Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Notes from my Knapsack 8-16-18

Notes from my Knapsack 8-16-18

Jeff Gill


Digging for growth



This summer the foliage in my yard has been on the move.


I've relocated a rhododendron, an evergreen that I think is some kind of dwarf spruce, and a six foot tall holly tree. These have been the kind of the relocations that fit into the old saying "Ladies, if a man says he'll fix it, he will. No need to remind him every 6 months about it."


The holly, for instance, was probably four foot tall when we decided it needed to move, and to where. Et cetera. But this was a good summer for a few things, and one was getting the landscaping beaten into shape.


We also removed a vast quantity of yard and sidewalk overhanging foliage from our resident maples and oak and cherry: I'm nervous about doing too much surgery to our dogwood, but that's probably next. The mounds along the curb were impressive, and I do appreciate the village crews that come around at the end of the month to gather and chip them.


Honestly, I was afraid to move the various shrubby items; the last one I moved died, despite (or possibly because of) my solicitous attentions. But something I've learned in gardening these last few years is that plants are actually pretty tough. My worries of doing damage were allowing the damage of overgrowth and misplaced growing things to hurt the plants more than actually getting my hands down in the dirt and pulling, or sharpening up the spade and digging down deep.


A six foot holly looked small wedged in between a couple of false cypress bushes, but once out of the ground, it was massive and heavy, and of course spiky. Blood was shed. Cardboard sheets served where perhaps a wheelbarrow would have been handy – but how many times a decade on a quarter acre are you really going to use a wheelbarrow?


Once in place, the Lovely Wife observed that it was going to be a bit too tall for what she envisioned there; she was too kind to point out it was just right when we first decided to move it. I was allowed the "let me wait until it roots in good, and after the first frost" out on doing surgery right away.


I have to admit to some sneaking admiration for this holly, and like to see it in a more prominent place. It's a volunteer, as I think you call them; not from a garden center, it just popped up, no doubt thanks to a bird passing overhead years ago, in a spot where I just let it grow seeing it was a holly. Ten years later and now relocated, it's doing fine.


Other trees on our lot are not looking so well. I hate to say too much here for fear they might read this column and take it out on me later, but there's one or two that might just have to go. Some of the fast growing ornamentals already planted when we purchased Sycamore Lodge have already reached the end of their useful life, and one toppled over entirely on its own, saving me some decision making. Others are starting to fit uneasily into their spot in what amuses me to call our landscaping.


Of the lawn, we will not speak. I put down minimal chemicals, but some; I used crabgrass preventer in the spring, but I fear I misread the label, and it was crabgrass promoter. The stuff is now over half my lawn! But, it is green.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he owns a home with his spouse and tries to take care of it. Ineptly, but with good intentions. Tell him about your property-owning predilections at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.


Monday, August 06, 2018

Faith Works 8-11-18

Faith Works 8-11-18

Jeff Gill


Preaching in the wild




Preaching is generally associated with pulpits. A formal stand for your notes, and a platform from which you generally have a bit of a view, not to mention an advantage, over your audience.


My family was at Colonial Williamsburg last month and visited the historic Bruton Parish Church, and I marveled at the raised pulpit, with a soundboard dangling overhead, a canopy designed to help the speaker's pre-electronic voice project into the nave. It looked like an adventure just getting up into it!


But what about preaching where there is no pulpit? And no, I don't mean contemporary style worship without a formal space and chancel furniture with pews and paraments, but preaching . . . in the wild.


I am not a Methodist, but I have been accused of having a Wesleyan heart, to which I plead guilty. On multiple counts! John Wesley began his movement of Bible study classes and a method of spiritual growth with the controversial practice of "preaching in the open." Part of this was because he got banned from preaching in "official" settings of the Church of England; he had a spiritual experience in a prayer meeting well known as when his "heart was strangely warmed" in 1738. That didn't happen in a formal church setting, and as he struggled to find a way to fulfill his calling, a friend who was already himself banned from Anglican pulpits, George Whitefield, invited him to come from London to Bristol where the great evangelist was already preaching in open fields to unemployed and impoverished coal miners.


Whitefield had been banned in part because he condemned the ways the established state church was blocking or banning the poor and dispossessed from Sunday worship – so he took worship to the people, and literally stood in a field, sometimes on a stump, later in a small portable "preaching box" that gave him a foot of elevation at best. Later, in America, he became friends with Benjamin Franklin, who conducted a sort of scientific study of how audible Whitefield was from a distance, and found to his surprise that he could be heard by upwards of 10,000 people!


But in earlier days, he was outside of Bristol, and after Wesley's arrival, invited John to try his hand at preaching out-of-doors. It seemed to go against all he had been taught in seminary (pulpits, vestments, liturgy), and he was reluctant – then laughed as he saw the lectionary reading for his first scheduled attempt at this practice was the "Sermon on the Mount." So Wesley thought "if it was fine for Jesus, it's good enough for me."


Preaching to 3,000 that Sunday from a make-shift pulpit on the edge of a field, John Wesley began a revival that turned into a movement, the Methodist movement. But preaching "in the open" is still somewhat controversial. It has challenges, I will admit.


But looking through my 1978 high school yearbook, I was reminded as my class had a 40th reunion last weekend, of our Fellowship of Christian Athletes group organized by junior year, and how it had influenced me in ways I'd almost forgotten. I had preached in my home church three times, for youth Sundays and a laity Sunday. But our FCA group was asked to do an early Sunday service at the pool for a swim meet, and after assigning the opening prayer, readings, and song leader, the basketball coach and adviser said "we need someone to do the sermon." And our team's leading scorer and co-captain raised his hand, the coach pointed to him, and he said "I think Gill should preach." (Thanks, Brad.)


So the next weekend I'm standing nervously with a Bible, my notes, a pool behind my heels, and a few dozen people sitting on short stands along the side, with warm-ups and splashing and shouting all around. But I got through it. I preached good news to nervous swimmers and parents and friends, and it was fine. Weird, but fine.


Much of my formation in ministry, I realized, was like this; I learned to speak in public in Scout camp dining halls and campfire bowls. Most of the early worship leadership I've done was at lake sides and on piers and even in the middle of a cluster of canoes in the middle of the water. I've grown accustomed to sharing a message in the middle of cafeterias and lounges as nursing home staff shout and laugh and walk through our midst, with overhead music that "can't be turned off, sorry" and PA announcements interrupting.


And last week, Sunday morning's songs and prayers were interleaved with the outcry of goats and sheep, the mooing of cows in the background and the rumble of diesel firing up. But it was all good.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's preached in some weirder spots than he's admitting to here. Tell him strange and wonderful places you've worshiped in at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.