Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Come and See

I was talking to a fellow blogger yesterday and explaining why I had been a little less visible in the blogging world of late, not that it’s any great loss. But I shared with him that I had been involved the last couple of months in a picture and slide scanning/organizing/posting project that had taken up most of the extra time I had.

I invite you to take a look - It won’t hurt you, and you may enjoy it.

If you want any of the pictures I can have prints sent to you – my privilege and pleasure.

When you go to the site you will see that there are many “sets.” Some of these would be more and some less interesting. It’s a big multi faceted project.

Well, how this came about…my grandmother “Nanny,” my father’s mother, lived in Columbia. She and I were very close. She had a beautiful garden (which I wrote about in a piece called “Nanny’s Garden”).

Nanny’s Husband, Curtis Sr. had a niece named Ettamae, who lived with Nanny the last 10 years or so of her life. Nanny and Ettamae were both born the same year. Well, to make a long story short. Ettamae died in 1979, and Nanny in 1985. My brother Mike bought Nanny’s house, but then he sold it in the late 90’s. When he was clearing it out he found in the back corner of the attic an old WWII footlocker of Nanny’s containing thousands of pictures and newspaper cutouts and small personal effects, as well as an old suitcase of Ettamae’s containing the same. It was all such a mess, pictures piled willy nilly upon pictures, but so fascinating. I ended up taking them with me to organize. When my mother died in 2001 I also took some boxes of hers for the same reason.

The problem was, I didn’t know who 75% of the people were. This led me on a long journey to track down all remaining relatives of Nanny and Ettamae. Nanny is from a family, the Andrews, from LaGrange Georgia, and Ettamae, from the Gillespie line originally from Kentucky. This tracking down process got me interested in genealogy as well. So, I have found them all - all the living descendents of my great-grandfathers on both sides! It took some work.

So, I am posting these pictures partly so that these remaining relatives can see them and help me figure out who is who. I am posting old pictures of my parents and us as kids for my siblings and for my children. You know, I kind of want the pictures to tell a story for my kids, a story I wish my parents had told for me. I don’t want them to have to piece it together after I’m gone.

I am posting pictures of our family here, as well as our church family, for those who are inclined to “follow along.” And I am posting pictures I took along the way that are just pretty decent pictures just to have record of some of the beautiful places I have the privilege to go and see in my life.

I have only gotten started, though I am in the mood to start taking pictures again like I used to. I am getting my old Fujica manual SLR camera repaired. I have a Nikon N-80 but just don’t like all the automation. I also am in the mood to start backpacking again. I miss the deep woods. And yes, if truth be told, I am itching to get back into writing, into blogging, so I may give my new expensive Epson Scanner a rest for a while.

Well, if you make it over to the Flickr site I hope something there will make you smile.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Trees in Winter by Edward Waters

Edward Waters has a wonderful poem entitled Trees in Winter. With his permission I tried to post it here, but Blogger makes it impossible to preserve the proper indents and spacing, so rather than ruin the visual aesthetic of the poem I'll just send you to the source -Trees in Winter. While there look around at some of Edward's other splendid poetry.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Trees in Winter

There was a time in my life during this season between the end of daylight savings time and the winters solstice, when I think I was prone to a mild case of seasonal affective disorder, or, in my case, maybe just the sundown blues. Thankfully that is long past. I’m too busy now for one thing. And the other thing is that I have fallen in love with the woods in winter. I look forward to winter woods like some people look forward to spring flowers. Moore than anything, it is the trees. I love trees in winter.

For the sake of modesty and warmth people need to put on clothes. Yes, it hides what they “really” look like, but I’ll just take the clothed look thank you. But as for trees, all the leaves, as beautiful and green as they are, hide the unique and often magnificent personality of the tree beneath. The uniqueness of each and every tree is more evident in nakedness.

There is a White Oak out my side window. It is almost completely leafless now, with only a few red hanger-on leaves dangling here and there. I see its twisted and gnarly branches more clearly than ever. They reveal its story. This White Oak grew up in its early years with some good competition, but then, that competition diminished. About thirty feet up some very stout limbs grow straight out from the trunk. I am guessing, by the size and age of the tree, that the “competition” was cleared for the building of the houses around, and the builders decided to spare that White Oak. It’s a grand old tree, though it’s a little sick, and I worry for it.

It’s easy to notice tree bark in winter. I am one of those odd fellows who thinks that tree bark is very beautiful and quite cool. The sun likes to highlight the bark of a leafless tree, especially the higher-up bark. Winter is time for the bark to shine. Some bark literally does shine. Sycamore trees peels off huge plates revealing a bright chalky white under bark. Take a walk through Latham Park and you will see plenty of that.

Lots of stuff hangs from trees in winter letting you know about the tree. Tulip Poplar balls like to hang around for a while bouncing in the wind. Plus the last Spring flower cups are very visible reaching to the sky at the end of the high stems. Locust Tree bean pods like to flutter in the breeze throughout the winter rattling like old bones. There’s always the stubborn Sweet Gum balls that won’t let go, just waiting to drop in early Spring when your are just first walking out in your bare feet! Gotcha!

Many trees keep their berries throughout the winter. You’d think for example that the birds would eat up all the dogwood berries right away, but the berries often dry out a little and provide food for the birds all winter long. Same for Red Cedar berries, those lovely little gray-blue balls that often cover a Cedar tree. Same for Black Gum. Same for American Holly. I know our Holly bush is not a Holly tree, but it brings joy all winter watching the mockingbirds eat berries from our Holly bush. It’s like they know how to ration the supply. Interesting.

You may need to be a bit of a tree geek for this one, but tree buds and tree stems are fascinating in the winter. By looking at a bare tree stem you can tell how much it grew the last growing season. It’s really easy. You can also tell a lot about the leaves, even when there aren’t any. You can tell if they come off the stem opposite to each other or whether they come of the stem in whorls. You can also tell how many main tree “veins” feed each leaf. From this, more or less, you can often guess if the leaves are compound or not. You can know a lot about what kind of tree it is by how the buds are arranged. Is there one big bud at the end of the stem? Is there a cluster of buds at the end of the stem? Is the bud really at the end or sort of off to the side toward the end? In fact, you can key a tree, that is determine what it is, in winter, without the leaves at all.

The future fate of life on earth is nestled in those little buds. That is just barely an exaggeration. What is it that protects the life inside that bud (and hence next year's growth, and next year's ability to feed flower and seed) from the cold of winter? It is those scales around the bud. Different trees have different kinds of scales. Some bud scales are like two plates meeting in the middle. Some are like fish scales. You can tell a lot about a tree from those scales.

Winter is the time for Pine trees to make their presence known. They kind of pop out and say "We're here" in winter. Hey, I am a South Carolina boy. I was raised on climbing Pine trees to the top, looking up to the deep blue sky through the black branches and green needles of Pine trees, spending half an afternoon trying to get Pine sap off my favorite jeans, engaged for hours in Pine cone wars with the enemy across the wall next door, and nursing skinned up legs from shimmying up and down Pine trunks. In Greensboro there are a few places where I like to go just to breathe in the Pine tree air, peel off some plates of Pine tree bark, fiddle with Pine tree cones, and just generally feel at home.

It’s nice to walk the woods in winter. You can see farther for one thing. You can tell more easily what has been the history of the land you're walking for another. I like trying to figure that out by the ages of the trees, the kinds of trees, the ways that the terrain has been changed by man, how or where a fire may have swept through fifty or so years ago. It’s a kind of sleuthing that I enjoy.

Maybe my favorite thing to do, especially on a cold winter day, is to find a nice stout tree that I can sit against, one with the sun shining full force right on the bottom of the trunk, and just take a seat. Oh how I love the sun on my face in winter. And there I sit. No bugs. Quiet. As quiet as I can be. If the winds are right, and if you’re still enough, the animals will soon not notice you, and you will get lucky. Many times right here in Greensboro deer have walked near, hawks have flown and perched close by, even squirrels have nervously scampered quite close to my feet. I cannot measure the joy of such times.

Such joy gives me strength to go back and re-enter the world of people. Trees are not fickle and moody and complicated and proud like people, like me. How I love them so.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jesus Ain't No Democrat or Republican

I really appreciate Ben-from-Greensboro’s thoughts as quoted by Beth over at The Daily Greensboring in her piece Is Jesus a Democrat? Check it out. It's a good read. Ben raises some very interesting and worthwhile philosophical and social policy questions, especially as relates to the intersection of religion, morality, and public policy.

