Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Knapsack 6-2

Notes From My Knapsack 6-2-11

Jeff Gill


The Nature Center is all around you



Next Monday aside, school pretty much ends this week.


(Yes, yes, I'm sending my son to school on Monday. I do other pointless things without complaint, so why not that . . .)


Ahead of us all stretches the summer. We hope and pray that the storms have passed, that blue skies will be the new normal, and that we who have school age kids can get them to play outside sometimes.


The legendary seventh grade science wildflower project is now behind us, and I'm curious to see how personally handling the Peterson Guide for Wildflowers and learning how to see, to notice, to consider the easily overlooked life in our own yard and nearby fields – I'm wondering if much of that will stick, or thinking about how I can incentivize keeping the examination of nature going through the summer.


The Lad went from anxiety over the rare and mysterious "dame's rocket" to realizing that, for a few weeks, it's everywhere; he now knows that bloodroot is effectively gone and won't be back 'til next April along with Trillium (we saw trillium flowers, but never where we could pick it). Checking out the field guide, he learned that his dad's old favorite, ironweed, is something he points out in August because that's the only time you can find it.


Birds are starting to be "seen" in his world, as opposed to just being "birds" (other than the dreaded mourning dove lurking on our front porch mornings), and he's figured out that the savant who created the Pokemon franchise built it on a pre-existing hobby of insect collecting. So there are some carry-overs already.


With the Lovely Wife having planted Ohio wildflowers on two sides of Sycamore Lodge, after watching the ravening deer packs chew through anything not evolved to mock their depredations, we had quite a bit right around the house for the class project. Add in that Dad quixotically hand-pulls dandelions and avoids all but the barest trace of chemical treatment on the lawn, and it's been fun watching the Lad shift focus to see that "lawn" is not a homogenous green mass (OK, later in the summer, brown), but an ecosystem of sorts with a vast assortment of plant species and even a range of insects and a few mammals.


Bill McKibben, the noted essayist and nature-writer, is passionately interested in the environment, concerned about global climate change, and when he's home in New England, a Sunday school teacher at his neighborhood Methodist congregation. He was on the NPR faith and culture program "On Being (with Krista Tippett)" last August, talking about everyday life and ordinary people and a personal faith.


He made one remark that's stuck in my head since last summer: "The suburbs are a device for making sure that you don't notice nature."


Cars and air conditioning and big box stores and no sidewalks and . . . yep, I think he's got a point. I could talk about programs and plans and lessons, but the corrective is perhaps no more complicated than – Notice nature.


And help the children around you notice it a bit more, too. It's right outside your door.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at or follow Knapsack @Twitter. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Faith Works 5-28

Faith Works 5-28-11

Jeff Gill


Prepare For Sudden Stops




If you watch video on a slow internet connection (is there any other way?), you are well familiar with a certain awkward reality.


Take anyone, no matter how handsome or lovely, well spoken or practiced in public presentation, and then stop the video at a random moment.


They will look silly, or worse.


If you take any one of us, and pause at a point in time, you will see eyes closed (or one eye half closed), mouth askew, or hands flapping oddly. The fine photographers of the Advocate know this all too well, too, which is why they love digital technology – take hundreds of pictures, and only one or two are recognizable and useful. You don't have to squint at rolls of film by red light to figure out which to develop, and toss most of even that selected set.


In a grim sort of way, death is like that. Most of us will not have lots of advance knowledge (it's why ministers joke about scheduling funerals), and even those who have an inkling are usually not expecting that unwelcome guest when it arrives.


So it's not usual to have to sort through pockets and drawers and in-boxes of people who have recently passed and find yourself feeling a bit embarrassed for them. You just know they were not planning on having anyone see this aspect of their life, or deal with their flaws and foibles, and figured they had a bit more time to arrange their public presentation for a general audience.


You could call it "the end times," if only for that person.


Last week, there was quite a bit of jovial mockery, some of which I willfully participated in, about the fringe pastor out west who had declared a set day AND time for the Rapture, or "ingathering of believers to God" with the End of Days, aka Eschatological Apocalypse, scheduled for Oct. 21.


As you may know, the world did not see (as far as we know) a taking up into the air of Christ-followers, and there was an all-too brief silence from this gentleman who became a media celebrity.


Apparently overlooking Deuteronomy 18:22 (let alone vs. 20), he's taken up his notes, peered through them, and decided to double down on dumb and assert that Oct. 21 is the day of departure, not of destruction, and later events will follow in due time.


Summer vacation spots no doubt breathed a sigh of relief.


Let's be clear: I'd never heard of this guy before his end of the world pronouncement, and neither had just about everyone. He got lots of attention when plenty of minor preachers and prophets labor in anonymity because he set up conservative Christians perfectly for abuse and derision. Seriously, you could do this story every month in this country alone, daily if you combed Africa and Asia for end-times predictions, but the key was a major purchase of billboards and ads which made this story both unavoidable and irresistible to general media.


Do I think he's sincere? I don't even know enough about him to answer that. He's 89, which tells me one thing: with all due respect, he's got a judgment day facing him soon. Personally, he's got the odds on his side for predicting an end to it all one day that's sooner than later.


What we're in danger of losing in all this mess is that each of us, relative to time and eternity, have a full stop coming not too far down the track. It's not always well marked, and while the point is very much to enjoy and make use of the journey, the end is a summing up, at least for others to make if not for us to witness.


The life of faith says we have a perspective on that final review, and we can face it with confidence because God wants us to expect it, to not fear it, and sent Jesus to show us with his life, by his death, and through his resurrection that it's all gonna be OK. We've played our part, made our faces, missed our cues, and stumbled on our entrances, but it's not our show to ruin, so be of good cheer.


Our lives, this world, time itself will end. Knowing that shouldn't give us despair or cause us to chase ever more desperately after satisfactions that won't last anyhow; an awareness of our end should guide our todays, with one another.


The fact that we might get caught looking foolish, in a last photo, or like the preacher in California, isn't really the problem; not living thankfully in the time we're given might just be the real embarrassment.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.