Thursday, June 24, 2010

Knapsack 7-1

Notes From My Knapsack 7-1-10

Jeff Gill


Everyone Loves a Parade, Some More Than Others



Never having been a grand marshal for a parade before, I'm not sure what the job entails.


Many thanks to Granville Kiwanis, who not only do "just another Granville Fourth of July" every year, but in their organizing of the annual Mile Long Parade, which falls on Monday morning, July 5 this year, they decided to honor the Scouting Movement, which has a centennial in 2010.


Since they've asked anyone in the area who has earned the Eagle Scout rank in the Boy Scouts of America, or the Gold Award for the Girl Scouts, to serve jointly as grand marshals, I am delighted to have the opportunity to serve in this capacity . . . along with what I suspect and hope will be dozens of others.


There are lots of us around, and some of us tie knots and organize service projects in public enough that our Eagle or Gold status is well known, but there may be a few surprises on that float. I know a few mild-mannered, soft-spoken Eagles around town who are likely to evoke a reaction of "I didn't know Blank was an Eagle Scout," but you can read that either way. ("Him???")


My knowledge of the details of the Girl Scouting Gold Award is limited to my little sister earning it; to be fair to her, she has a husband and son and is a professor at [koff] Indiana University, but she's still my little sister, and I told her that this year she *really,* really needs to come visit for Fourth of July weekend.


What I do know is that the effort and achievement is comparable to the Eagle Scout rank, and I've had the chance to work with a few young Eagles recently, so I can assure you that the bar is still high and the quality of the newly minted award earners is quite impressive. Will Blount in Newark's Troop 11 honored me with an "Eagle Mentor" pin at his Court of Honor a few weeks ago, where he became the 25th young man to earn the rank since a few of us founded that unit back in 1991, and Granville's Troop 65 has some forty to their credit, with a number working on their final requirements this summer (get busy, Ben!).


Less than 4 out of every 100 who start out in Scouting go on to make Eagle, with the required and elective merit badges, the demonstrated leadership service, and the Eagle Scout service project . . . which cannot be done to serve Scouting itself, or the Scout troop, but your wider community.


What's so unusual and wonderful about the Scouting advancement program, though, is that in theory, there's no bar to every Scout earning Eagle. You don't compete against other Scouts, or on a curve, and there's no maximum quota for the award. If you meet the requirements, and fulfill the expectations, you earn it.


The chief competition for a Scout in rising through the ranks is – themselves. And that can be the hardest challenge of all.


Gold Award and Eagle Scout, female and male, old and young, riding or walking, we Grand Marshals promise to keep on setting a good example for our community and to do our jobs well, whatever that is. If it involves the shovels at the parade's end, we'll be happy to do that, too!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he's an Eagle Scout and proud to serve as an assistant Scoutmaster for Granville Troop 65. Send him a semaphore signal at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Faith Works 6-26

Faith Works 6-26-10

Jeff Gill


Like a Spider, Dangling By a Thread Over a Furnace



Some 65 years before the Granville, Massachusetts settlers crossed into Licking County in 1805, a mentor of their hometown pastor preached a famous sermon, titled "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."


Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon in 1739 that some credit with launching the first Great Awakening, a season of revival that swept through the early American colonies, and shaped the worldview and concepts of personhood and identity in the nascent United States. He asked his hearers to contemplate their place, their situation, from the position of a holy and almighty God, and to acknowledge their utter . . . well, contingency would be the five dollar word for it.


As finite, limited, created creatures, participating in eternity but ultimately destined to die and be forgotten, Edwards suggested that our plight is directly comparable to that of an unwanted, noxious insect held, for a moment, over a vast burning pit.


It was through consideration of that image that Edwards, in Northampton, MA and Timothy Mather Cooley after him, in Granville, MA, hoped to bring souls into an awareness of their need to find a path for their feet and an orientation for their hearts to follow God's guidance. Only God could keep them from the fire of oblivion, and it would be simple justice in the cosmic sense if an orderly and consistent Creator would sweep them into the chute of doom.


Now, you may read that and think this is an archaic and ancient understanding of Divine Providence that might have come into Licking County with Jacob Little in 1827, but surely is not to be found in our more brightly lit and compassionate world of today.


But through my tears, I found myself wondering if Jonathan Edwards, Puritan preacher of the early American frontier, would enjoy "Toy Story 3." And if I turned to him after the searing but ultimately joyful conclusion (no spoilers here, sorry, that's all I'll tell you), and said "Sir, you had a hand in the imaginative landscape and the narrative line of that movie," would he gravely agree?


Trust me: if you have any general, working knowledge of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (you can find the text at and elsewhere online), and its place in American intellectual history, I think you'd be forced to agree that Dr. Edwards deserved a small credit somewhere in Pixar's closing along with Cheryl Burke for choreography.


Where do you find ultimate meaning, and what is the meaning of your life, when you are facing obliteration? Yes, it's a sequel to a sequel of an animated kids movie, but the question couldn't be asked more clearly than "Toy Story 3" does, even to a Puritan Christian viewpoint.


And the answer? Well, being a Disney/Pixar production, you can probably guess what the answer is, which leaves lots of marginal space for you to write your own details into the general proposal. It'll preach, up to a point.


The core question remains, and the form of the asking, on the silver screen this past week, traces back to a lonely preacher wondering if his message would be heard, out from the deep wilderness and distant frontier where he served over 250 years ago.


You can almost feel his hand reaching out for yours over the centuries, seeking the comfort and reassurance of knowing he is not alone. Is there a connection that can pull us out of the pit, or will it inexorably swallow us all?


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he and his family enjoyed "Toy Story 3" very much, and parents need to take tissues if they're going to see it. Lots of tissues. E-mail him at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.