As a Christian I deeply regret the association of Christian faith with a particular political party. To the extent that a part of the Christian church has allowed itself to be co-opted and used by the Republicans (or Democrats in other cases) it has erred profoundly.

Ben also raises an interesting point as to the issue of “free will,” and the extent to which that is to be honored, especially in a diverse and secular culture. It is no easy task to figure out what Jesus and the Apostles would have had us do when it comes to various public policy matters. On many issues I think there are many possible "Jesus-acceptable" approaches as regards public policy. On other issues I don’t think so. I don’t think there exists a specifically “Jesus-sanctioned” approach to health insurance for example, or a specifically “Jesus-sanctioned” approach to many other issues. But governments are put in place to seek after the public good, to encourage good and discourage bad, and to keep evil (stealing, murder, invasion, fraud, poverty, etc) at bay. It is just truly hard to know how best to seek the public good sometimes, much less if there is a “Christian” policy on many issues, and because of that it frustrates me that many of my brethren speak as if they know just what such a policy would be. I guess they’re just a lot smarter than me.

In his own day Jesus chose to avoid the very real political parties and factions that swirled all around him. He had a different mission. Christians who live in various societies today have a responsibility as citizens to seek the public good and participate in civic life. But their ultimate mission is also different. It is not the mission of the Democratic or Republican party. Jesus cannot be corralled by one of our puny political parties any more than a wild lion can be corralled by a couple of little kids. Jesus, as in the Living version, cannot be tamed, co-opted, used, or pre-empted. We may think we’re doing that but we’re just fooling ourselves.

Democrats come and go. Republicans come and go. Jesus is Lord.

An Open Letter to Matt Hill Comer

Dear Matt,

I read with interest your piece entitled “All My Fault...I’m Bringin’ Down Society” in which you respond to Charles Davenport's references to you in his article in the News and Record.

Your awe-shucks, “small, poor little gay boy” thing reminds me a little of Sam Ervin at the Watergate hearings!

But Matt, Charles Davenport is right about you. You are a force to be reckoned with and your awe-shucks humility will not change that fact.

You are dogged, persistent, relentless, focused, and determined to do what you believe to be right. I’d like to see a day or two go by without some new LGBT cause on the front page of greensboro101, but no, there you go again. Do you sleep?

And many small poor little boys like you, gay or not, have changed the world. Charles Davenport knows that.

In the culture war that is upon us you, my friend, are a formidable adversary, a worthy enemy, and a determined foe. You cannot be ignored or forgotten. You do not and will not go away. You will press the issue and press it again until you cause those who oppose your agenda to rise up and exert the same energy back that you are exerting, or else lose the war.

Matt, you remind me a bit of, well, me, thirty years ago, minus the gay part. When I was an older teen I was also dogged and determined and focused on issues that mattered much to me. I wonder sometimes where the fire, the passion went. I once was going to save the world from.....well, let me just leave it at that.

And I wonder...will you keep it up? Will you retain the passion? Will you stay on fire? I don’t know. I guess I hope not ;). But I think you will.

In the current culture war you are my enemy. Jesus says that I am to love my enemies, which means that I am to love you. I already respect you. And I already admire you. We will in the months ahead do battle in word and phrase as we find ourselves on opposing sides of one aspect of this present battle. But if we meet on the street, or in a coffee house, I hope we can meet as friends.

And as to this young skinny white gay boy awe-shucks thing, well, we both know that’s just a set up for a really good sucker punch.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Few Thoughts on the Election Results


I am bummed out about several of the bonds not passing.


I am not a registered Republican or Democrat. I would probably identify myself, if I absolutely had to, as a conservative Democrat, but there are so few of them left I just don’t try to identify myself anymore. I am pro life, anti gay marriage, and pro environment. I have as much suspicion of big government as I have of big corporations, and vice versa, and I believe in the legitimacy of the war against Islamic fundamentalism. I believe power corrupts. Everyone. I don’t believe in the inherent goodness of human beings, though I believe that goodness is part of the mix. Thus I believe in lots of checks and balances and am not freaked out by divided government. I don’t like Pat Robertson or Nancy Pelosi. I worry about China, and Iran, and a splintered Iraq. Blah Blah Blah, so what.

I think the Republican leadership in Congress has been inept, and that they deserve what has come, though some good men and women got caught in the mess who should not have. I believe that the post invasion handling of the war by the US civilian leadership stateside has been also inept, and if Donald Rumsfeld does not fall on his sword he is a coward. He should have done it a month, a year, or two years ago.

I am more conservative than liberal when it comes to national politics, except for the environment, but I am not an ideologue. Ideologues of the left and right scare me. Politics to me is all about being pragmatic and practical and getting what you can and, yes, cutting deals, and working with the other side, and compromising and being willing to subject your agenda, even your district's agenda, to the greater good. Not all the time. Sometimes you have to vote your conscience no matter what. But usually you need to be pretty pragmatic.

Despite what most people around here think, I think George Bush is a good egg. In fact, his good egg-ness is one of his political faults. He is loyal. That is a good thing. He is too loyal. That is a bad thing.

I actually think George Bush would have been a better president from the get-go if he had NOT had a Republican congress. I think he himself works better as a pragmatist than an ideologue, and being surrounded by the neo-cons and the Republican congress did not bring out the best in him.

I hope the country won’t be saddled with two years of hearings about this or that because it won't do much good, but I expect it’s coming.

I think the price of oil is too low, so I don’t like the idea of hearings about that.

I think a Democratic-controlled House and Senate will be good for whatever Republican runs for President in 2008.

I worry most for pro life issues, gay marriage issues, federal judgeship issues, the prosecution of the war on Islamic jihadism, and the economy.

I am hopeful for the environment, for progress weaning ourselves off foreign oil, for a changed policy in Iraq (since the Republicans seemed incapable of doing that), and for the minimum wage.

I am also hopeful that these two years could bring out the side of George Bush that was effective in Texas. We’ll see. It’s possible.

As a Christian I believe in a sovereign God who is in control, whoever wins. To me the good news of the universe is not who is president or who controls congress, but that Jesus is Lord. I believe that He has His purposes in these things, even when I don’t know what they are, and despite how I do or don’t feel about them.

Deep down I wish for the end of the Clinton-Bush era, and for a new generation to take the reigns, my generation. I think it’s our time now. I look to see what leadership will rise to the top now, in both parties. I’m tired of the same ole same ole. I look ahead, ahead of this year, ahead of next, in hope, and anticipation, not having a clue who it will be, but believing that there are smart and good people of different faiths, genders, and colors waiting to rise up and lead us into a new era.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Nanny's Garden

My grandmother and grandfather, whom we all called Nanny and Pop, moved to Columbia SC in 1943 from Tampa. They bought a house a block off Trenholm Road near Trenholm and Beltline (for those who know Columbia), a small house by today's standards, but with a deep back yard that sloped down to a creek bed. For some reason this suburban bottomland grew the largest Loblolly Pine Trees I have ever seen outside of Congaree Swamp National Park. I loved just lying on her grass and staring up into those huge pine trees. Along with the pines were the natural under story Dogwoods and a few hardwoods here and there, including one giant Water Oak down by the creek. It was a perfect natural setting for their gardening plans.

Nanny and Pop along with their two neighbors got busy developing what would in time be one of the premier stops on the Columbia garden tour. The three yards were planned and planted as a unit. The primary focus would in time be Azaleas, Camellias, Dogwoods, Hydrangeas, Tea Olives, and various Lilies. Of course there were another dozen types of horticultural favorites here and there as well. I always loved the Elaeagnus hedge in her front yard. My keenest memory may be the smell of her gigantic Tea Olives. Oh how I love that smell. I have tried to grow them here, but they just don't emit the pungent aroma like in her yard.

Well, this was a garden twenty plus years in the making. By the time I was old enough to help out in was more of a matter of maintenance. Just keeping the English Ivy and Pachysandra at bay, digging up the brick walks and taking out the roots and resetting the bricks, and cleaning the pine straw off her very high roof kept me pretty busy. I loved her Charleston grass. For years I cut it with a manual mower!

My grandfather Pop died when I was eight, so I just sort of came to think of it as Nanny's yard. From Nanny I learned how to graft Camellias, prune and root Azaleas, cross fertilize Lilies, play with the color of Hydrangeas, and generally love the soil. I also learned to love white painted brick houses with Charleston-Green shutters from Nanny. Know any for sale?

