Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Faith Works 2-9-13

Faith Works 2-9-13

Jeff Gill


God welcomes help of all kinds



We got a little theology during the late stages of the Super Bowl, not from the victorious Ravens or the hapless 49ers, but during an ad (of course), with words spoken in the distant era of 1978.


Paul Harvey's paean to farmers was justly praised as a rhetorical high point of the night, with Beyonce's praise of putting a ring on something coming in a distant second.


The next day, some were asking "Does God make any other professional categories?" In the spirit of the original, and with apologies to Paul Harvey, there's one parallel occupation that struck me as worthy of some theologizing, even if this one is never going to make it onto a Super Bowl broadcast.


Thus was born: "And God created artists."


And on the eighth day, God looked down on a creation filled with possibility and said, "I need a collaborator." So God made an artist.

God said, "I need somebody willing to get up in time for the golden hour, shoot pictures for subject studies before going to their paying job, and come home after pulling overtime waiting tables and still work for hours on a charette." So God made an artist.

"I need somebody with arms strong enough to carve wood and marble and yet gentle enough to help a grandchild draw a perfect circle freehand. Somebody to call the co-operative studio scheduling list, re-set everyone's time an hour because of someone else's mistake on Google Calendar, and tell everyone they understood how upsetting this was -- and mean it." So God made an artist.

God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a kiln. And watch the glaze inexplicably crack when you take the firing out. Then wipe their brow and say, 'Maybe next batch.' I need somebody who can make a frame from a piece of driftwood, assemble a display panel from foam core and duct tape, sort beads with tweezers for forty minutes, and pick them up off the floor after a hunk of the driftwood hits the tray when you turn to reach for your cell phone. And who, during Gallery Hop season, will finish a forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, after working as a grill cook for a lunch rush, put in another seventy-two hours." So God made an artist.

God had to have somebody willing to wash the brushes by hand even after the thinner runs out, and yet be willing to work with what's on hand when they come in and find all the supplies have been scavenged over by someone looking for paint to patch a wall. So God made an artist.

God said, "I need somebody strong enough to hoist video installation display units onto wall brackets, yet gentle enough to sort egg shells for a mixed media project that requires twelve dozen, who will stop their potter's wheel for an hour to talk to the delivery guy about how he always wanted to be an artist. It had to be somebody who'd paint layered or wash, spattered or straight, even on a wall with the proper legal releases and not cut corners. Somebody to dab, daub, dot, drip, drizzle, and delineate, marking the bounding line and blurring the margins and mixing up more number three and finish a hard week's work with a five-mile drive to church where you'll be asked to 'donate some of that art stuff you do' to a rummage sale."

"Somebody who'd look at a family together and with a few quick lines on a tablet outline the strong bonds of sharing; who would laugh and then sigh, and then look for enough oil paint in tubes that haven't yet dried up to start a painting of someone who hasn't even imagined that their life itself is a work of art."

So God made an artist.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you think God is making these days at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow on Twitter @Knapsack.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Knapsack 2-7-13

Notes from my Knapsack 2-7-13

Jeff Gill


Somewhat off-target observations



My relationship with guns is a complicated one.


There are no guns in my house. I grew up with a bunch around, two or three at least, but they were black powder muzzle loading Civil War re-enactor weapons, and as such, not what you worried about an intruder turning on you.


When I went to summer camp as a Boy Scout, I took up target shooting. My first swim test had not gone well at all, and most of Lake To-pe-nee-bee was off-limits to my non-swimmer self. So I took the long walk past the dam and the chapel and out to the far corner of the reserve where the Field Sports department was.


Archery was a tough pull and I was, hard though it might be for some to imagine, fairly short for my peers. But a few hundred yards past the archery range was the rifle range, and the shotgun hut next to it.


We were, I was to learn later, quite fortunate to have Mossbergs to learn on, a good quality .22 caliber rifle with a closed rear sights and an open post at the end of the muzzle. For a simple 50 foot range, with wooden uprights and wire across them bedecked with clothespins, it was all we needed to hang our targets and learn the difference between accuracy and precision.


What I quickly became fascinated by was the ritual act of opening the bolt (click thunk), inserting the brass cartridge into the breech, closing the bolt (thunk click), then raising the butt of the stock to our shoulder and thumbing off the safety (tick), keeping the rifle pointed down range without qualification or variation, because what we now had in our hands was a precision power tool that was ready to operate, and that improperly operated could do serious harm to ourselves or others.


Was my experience unusual, in hearing it put that way over and over? I don't know, but at Camp To-pe-nee-bee and a couple of years later, from Les Hill at Camp Tamarack up in Michigan, that's how I heard it said. A gun is a power tool, like a belt sander or drill press. And in northwest Indiana, where it seemed like most Scoutmasters had lost fingers at Bendix, or an eye at Studebaker, or been crippled in an accident at a steel mill along Lake Michigan, that was respect and fear enough. Part of growing up was learning how to behave around, and operate power tools, and it really didn't matter if you planned to work in the shop later in life, or if your dad was in management or worked out in the yard: we all needed to know basic safety with dangerous tools, and Field Sports was part of that.


Back then, we had "Rifle & Shotgun" merit badge along with Archery, and I got both. You picked which you were qualifying on, rifle or shotgun. More recently, the BSA has created two separate merit badges for Rifle Shooting and Shotgun Shooting, and the Lad has earned now all three Field Sports badges.


We still don't have guns at home. Nor have I ever gone hunting. But I've taken Hunter Safety three times, and plan to take it with my son someday soon. Hunting is common in this area, as are weapons in homes. The breath control and focus it takes to hit a target, at 50 ft or 100 yards (my M-16A1 was serial number 5511359, speaking of things you don't forget), is a kind of calming mediation that belies the violence some say is inherent in firearms and their use.


I don't think we need more guns in our society, and I'm open to all sorts of common sense restrictions on access to them. But I also reflect on Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s sage counsel "Hard cases make bad laws," and I wonder about what it would take to prevent some of the tragedies we've seen recently.


The only thing I'm sure of is that I think we all would benefit from taking Hunter Safety. Just to be more aware, and to understand, that if you see a gun, it's loaded, and you handle it accordingly, no matter who says it isn't.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's heavily armed with trivia. Tell him something new at knapsack77@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Knapsack.