was seen in a safe place carved out of the chaos of wilderness, with nurturance and growth the rule within the garden walls.
Church camp is called many things, but rarely a paradise. Bugs, poison ivy, mealtimes with a table full of cabin mates, and showers open to both the night sky above and daddy longlegs all around: these do not fit into most people's conception of paradise.
But that "par dis," the "walled garden" of the ancient near East, is something of what makes the camp experience so remarkable and transformative. We may be in the woods, but in a place defined by tradition and history. Our home is a cabin more open than enclosed, but we enter (at whatever age we are at camp) into a new community where relationships and roles are not assumed and enforced, but where quiet children can show unexpected gifts for leadership, or city kids learn something of what goes on beyond "where the sidewalk ends."
Why yes, I did just return from camp; why do you ask? Yep, it shows. Camp people can be quite annoying in their assertion that a week at camp can be the seasoning that flavors the richness of the entire year. We want, we expect everyone to go to camp (it could be 4-H, or Scouting, but church campers can be the very most obnoxious), and we will not stop talking about it.
It can be hard when you know you're right.
Really, to engage in a long-term intentional Christian community, which is a fancy way of saying "church camp," is to experience one's faith from a variety of angles that can't be found in the lowlands of everyday life. What camp folk have to remember (and we don't, always) is that you can't live up in the mountains all year 'round, either; Moses had to come down off of Sinai to share the Word with the people, and camp is just a prelude to the hard work of living your faith the next 51 weeks.
Up at Templed Hills a few weeks back, Badger Camp ended and 68 kids from 3, 4, and 5 grade with 18 adults (some young, but all quite mature) headed home tired, bug bit, and much more aware of what a faith community really looks like when you are consciously living out love, forgiveness, and compassion.
We all missed Dory Smathers, who had been a cabin counselor on Second Level for some years now, but had some lame excuse for missing out on 2005.
If you give the child "Badger" for a middle name, Dory, all is forgiven!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, supply preacher around central Ohio, and for one week each year, church camp director. You can semaphore him or flash signal mirrors to[
Notes From My Knapsack 7-24-05
Jeff Gill

Glory Days For Geekdom

We are living, beyond any reasonable doubt, in Glory Days for Geeks.
I use this term with love and respect, not least because I have been a card-carrying Geek for pretty much my whole life. A good friend of mine taught her kids to say "there’s the Big Geek" when I came in the house, due to my having off-handedly commented that a particular overpass on a nearby highway looked like the Parthenon at a certain time of day. And it does, too.
So, noting that geek describes a certain trait of character reveling in odd, obscure detail, often immersed in science fiction, fantasy, mythology, and comic books, I say again: These are Glory Days for Geekdom.
We had in the last year the wrap-up of "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy, and now look forward to the beginning of a "Chronicles of Narnia" series in theaters, Tolkien having inspired Lewis in both faith and fiction, now opening up the chance to see Mr. Tumnus scamper past the Lamppost, fearful of the White Witch and as yet unaware of Aslan’s advent.
Harry Potter is entering new adventures on the printed page, and J.K. Rowling’s indirect inspiration, Roald Dahl, must posthumously enjoy the rapturous remake of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." No matter how good Johnny Depp is as Mr. Wonka, you still should read the book, and I hope many watch Gene Wilder’s version again just for fun.
Star Wars reaches the apotheosis of Episode Three, linking 1977’s Episode Four to 2005 and bringing what turns out to be the epic of the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker full-circle. Star Trek wraps a franchise run from ST:NG to DS9 to Voyager to Enterprise that closed with Scott Bakula returning us to some of the delights of both ST:OS and cameos with Riker and Troi. There is wonderful rumour that after a breathing spell (a needed one, even this geek agrees), Rick Berman, who has been the Keeper of the Flame since Great Bird of the Galaxy, Gene Roddenberry, died, will return to Gene’s idea of a Starfleet Academy series, with young versions of (and here rumor diverges like a stream in a swamp) the Kirk era characters, or perhaps Picardians, or maybe a whole new set of people to imagine backstories for in fan fiction.
Did I mention there are many, many geeks out there?
And then there’s the comics: who of us in geekdom ever imagined that Spiderman would be brought to the screen so well, and twice over now? But even the more visionary of our clan would not have guessed that both the X-Men and . . . be still, my heart . . . The Fantastic Four would be successfully cinematized. Thanks to George Lucas and Industrial Light and Magic, every one from Peter Parker and the radioactive arachnid to Johnny Storm can be shown in action as if Jack Kirby or even John Byrne were drawing with a magic pencil.
Then you tell me that Michael Chiklis is Ben Grimm, The Thing.
These are Glory Days for Geekdom. Somehow, we who sat at the weird table in the junior high cafeteria, who ran mimeos late at night during breaks in drama club practice to "print" our own fanzines, who majored in highly unrenumerative subjects in college, are in the driver’s seat of popular culture.
As Mr. Grimm would say, "Whooda thunk it?"

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio. He was once editor of the "Society for the Pursuit of the Questing Beast" newsletter, no longer in print, or one should say, mimeo. Share your geekness with him at