A couple of weeks ago I found a little box of slides full of pictures taken of Nanny's yard in the mid 1950's, before I was born. What a treasure! As a garden it is not yet mature, but it is still beautiful. I scanned them with my new Epson scanner and posted them on my Flickr site - - they are in the "Nanny’s Garden" set right at the top. I have several copies of postcards the city of Columbia made of the three yards to sell in local stores. I'll scan them in sometime along with other pictures from the garden and add them to the set. While you are at the Flickr site you can see lots of pictures of Nanny. She was a classy lady, a great grandmother, a good business woman, and a dear sweet friend to me. She died in 1985. Twenty one years later and I still miss her very much.

Another One Bites the Dust

So another Evangelical Leader is in the headlines - this time the Reverend Ted Hoggard (editorial correction - that's Haggard, thanks Sue and sorry David!), the President of the National Association of Evengelicals. And the news could not be good enough or timely enough for the gay lobby.

I don't know if he did it or not. An aid is purported to have said that Hoggard said that some of it is true. I have a few comments.

First, if it is true, then this is the worst form of hypocrisy, the kind I pointed out at the end of my piece Gay Republicans. It is the kind where a person publicly and professedly comes off as one thing, and yet is another, plus, on top of it, is unfaithful to a vow.

Second, it has nothing to do at all with the validity or non validity of gay marriage as public policy, but it will add momentum to that cause. A man or woman's private pecadillos do not good public policy make. Again, we can ask JFK or Martin Luther King Jr. about that.

Third, it is a further reminder of how all Christian folk, particularly those in positions of leadership, such as myself, must live in a glass house, must be surrounded by many eyes, many alibis, many levels of accountability. In our own community men have been given too long a rope and many have hung themselves with it. The flesh is too weak, particularly when there is a mystique and power associated with one's title and position, which, oddly and strangely enough, there is with a minister. One must build a kind of day to day pattern where these things are not possible. One must build a day to day pattern where false accusations carry no weight because of immediate falsifiability. One's day, one's time, one's life is not one's own. That's the deal. If a man does not like that he should do something else. There should have been no possibility for Ted Hoggard to have hookups with anybody, if that is what happened.

Fourth, and most sadly, this reveals yet again the premier heresy of the modern American Evangelical church. I will name the heresy here and, Lord willing, discuss it later. It comes in many forms and guises. It is all over Greensboro like a rotten grotesque cancer. It is all over the National Assosiation of Evangelicals. It crosses denominational lines, though it is worse in some than in others. It is a beast with many heads. It is called antinomianism. Look it up. Study it. It is probably worming its ugly way into your church. If the allegations against Mr. Hoggartd are true, it was probably worming its way into his head as well.

Peggy Noonan wrote recently that the potential loss of the congress may remind conservatives of what conservatives were supposed to be. It may be good for them.

One hopes with all these scandals about, that the Evangelical Church will wake up one day and realize it has been running down a path leading to a pit, or to a Shelob, or to a wall of laughing finger pointing vindicated naysayers, so that maybe, it will turn around, and seek the right way again.

I hope so. May God be merciful upon us all.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why John Kerry and Gang Scare Me

I want to share why John Kerry, and hence the Democrats, scare me when it comes to the larger war on Islamic radicalism, and why, therefore, I cannot vote for them this election season.

I am tempted to offer a hundred caveats just to show how balanced I am– things like how I think our post invasion policy in Iraq was terrible, how I wonder if Islamic countries can really be democratized, how I think Donald Rumsfeld should have been replaced, how I don’t like the Republican environmental policies, etc. But I won’t. :)

OK, so Kerry’s comments were stupid and inappropriate. I think about everybody agrees with that. I personally know people in Iraq with multiple college degrees, and I don’t know that many people there.

But what bothers me about Kerry is the very thing that should give him credibility, and that is his war record. I don’t think Kerry, and many if not most of his generation, are able to get over Vietnam. It seems that that during their formative years they developed a fundamentally anti-military, perhaps anti interventionist attitude, and a view that if we are involved in something militarily it must be bad, unjust, and evil. (Where, O where, are the Scoop Jackson Democrats? Are there any left?)

When you add to those suffering from Vietnam-induced arrested political development all the general-pacifistic-give-peace-a-chance-beatniks still lurking all around the Democratic party, I just plain don’t think that they can prosecute any war right now.

And prosecute a war we must do, make no mistake about that. Radical Islam would take over the world if it could. It would strike and kill innocent men, women, and children wherever it could until it either gets its way or runs out of the ability to kill. This war is not going to go away. It will not stop if suddenly, tomorrow, we’re all pacifistic and nice. We’ll just have more people dead, not fewer.

Tolkien comes to mind here, from the Two Towers, movie version:

Théoden: "So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?"
Aragorn: "Ride out and meet them."

Radical Islam hates us. It hates our secular constitution. It hates the freedom we give to women. It hates the freedom of people to convert from Islam to something else, even though the reverse is happening in greater number. It hates the infidel. We are the infidel. We must die.

And I don’t think John Kerry and Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi and Brad Miller and the rest have what it takes to prosecute this war. And that scares me. And that is the main reason I cannot vote for them.

(I can almost imagine Hillary prosecuting it, if she gets sufficiently pissed, but that’s another story)

I was too young to go to Vietnam. Barely. I think the way we handled the Vietnam draft was a travesty. I don’t think the idea of that war was wrong, because I think we also were engaged in a serious worldwide war then as well, but the way we handled it was terrible, and the unjust manner in which we sent people there was unconscionable. I don’t think Bob Kerry and his gang can get over it. And that is not good for the present.

That is why I hope, for now, that Bob Kerry (edit - meant John Kerry, thanks Jim) et al remain the minority party.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Vote Yes on the War Memorial Renovation Bond

I just wanted to say out loud how much I have appreciated David Hoggard and David Wharton's intelligent reporting and opining on the War Memorial Stadium Bond issue. I for one will support the bond and hope a majority of the voters will do likewise. The structure is historically worthy of our protection as a Memorial to the Great War. So, we spend money building other memorials and let this great historic memorial slide? That makes no sense to me.

And different from many other memorials, this one has been actively used. It speaks to and honors a part of our history and the men and women who sacrificed their lives in that great effort. But it also participates in history. It has been a living memorial. If we could but see a collage of all the great games and great ballplayers that have walked its field. Now we have a chance to make the stadium available to ball players of all ages for a long time to come. We have a chance to extend the Stadium's ability not just to remember and memorialize history past, but to make history present. We should do it.

And we should also do it for the sake of the Aycock and surrounding community of which it is a part, a community that was snookered by the proponents of the new stadium (an effort which I confess I reluctantly supported, but did so with the understanding that we would preserve and protect War Memorial Stadium). An active and vital War Memorial Stadium, attracting quality tournaments and made available for various sorts of leagues and games would be an economic asset to a community it seems we're trying to forget as we drool all over every sort of downtown renovation. I like downtown. But there is more to our city than downtown.

So, go out and vote. Even if many of the polilitical races are too uninspiring to get you to the polls next week, go out to support this bond effort, if nothing else.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Guilford County NC Photos

Hi Everyone,

In order to facilitate making pictures of our fair city and county available for all to see, and to perhaps even for bloggers or web hosts to include on their web sites as a link, I have set up a Flickr site called Guilford County NC Pictures, URL I uploaded two pictures I took today just to get it going.

If you would be interested in sharing photographs for this site, I have a good scanner with Digital Ice technology for prints as well as slides, and a very good color restoration tool for older pictures, and I can scan them in, upload them, and give them back to you. Or, if you would be keen about this and you take lots of shots of the local scenery - people, buildings, farms and fields, critters, old pictures, businesses, etc. - then I can share the passwords with you and you can upload the pictures yourself.

It is easy to give attribution to the person who took the pictures in the title, description, or comments. It would even be easy to provide a link for people back to your site.

If certain file size standards are upheld, then it would be easy as well for folks to order pictures. I have tested the process of ordering prints from Flickr and can say that it is simple and inexpensive and the quality is excellent. On my own site for example I have enabled friends to order pictures from college years, one dear friend to order photos of a deceased husband, and my own family to order pictures of us all when we were little.

You can go to my URL - - and see how it works.

If you want to e-mail me pictures for uploading, maybe a coupel of megs would be max via e-mail. I can then resize if I need to. I generally upload jpegs in the 100-200kb range, just to assure that that are suitable for making prints. Flickr can take bigger files as well if you want to make available a picture than someone can print into an 8 by 10.

If there seems to be interest I'll spring for the extra $25 and upgrade the account to allow for more options.

So, I know a lot of you out there like to keep the camera's out. Take some shots and send them my way!


Hickory on Elm

This rather remarkable yellow hickory can be found on North Elm just south of Bessemer, west side. Catch it before the leaves fall.

I think it is a "pig-nut" hickory, pretty much the same kind that grew all over the place in Columbia where I grew up.

When we were kids we would go out and collect bags of nuts, then sit in circles in somebody's carport, or on somebody's driveway, and crack them with bricks. The trick was to crack them just so - not too hard so as to mash the nut, and not too soft so as to barely open the hard shell. We had these little metal nut picks to help get the hickory nut proper out. We got pretty good at breaking them open,
and would feast on Hickory nuts for half an afternoon. There is a distinctive taste to hickory nuts found nowhere else. I've taught my daughter how to crack them, to continue the tradition.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Anna Gillespie - OK, So I'm a Little Proud

This picture of and inerview with Anna Gillespie (my fourth, a junior at Northwest High) came out in the Friday News and Record.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gay Republicans

There has been much discussion of late about all the outings and subsequent resignations of gay Republicans. It seems that some folks are doing everything they can to peek into the private sex life of these men in order to call them on their “hypocrisy.” I confess this sounds like the kind of tabloid sexual snooping that liberal minded folk have long objected to, but I have other questions and concerns.

These men have varied backgrounds. Many are married and thus cheating on their wives. I think that it an issue of some significance, but what are we doing to “out” cheating heterosexuals, Republican or Democrat. But some are not in this situation.

It seems that to many that it is just about impossible to be a gay Republican with any integrity. I do not agree, and I am neither gay nor a Republican.

There is a principle that many gay men and women themselves are anxious to establish – and that is that gay people are people too. OK, obvious point. But there is nothing inherent to being gay that would lean one away from a conservative political philosophy. Or is there a liberal gene that goes with the gay gene? Thinking of classic conservative principles I see no reason why a gay person could not be persuaded of these as much as a non gay person. Granted, the Republican party is mushy on those principles these days, but why could a gay person not lean toward less government, more state’s rights, protection of unborn chldren, a stronger military, educational vouchers, etc.

So, what if a gay person finds himself to be for the most part in keeping with a party that is politically conservative. So what? I would think some gay people like Italian food and some like Mexican food.

But what if the Republican Party is anti the “gay agenda.” What is a gay man to do? I would think that he has several options.

First, he may just take the bad with the good in his mind, and not support those agenda items. He would be open about being gay, work toward the other issues consistent with his conservative values, but not support anti gay rights initiatives.

Second, he may, despite his private predilections, actually oppose gay marriage. It is quite possible that a person would see as not in the public interest things that are true about himself. Rather than being a sign of some deep troubling psychological pathology, this might simply be good sense. I am sure that there are a lot of straight men (let’s say they are not married) who do not think cohabitation laws are in the public interest, yet they may be promiscuous rascals. It does not go without saying that one’s private predilections should form the basis of one’s public policy. I wonder what JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. would have to say about that.

Third, he may, like many other people on a thousand issues, merely be a hypocrite. Well, if we’re outing hypocrites, let’s get busy and clean out the majority of the people who are in office. We could start with environmentalists, who seldom live daily lives consistent with their own public policy positions. We might start with Al Gore and go from there. Hypocrisy stinks, but it is an equal opportunity employer. I would imagine that many avid supporters of gay marriage and the value of gay monogamy are themselves promiscuous. We can throw them out too.

I don’t like hypocrisy, in myself, or in others, but let’s apply the hypocrisy ruler equally across the board. I don’t see that happening.

Fourth, a gay Republican may feel that he has no future in the system if he is outed, so he leads a double life. That is, he may be a true conservative, yet may otherwise wish for more liberal marriage laws, but he knows that it won’t get him far in the party and there are so many other things that he is passionate about he just keeps his mouth shut. He is not really allowed by the system to vote his conscience. Well, welcome to politics. is this not why both parties have whips, to keep their folk in line? Is this not the case time and time again for so many people regarding so many issues. I dislike it, but let’s root out the problem across the board and not pick on these men.

Fifth and finally, the man may be cheating on a wife, advocating anti gay marriage in public meetings, and holding himself up as a standard bearer of traditional values, yet practice a gay lifestyle. This is a higher level of hypocrisy, because it both involves cheating on a vow and making oneself out to be what one certainly is not.

But I ask, do we really care about cheating and high level hypocrisy or is this just about winning an election and regaining the house? Do gay rights advocates care about these same issues as perhaps may involve themselves in other respects, or many involve other more liberal politicians on other issues? I think not.

It all smells of the same ole same ole election year scandalizing that both parties have become so good at, and which gives politics such a stench in my nose.

My Three Current Addictions

Armed with an Epson Perfection 4990 photo scanner that has Digital Ice Technology for prints, plus a pretty decent slide scanner attachment, I am now a scanning, photo organizing, Flickr junkie ( I think I need serious help. I must have strength! I have thousands of old family pictures and documents from several lines that have all ended up in boxes in my office. The temptation is there, everyday, calling…

And then, may God help me, there is Sudoku. So far this has not impacted my work life, but it has become hard for me NOT to do the daily Sudoku in the News and Record when I get home in the evenings. It so brings out the geeky closet perfectionist in me such that I can hardly make myself go to bed if I have not mastered the daily puzzle. I can carry on a conversation and do Sudoku at the same time, but my dear wife actually likes me to look at her while I talk. That’s pretty demanding of her, don't you think? So what’s a guy to do? Maybe I need to learn more Sudoku tricks so I can finish the puzzles more quickly.

And as this last one really only impacts me while driving, I must confess to all that I have been driving under the influence. Not of alcohol, or my cell phone, but of the Beatles. Indeed, for the last month I have hardly been able to take Abbey Road out of my CD player. I mean, I try. I put something else in. Usually Layla would do the trick, or maybe Bustin’ Out, or Live at Filmore East. But I keep ejecting everythign else and putting Abbey Road back in. Why, after all these years, am I hearing it in such a new way. Why does that side B medley sound like the most awesome music ever written? It didn’t used to. Why can I not stop singing “Because the World Is Round” and “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Golden Slumbers” and “Here Comes the Sun” and “I Want You” and so on. I need help.

Cara Michele Has it Right

As far as Bible believing Christians and the political parties, particularly the GOP, Cara Michele has nailed it


Excuse my French, but Blogger is getting to be a total pain in the ass. Half the time it won’t upload, and then it uploads in triplicate, and then the system is down, and there’s still no good way to do categories. Apparently there was some discussion at Converge South about the advantages of Word Press as a tool and as a blog host. Would anyone be interested in sharing with me the gist of that conversation? I have a Word Press blog, and like it. I wonder what is behind the movement away from Blogger?

A Local Christian Environmental Organization?

A few weeks back I posted a piece entitled My Passion. It was about my sense of calling as a person and as a Christian to the protection, preservation, and wise-use of God’s green earth. I’ll admit I felt sorry for myself a little in that I poured out my guts and hardly anyone said “boo,” which I guess tells me my place in the scheme of things here.

But over time private feedback has been coming in, mainly as people find my site and read the piece as a result of my being mentioned in an interview by Bill Moyers. He didn’t really quote me correctly, but I appreciate the attention.

There are many people who otherwise are more conservative in terms of political philosophy, or who are in the stream known as “social conservatives,” who for the most part are either conservative disenchanted Democrats, independents like myself (non aligned), or Republicans, who do indeed have a passionate concern for environmental issues such as species protection, habitat preservation, protection of air and water quality, simpler lifestyles, less consumption and more reuse of resources, etc.

There are many conservative Christian folk like myself who find that neither party represents their public policy concerns that arise out of a desire to see policy reflect love of neighbor, protection of the weak and poor, empowerment of local government, protection of the citizenry through strong police and military, etc.

Life contains contradictions and no political philosophy at least as embodied by the major players quite does it for all of us, and certainly not for me.

And as one who in generally conservative I understand how my environmental sensitivities may seem inconsistent, since environmental protection depends on strong proactive legislative action.

So be it.

Many Christian people with whom I otherwise agree on a range of issues do not see the significance of a stronger environmental policy and how that contributes to the well being both of the earth which we believe was created by God, mankind who suffers the ravages and injustices of environmental degradation, and the glory of the Creator Himself, whose honor is diminished as His world is defaced.

I am a member of several environmental organizations, but I think there is a need and a place for a local (Triad? NC? Carolina? I am not sure how local) organization of conservative Christian, Catholic, and Orthodox men and women who share as a common passion the care of this great planet we have been commissioned to oversee for the glory of God.

I see a need for an articulate voice aimed toward conservative evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox, men and women, in churches, in schools, and in public office.

I see a need for an educational movement aimed at, and presented as a service to, political and social conservatives - perhaps evangelical Christians in particular since they are the weakest on this issue. I am unwilling to see the care for God’s good earth totally co-opted by political liberals and mother earth pagans and Gaia theorists, etc. I am grateful for the way their work contributes to the care of the planet I believe was created by the God of Genesis 1, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I am willing to work with them, but…they are generally NOT going to make much headway with social and political conservatives or get into evangelical churches.

Because of the lack of Evangelical and Christian voice, and because conservatives have given this issue over to more left leanign folk, in the end, the environment suffers, mankind suffers, and God’s glory suffers.

So, I wonder, would anybody care to comment on the idea of a conservative Christian environmental organization and its potential value to the environmental good of our world? I’d like to hear other opinions.

Bond Referendums

I was interested in, and found myself agreeing with Sue's post regarding the upcoming bond referendum, History Doesn't Matter which itself referenced the News and Record's Greensboro Bond Endorsements. Maybe this reveals the hidden liberal in me (you know, government spending and all), but I am for investment in all the bonds, well, except one, and a little iffy on one other. The the one I am most unsure about makes me look terrible, but I'll say it anyway. I think we need a Civil Right's Museum here. The current site is ideal. But I have lost confidence in the ability of the people managing the project to appropriate and use funds wisely and perhaps honestly. The News and Record blurn did not convince me. How can I really know that these folks have their financial accountabilty act together? Can anyone help me with that little problem that I have so I can vote "yes" to that bond as well? The second one I have some concern about is the renovation of the War Memorial Auditorium. I think that much money could be used to fund a first rate performing arts center in a place not as congested. It just seems like a lot of money for a renovation. Plus, I'd to see more money go to Parks and Rec. But in the vague hope that it will draw better shows and performances to our city I think I'm for it.

Summary Please

I have been out of the loop for a couple of weeks and came back to the bruh ha ha about the publishing of the RMA report. Wow, people sure have fun when you're away.

I have tried to keep up with the Bledsoe account, Joe's insights, and the rest, but this old boy is just having a hard time keeping things straight.

I was wondering...could someone write a one or two page up-to-date summary of the whole deal to help slower people like me understand the issues and the ramifications. I suppose the nature of the summary might depend on who is writing it, so maybe a couple of summaries would be good.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fall Gardening

Well, another trip around the sun, and it’s almost October again. Have you ever thought how dull life would be if our earth did not tilt on its axis as it flew through the solar system? Well, maybe that’s not what your mind is on today. But because of that simple fact we are blessed with four diverse seasons. And now it’s fall. Ahhh.

School projects are piling high. Work is frantic. Football games beckon Saturdays and Sundays. But the fall is one of the nicest times of all to go outside and get your hands dirty – yes, it’s a great gardening season!

There is something mellow and calm in cleaning up the debris from this summer’s garden. And there is something fun and anticipatory about thinking about next year’s garden. That’s what fall provides for the gardener – closure for one season and planning (and planting) for the next.

First off there is the lawn. So how did yours do this year? You likely have some bare or thin spots here or there, and perhaps some areas where crabgrass or weeds took over. Did you cut your grass too short? So many do, and that just hinders these fescues and gives more space for the weeds and creeping grasses Be careful not to do that next season.

But for now, it is time for cutting the grass shorter as you plan for Spring. Yes, it’s time to cut, aerate, over seed, fertilize (with a slow release fertilizer), and lime your lawn. I say lime because most of the soils around here are acidic. But you can always have your soil tested to make sure. But go ahead and put out that seed now – this weekend – if you have not already. It’s good to let that seed get sprouted and set before you blow or rake the leaves later on. You don’t want to blow your seeds away too! Winter is an important growing season for lawn grasses. Those teeny grass seedling roots will grow right through the cold season, digging their little roots down into the soil, and then one warm day, maybe in late February or early March, your yard will explode in a wave of green. And you will smile.

Second, you may have some cleaning up to do. Because our heavy clay soil holds moisture so well, and our winters can be pretty wet, we always have to do battle with fungal diseases. So it is best to clean up old plant stalks and cart them off to the compost heap. Some perennials like peonies and butterfly bushes need to be cut way back, others just need a trim. Consult your garden book for specifics.

Third, while you are at it, find a space for composting leaves and a few late season grass clippings. One good way to get a head start on composting leaves is just to run your mower over small piles of them. Collect them in the bag or let them fall back to the ground, and then pile them in an out of the way space. You may wish to sprinkle a little nitrogen fertilizer over every three or four inches just to aid in the composting process. Just a little. Turn it all a couple of times over the winter and by March or April that pile should be well broken down and ready for using in your beds.

Fourth, fall is time to plant, but first drop the “t.” Plan first, plant second. I like to add one new flower or herd bed, and have at least one new garden adventure each season – just enough planning and planting to make each season new. Year after year this adds up to a great garden! Remember, gardening is a marathon, not a sprint! October all the way to early December provides a great time to plant shrubs, bulbs, and several perennials. Maybe you can just see in your mind a corner of daffodils brightening up your early spring. Plant a huge clump of them to get a brilliant show of yellow. Or maybe it’s time finally to that plant you’ve wanted to have– maybe that camellia that you remember from your grandmother’s garden. Well, this is shrub planting time! Your local nursery probably has or can get what you need, or you can order it on line.

Reflecting and anticipating – that’s what fall gardening is all about. No need to rush (except to reseed that lawn). Enjoy the cool air and the beauty to come.

If you need help we have an amazing extension office right here in Guilford County. You can call them at 375-5865, or just Google NC Extension, Guilford County Center. Or head on out and see what’s growing at their place on Burlington Road, which is just East Market extended out with a new name. The NC Extension is about 2-3 miles out of town on the left.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sweet, Sweeter, Sweetest

NC State 17 Boston College 15: SWEET

Wake Forest 27 Mississippi 3: SWEETER

Clemson 52 North Carolina 7: SWEETEST

Friday, September 22, 2006

Greensboro Theological School?

So, I was driving down Green Street yesterday on the way to Hagen Stone Park for a cross country meet, and I passed the old library, and noticed for the first time the new signs – "Elon Law School." I thought, how cool is that – we have our own law school right here in downtown Greensboro. Then on the way back I drove through the South Elm area – even at 6:15 it was hopping. Again, way cool. Thinking back to Elon (and given my “profession”) the thought came to me, “why don’t we have a first rate evangelical theological school right here in downtown Greensboro? We should. I know, we have Carolina Evangelical Divinity School, but that’s down in High Point. And then there is Duke to the east and Wake to the west. But apart from Carolina Divinity School, there is no reasonably conservative theological school conveniently located to all the evangelical churches in the Triad. None. We need one. We could call it the Greensboro Theological School, or Triad Divinity School, or Greensboro Center for Biblical Studies. Then all those folks from the myriad of more conservative churches called into the ministry (who won’t by the way go to Duke or Wake) can just drive downtown, or near to downtown, and not have to move away or drive to Charlotte or wherever. The we could raise our own pastors here – home grown. I don’t mean to steal Carolina Evangelical’s thunder. Maybe they could be it. But I am not sure. Anyway, seeing “Elon Law School” made me think of that.

My Passion

I have a friend who this past year interviewed for several jobs. He recounted to me the constant questions regarding “passion.” What is your passion?” he was asked over and over.

I suspect most guys interviewing for jobs would just want to say, “Can you please cut the BS and give me the job. I know my stuff and I’ll do a good job. But my passions, my real passions, lie elsewhere. This is a job.”

Jacques Ellul, the famous French sociologist and philosopher, said that one should follow one’s passions avocationally, not vocationally. He believed that this was psychologically best for most people, not to mix their work with the things they cared most deeply about.

We all have callings of different kinds – callings as spouses, callings as parents, callings as friends, callings as Christians if we are such. We should pursue faithfulness, integrity, commitment, and purpose in these callings. And most of those things rank higher than job.

What about pastors? Are pastors meant to be an exception to this rule? Are pastors meant to subsume and rate as second all other callings and passions to the one passion of the pastoral ministry? I don’t think so. The call to be a "minister" is a true calling, and one must be faithful to it. But about all those other interests and, well, passions? Where do they come in.

Are pastors, thinking along Ellul’s lines, to pursue their greatest passions avocationally? If one has a calling to be pastor can one have other, maybe even greater, passions.

I think so. I have come to that slowly, and it has been healthy.

But I write today confessionally. I cannot really believe that I am saying this to the world, to my neighbors, and friends, and family, my congregation, my employers.

Because after all these years I know what my real heart’s passion is. Does that mean it has to be my main job? No. Does it mean I know how to pursue it? No. But I know what it is. I have known for some time, but something the other night made me realize it yet again. It goes all the way back to childhood, into high school, and through college.

I was watching the tribute to the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. In the last bit of the tribute, Irwin expressed why he did what he did, why he was drawn toward revealing to us the wonderful world of animals that he loved so much, and wanted us to love as he did. I was moved to tears, not just because I will miss him, which I will, and not just because he was so eloquent, which he was, but because of something else.

He was speaking for me too. Here I am almost fifty years old, and I realize that when I stooped over ant hills as a young kid, when I watched that video of whales in tenth grade biology, when I studied plants and bugs in college, when I, still, marvel at watching ants build a nest, or a spider weaving its web, or a spring bud opening, that this too is my real life’s passion.

I care about so many issues. I will for the rest of my life fight for what I believe to be right and just. I deeply desire that God be loved, enjoyed, and glorified by all people.

But I think I know my place in the world now. I want the same thing Steve Irwin wanted. I want to love and cause others to love as much as possible God’s creation, in all of its complexity, beauty, and majesty. And I want to fight for the creatures that have no public voice, no rights, no guardian. I want to fight for their habitats and spaces. I want to create change. I want to learn, and I want to teach everything I learn. And, again, mostly, I want others to love the creatures of this world as much as I do, and if I may say so, as much as I believe God does.

Does this mean I must throw off my pastoral mantle? No, maybe, not necessarily. Does this mean I love people less? No. Human life is most sacrosanct because people are made in the image of God. So I want to help people. However, animals and plants and ecosystems have their place to in God’s heart too.

So I think this is the main thing for me, in addition to all the other things I am called to do and be in this life. I want the remaining twenty or thirty years, if I am given them, to be spent for the sake of caring for God’s world.

I don’t really know where to start. But as a symbolic act, I have requested to become a signatory of the Evangelical Environmental Network’s “On the Care of Creation: An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation” posted today also.

And it just may be, in that I am more or less a political and social conservative, that I am strategically placed. For ironically it is the political conservatives and evangelical Christians who need the most help in this area. I think there is a place for conservative historic orthodox Christians like me to make a difference, not just for the souls of humans beings or the spiritual care of local congregations, but for the very ongoing existence of God’s creatures. Following Ellul’s advice, I believe that I am to pursue this avocationally for now, but maybe not always. Maybe for me there will be a time for merging my vocation and my deepest passion.

There is so much yet for me to learn about the natural world, about our interactions with it, and about how to best save and preserve the remaining species of life that call home here.

I may need to take some courses, or pursue another degree on the side, or start an organization, or a camp. I really don’t know. But I know my passion. I am hungry to pursue it.

In this I have come full circle. My Christian person has finally come to peace with the natural interests and gifts God had given to me even as a child. It feels like I have become more whole.

From the reader’s side this may all sound trite or corny. I am OK with that. But I wish to say this to the world. This is my heart’s passion. I cannot be me, or who God wants me to be, apart from this. For this I have been made.

And in the end, if I can somehow make a difference, it will be for the glory of God and for the good of man. Let me ask you. How many times, when you wanted to take a spiritual or emotional rest, and get recalibrated so to speak – how many times did you do that at a mall, in a parking lot, in the middle of a crowded city?

We all need wilderness, open spaces, and wild places, so we can stay in touch with the Maker of all things and our truest selves. We all need these things even if we don’t know why. And inside of most of us there is the child - wide eyed and mouth agape at the beauty of God’s creatures and of His world. So, in pursuing my passion I believe I make it a better world for mankind, and for mankind’s soul.

Life will go on, and I will figure it out, I hope. I may need help. I may even need your help.

So there it is. My big confession right there for all the world to see. I have opened up my heart. Be gentle please.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

An Evangelical Declaration On the Care of Creation

An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation

The Earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof
- Psalm 24:1

As followers of Jesus Christ, committed to the full authority of the Scriptures, and aware of the ways we have degraded creation, we believe that biblical faith is essential to the solution of our ecological problems.

Because we worship and honor the Creator, we seek to cherish and care for the creation.

Because we have sinned, we have failed in our stewardship of creation. Therefore we repent of the way we have polluted, distorted, or destroyed so much of the Creator's work.

Because in Christ God has healed our alienation from God and extended to us the first fruits of the reconciliation of all things, we commit ourselves to working in the power of the Holy Spirit to share the Good News of Christ in word and deed, to work for the reconciliation of all people in Christ, and to extend Christ's healing to suffering creation.

Because we await the time when even the groaning creation will be restored to wholeness, we commit ourselves to work vigorously to protect and heal that creation for the honor and glory of the Creator---whom we know dimly through creation, but meet fully through Scripture and in Christ. We and our children face a growing crisis in the health of the creation in which we are embedded, and through which, by God's grace, we are sustained. Yet we continue to degrade that creation.

These degradations of creation can be summed up as 1) land degradation; 2) deforestation; 3) species extinction; 4) water degradation; 5) global toxification; 6) the alteration of atmosphere; 7) human and cultural degradation.

Many of these degradations are signs that we are pressing against the finite limits God has set for creation. With continued population growth, these degradations will become more severe. Our responsibility is not only to bear and nurture children, but to nurture their home on earth. We respect the institution of marriage as the way God has given to insure thoughtful procreation of children and their nurture to the glory of God.

We recognize that human poverty is both a cause and a consequence of environmental degradation.

Many concerned people, convinced that environmental problems are more spiritual than technological, are exploring the world's ideologies and religions in search of non-Christian spiritual resources for the healing of the earth. As followers of Jesus Christ, we believe that the Bible calls us to respond in four ways:

First, God calls us to confess and repent of attitudes which devalue creation, and which twist or ignore biblical revelation to support our misuse of it. Forgetting that "the earth is the Lord's," we have often simply used creation and forgotten our responsibility to care for it.

Second, our actions and attitudes toward the earth need to proceed from the center of our faith, and be rooted in the fullness of God's revelation in Christ and the Scriptures. We resist both ideologies which would presume the Gospel has nothing to do with the care of non-human creation and also ideologies which would reduce the Gospel to nothing more than the care of that creation.

Third, we seek carefully to learn all that the Bible tells us about the Creator, creation, and the human task. In our life and words we declare that full good news for all creation which is still waiting "with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God," (Rom. 8:19).

Fourth, we seek to understand what creation reveals about God's divinity, sustaining presence, and everlasting power, and what creation teaches us of its God-given order and the principles by which it works.

Thus we call on all those who are committed to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to affirm the following principles of biblical faith, and to seek ways of living out these principles in our personal lives, our churches, and society.

The cosmos, in all its beauty, wildness, and life-giving bounty, is the work of our personal and loving Creator.

Our creating God is prior to and other than creation, yet intimately involved with it, upholding each thing in its freedom, and all things in relationships of intricate complexity. God is transcendent, while lovingly sustaining each creature; and immanent, while wholly other than creation and not to be confused with it.

God the Creator is relational in very nature, revealed as three persons in One. Likewise, the creation which God intended is a symphony of individual creatures in harmonious relationship.

The Creator's concern is for all creatures. God declares all creation "good" (Gen. 1:31); promises care in a covenant with all creatures (Gen. 9:9-17); delights in creatures which have no human apparent usefulness (Job 39-41); and wills, in Christ, "to reconcile all things to himself" (Col.1:20).

Men, women, and children, have a unique responsibility to the Creator; at the same time we are creatures, shaped by the same processes and embedded in the same systems of physical, chemical, and biological interconnections which sustain other creatures.

Men, women, and children
, created in God's image, also have a unique responsibility for creation. Our actions should both sustain creation's fruitfulness and preserve creation's powerful testimony to its Creator.

Our God-given
, stewardly talents have often been warped from their intended purpose: that we know, name, keep and delight in God's creatures; that we nourish civilization in love, creativity and obedience to God; and that we offer creation and civilization back in praise to the Creator. We have ignored our creaturely limits and have used the earth with greed, rather than care.

The earthly result
of human sin has been a perverted stewardship, a patchwork of garden and wasteland in which the waste is increasing. "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land...Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away" (Hosea 4:1,3). Thus, one consequence of our misuse of the earth is an unjust denial of God's created bounty to other human beings, both now and in the future.

God's purpose in Christ is to heal and bring to wholeness not only persons but the entire created order. "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross" (Col. 1:19-20).

In Jesus Christ, believers are forgiven, transformed and brought into God's kingdom. "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation" (II Cor. 5:17). The presence of the kingdom of God is marked not only by renewed fellowship with God, but also by renewed harmony and justice between people, and by renewed harmony and justice between people and the rest of the created world. "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands" (Isa. 55:12).

We believe that in Christ there is hope, not only for men, women and children, but also for the rest of creation which is suffering from the consequences of human sin.

Therefore we call upon all Christians to reaffirm that all creation is God's; that God created it good; and that God is renewing it in Christ.

We encourage deeper reflection on the substantial biblical and theological teaching which speaks of God's work of redemption in terms of the renewal and completion of God's purpose in creation.

We seek a deeper reflection on the wonders of God's creation and the principles by which creation works. We also urge a careful consideration of how our corporate and individual actions respect and comply with God's ordinances for creation.

We encourage Christians to incorporate the extravagant creativity of God into their lives by increasing the nurturing role of beauty and the arts in their personal, ecclesiastical, and social patterns.

We urge individual Christians and churches to be centers of creation's care and renewal, both delighting in creation as God's gift, and enjoying it as God's provision, in ways which sustain and heal the damaged fabric of the creation which God has entrusted to us.

We recall Jesus' words that our lives do not consist in the abundance of our possessions, and therefore we urge followers of Jesus to resist the allure of wastefulness and overconsumption by making personal lifestyle choices that express humility, forbearance, self restraint and frugality.

We call on all Christians to work for godly, just, and sustainable economies which reflect God's sovereign economy and enable men, women and children to flourish along with all the diversity of creation. We recognize that poverty forces people to degrade creation in order to survive; therefore we support the development of just, free economies which empower the poor and create abundance without diminishing creation's bounty.

We commit ourselves to work for responsible public policies which embody the principles of biblical stewardship of creation.

We invite Christians
--individuals, congregations and organizations--to join with us in this evangelical declaration on the environment, becoming a covenant people in an ever-widening circle of biblical care for creation.

We call upon Christians
to listen to and work with all those who are concerned about the healing of creation, with an eagerness both to learn from them and also to share with them our conviction that the God whom all people sense in creation (Acts 17:27) is known fully only in the Word made flesh in Christ the living God who made and sustains all things.

We make this declaration knowing that until Christ returns to reconcile all things, we are called to be faithful stewards of God's good garden, our earthly home.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Little Willies

Being a fan of Norah Jones I noticed the CD entitled The Little Willies in a Starbucks a couple of months ago, and in a moment of weakness after looking it over, bought it! Am I glad I did!

The Little Willies are a group of musical friends who like to get together in NY and play music. You can read all about at their web site, The Little Willies.

They are Lee Alexander (bass), Jim Campilongo (electric guitar), Norah Jones (piano, vocals), Richard Julian (guitar, vocals) and Dan Rieser (drums).

Some people call it country. I don’t know – it’s more an eclectic mix of swing, jazz, honky tonk, and a little old-time country. Mostly The Little Willies are covering songs of others, including Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Townes van Zandt, and Red Rose, though there are some originals too.

Vocals are shared about evenly between Norah Jones and Richard Julian. I had not known previously of Richard Julian, but I like his voice, and it works on this music. And it’s hard to beat Norah Jones in the singing department. Despite the eclectic mix of songs, her piano work and vocals place her familiar stamp on all the songs she sings. It “feels” like Norah Jones music, though it could not be more different than her other work.

This is fun music – nothing real deep here, though I think Van Zandt’s No Place to Fall is achingly lovely and poignant, sung by Richard Julian. It’s my favorite song of this season.

Bass player Lee Alexander’s Roll On, sung by Norah Jones, is another just a plain great song of the familiar Norah Jones variety.

The Little Willies collaborated in writing the last song, entitled simply Lou Reed. It’s a pretty hilarious song, though if it has some hidden meaning I’m clueless. It’s about cow-tipping, and just in case there was not some deep dark perverted weird or strange thing about that, I looked it up on Wikipedia of all places. Reading about cow tipping just makes the song about Lou Reed cow tipping all the funnier.

Again, this is generally fast-paced excellently played good time music for kicking back on a long drive, or doing the dishes, or sitting out on the deck on a nice fall evening . It makes you smile even when it’s about getting drunk (Willie Nelson’s I Gotta Get Drunk) which is pretty funny, or death (I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive), or the generally devil may care craziness of this world (Kris Kristofferson’s Best of All Possible Worlds).

Anyway, pick up a copy. If you need to preview a few songs go to their MySpace site.

Here’s the line up which I stole from an Amazon reviewer S. Heyworth.

Roly Poly (Fred Rose cover, Hank Williams popularized)
I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive (Fred Rose cover, Hank Williams popularized)
Love Me (Leiber/Stoller cover Elvis Presley popularized)
It's Not You It's Me (original by Richard Julian)
Best of All Possible Worlds (Kris Kristofferson cover)
No Place To Fall (Townes Van Zand cover)
Roll On (original by Lee Alexander)
I Gotta Get Drunk (Willie Nelson cover)
Streets of Baltimore (Gram Parsons cover)
Easy as the Rain (original by Richard Julian and Jim Campilongo)
Tennessee Stud (Jimmy Driftwood cover)
Night Life (Breeland/Buskirk/Nelson cover, Willie Nelson popularized)
Lou Reed (original by Alexander/Julian/Jones)

The Bind: On Being a Christian in a Politically Charged World

Inspired to think by Billy's Meme question # 10, I wanted to write today about the bind I always feel that I am in being a Christian in a representative democracy with the political right to say whatever I please. How this bears upon others is not for me to say. For those not bound by Christian teaching, I quote the Apostle Paul who said, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders." By outsiders he simply means those who are not professing Christians.

This is the dilemma: I live in a secular country which allows me many freedoms, including the freedom to speak in ways that I should not. This country allows me, and my religion I believe requires me (as an extension of the command to love my neighbor), to be engaged, to care, and to thus participate in the political process at some level. The voices of the weak and helpless crying out for justive demand it if nothing else does.

And there is no engagement in our process without critique, debate, and hearty discussion.

But such hearty participation does not allow me as a Christian to cast of my Lord's requirements of me.

Jesus and the Apostles said much that impacts my attitude and my speech as I engage in the political process. Jesus said to "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's."

The Apostle Paul said, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice" as well as "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."

The Apostle Peter said, "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor."

I doubt any of our Presidents are worse characters than the Roman emporers, and they, as well as their office, requires the honor of the Christian.

And again, Paul says, "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people."

Add to that the general admonition from the Torah regarding protecting the reputation of my neighbor in my speech, and I consider myself bound to speak a certain way and not another about and to others.

This can be very frustrating because I graduated from life with a Ph. D. in Slice and Dice (with snideness and sarcasm thrown in if at all possible). I have done more than my fair share of rabble rousing, shouting down elected officials, and the like, to last me a life time.

So, how to engage in the process, even critically if I must, without resorting to disrespecting those in office and those in authority over me?

Should I call the Central Office of GSC "The Gestapo."? Probably not. Should I call Bush a fool or Clinton a joke? For me, no, I should not.

But I cannot lay my head in the sand. Love of neighbor in a free country like ours demands that I participate in the process which so impacts my neighbor's well being. Not to do that, or to be silent, is to be responsible for the outcome which may harm my neighbor.

But the man or woman in office, even if I disagree with him or her, is both my neighbor and a human being made in the image of God. As James says, regarding the use of the tongue, "with it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God."

I do not believe that that admonition stops where the political process begins. So, how do I offer critique of one person's views while honoring that person's person? I must do that. Anything less is, for me, disobedience to my Lord and Master.

It takes much self control. There is within me such scorn and sarcasm and ridicule ready to leak out. O Lord, change me! But I also have a brain, and I have a voice, and I must use both for the good of my neighbor and to the glory of God.

But I must do so honorably. I should not call people names; I should not be condescending or snide; I should not write whole groups of people off with a critical wave of the tongue.

There are so few examples to follow. Around here I look to Joe Guarino as the best example of how I want to speak. In recent history I may look to Martin Luther King Jr. Despite his personal issues, I admire greatly his manner of political engagement. He fought the fight, peacefully, and inspiringly, and without personal vilification of his opponents, generally.

So, to be passionate, to be good, to fight injustice without committing injustice, to argue an issue without denigrating those who hold the opposite view on the issue, well, sometimes it just seems more than this bag of flesh and bones, with so much that is not yet as it should be, is capable of. But I must try.

So, you're all free to hold me accountable to my own stated values.

And by the way, I know that Jesus called Herod a fox, and I know that the prophets could be pretty hard on the Kings and people of Israel, but I am neither Jesus, nor Amos, nor Jeremiah. If I must speak words that have to do with "covenant breaking" it is an "in house" thing. America is not in covenant with the God of Israel.

And by the way (II), each person entering into political discourse brings or drags values with him or her. They may get these values from his or her religion, parents, or from aliens as far as I know. But everyone has them, and everyone, to some degree or another, seeks to impose them on others. Ultimately for all human beings the fight for justice is a fight that is undergirded by certain beliefs or values about those for whom justice is needed or required. The fact that this is so with me, a Christian citizen, does not make me a theocrat, any more than it makes a non Christian a theocrat. Yes, there are some people (I wanted to say "kooks" - see how hard it is to be good) out there representing a variety of viewpoints who would hold all of us hostage to their value system. As for me, I am glad I live in a secular nation where I am protected from such, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, or whatever.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Twenty Questions

I received an e-mail from Billy the Blogging Poet about answering the following questions. Since he posted his answers, I’ll post mine.

The title of his post is When Is A Meme Not A Meme? What the heck is a meme? Anyway, here we go.

1: Do you like the look and the contents of your blog?

I am never at rest as regards the look and content of the blog, thinking I want to do more, wishing I had more ability. I am so thankful for Cara Michelle and Jesse Wesselink for keeping my blogs looking decent. As to content, I want to add podcasts, more pictures, and I want to find the time to write more about the natural world.

2: Does your family know about your blog?

Absolutely, as well as every single person in the world who knows me. Just look at the bottom of my e-mails. Also, in my job as a pastor, I have asked permission from our elders to do some blogging while at work and they think it a worthwhile endeavor.

3: Can you tell your friends about your blog? Do you consider it a private thing?

I tell as many friends as I can without seeming to be too self promoting. But almost every person I know knows that I do this.

4: Do you just read the blogs of those who comment on your blog? O do you try to discover new blogs?

I do, on the first, and I try on the second, time permitting. It comes in fits and pieces. There are weeks when I just don’t have time.

5: Did your blog positively affect your mind? Give an example.

Usually, though there are certain dynamics in the local blogging scene that frustrate me sometimes. Mostly people are affirming however, even the ones who don’t buy what I’m selling. I get great satisfaction in writing. I feel like a volcano ready to explode with a thousand things to write. Blogging gives me a place to express myself. If I don’t have an audience I just won’t write. Plus, the interaction, the debating, has really helped me understand other people better and has helped my preaching as a pastor. I tend to gravitate toward reading the blogs of people I generally don’t agree with!

6: What does the number of visitors to your blog mean? Do you use a traffic counter?

I want to increase traffic. It is somewhat important because I want the writing to be accessible. It is not just a private me and God thing.

7: Did you imagine how other bloggers look like?

Yeah, actually I do, especially the anonymous ones! I’ve emailed back and forth with people I don’t know who help keep me straight in my blogging, and I think of them as friends, even though we have never met.

8: Do you think blogging has any real benefit?

Yeah, it gives people a venue for self expression. That’s important. It allows the mainstream media not to control what people read and listen to. It enables people to think through issues by debate and discourse. It impacts political decisions I think. I would like to think that non bloggers read my blog. The thing I worry about is bloggers just being an elite little club.

9: Do you think that the Blogsphere is a stand alone community separated from the real world?

In once sense, yes, because it is not representative. In another sense it helps being some community between bloggers. I also think local politicians use bloggers a trial balloons for ideas.

10: Do some political blogs scare you? Do you avoid them?

I hate blog arguing (not debating) and too many of the political blogs are just shouting or insult matches.

11. Do you think that criticizing your blog is useful?

I appreciate the input of people who care about me and what I say. That impacts what I do or don’t do. I have some blogging friends, whom I have never met, and we have taken a liking to each other despite big social/political differences, and they help keep my blogging in line.

12: Have you ever thought about what happen to your blog in case you died?


13: Which blogger had the greatest impression on you?

Probably Roch, just because he has helped me so much. As to examples, I want to most be like Joe (Guarino). I think I’ll start a “Be Like Joe” button campaign. I like to read Mr. Sun and wish I had a tenth of his talent.

14: Which blogger you think is the most similar to you?

This guy in Australia who used to comment on my site. Around here, maybe Joe Guarino, except that he is nicer than me.

15: Name a song you want to listen to.

I’m on a Beatles kick right now. I have been buying too much music this year and have had to cut back for the sake of the budget. Lately, given all the unrest in the Islamic world over the Pope’s remark, I keep thinking about Dylan “Only a Pawn in Their Game.”

I will send an e-mail to each of these:

Fecund Stench

Saturday, September 16, 2006

More Fire, More Smoke

More fire and smoke today...

Here is the Pope's speech. He is making a worthwhile philosophical/theological point in an address about reason and faith. It's worth a read. He ends by talking about constructuive dialogue between Christians and Muslims. One point is that you can't have dialogue and jihad. Duh.

Here is an example of the response.

I think his point is being made. No wonder he won't fully totally retract and apologize. I wouldn't either.

As a Christian I am glad I live in a secular nation.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hey, Can We have a Riot?

Good grief, if we had huge protests and riots every single time people cast aspersions on Jesus Christ and Christianity, like every third Hollywood movie, and most every statement coming from radical Islam, it would be non stop rioting around here. Muslims rebuke/deny/offend the Christian view of Jesus every day. Hey, we need to get over it. So they don't go for it. So they don't think Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, was God the Son. Fine. Jews aren't crazy about all that either. In fact the Jews of his day thought Jesus was either subversive, dangerous, blasphemous, or just plain nuts. I probably would have thought so too. But I don't see Jews waging holy war or wanting to wage Holy War against Christians. And I don't think they would if they could. Yes I am deeply sorry for what has happened in history in the reverse. I think the Pope's timing could have been better, but maybe, just maybe, 9/11 and the aftermath, including the bombings in Spain and England and the other foiled "let's blow-up-some-airplanes-and get-to-heaven" attempts, plus the announcement of Jihad over and over, gives the Pope a little more material to work with than his predecessor. If Muslims will not renounce the physical violence - the murderous aspects of Jihad, and renounce those who murder and kill non cambatants on purpose, and renounce the intense persecutions of converts to Judaism or Christianity all over the world, then what are we to say. Hey, this is great, why don't you come and blow up my city while you're at it; it's getting boring around here. It's a marketplace of ideas. A marketplace of beliefs. Muslims are good at arguing for their beliefs. Very good. That's fine. I wish them well. Just stop killing people who don't buy it OK. Time to see the civilized and mature Muslims stand up and put an end to this nonsense. People are going to criticize you, and your holy prophet, and your culture, just like they do mine. Hello! Deal with it. Peacefully. Maybe in the end it is a clash of civilizations. But I'd like it think it possible to have a world where folks can worship as they will, knowing that God, however understood, will work as He will. The best of Christianity, the best of Judaism, and the best of Islam calls for men to be men, as in gentlemen, and women gentlewomen, and all civil, civil men and women who are good and kind to their neighbors whatever they believe. That's what I think.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Into the Spider's Web

Night before last (or was it Monday night), I was given a lovely gift. I had gone outside to take the trash to the big green bin, and on the way back in noticed her walking, as if in mid air, a foot or two off the trunk of the birch tree. I had to go closer and look at a certain angle to see what she was up to. She was weaving her web.

I love spiders. I don't mean "love" as in "like, thinks cool, appreciates." I mean I have a deep human affection for them as creatures. CS Lewis talks about this kind of affection in his "The Four Loves." Great book by the way. As to spiders, I think they are beyond cool.

Well, the gift I was given was this: I got to watch this spider make her web. The web I could only see by looking at it along its plane. I was tranfixed at how wafer thin a spider's web is. It was like looking at the rings of Saturn not from above but from the side. They are wafer thin too. As to a spider's web, how such a thin and fragile piece of biological engineering produces such results is amazing.

Well, my spider friend had already fixed the main structural lines. One went from the birch tree over to a limb of the crab apple tree. I used to wonder how they ever did this until the one other time I got to see a spider build a web from scratch. This spider would have hooked a line of web onto one or the other tree, dropped to the ground, walked the distance to the other tree, climbed it, all the while letting out non sticky silk, risen to the new point of attachment, and then pulled in the line until it was taught. From what I could tell of this web, there was the one main structural line, then, about a third way across, another main line that angled down to a lower point on the birch tree. For that she would have had to walk back out on the main line, drop to the ground, climb the tree (again), and attach it at that secondary point.

These two lines seemed to be enough to contain the web within. By the time I saw her working she had already laid down the main diameter lines, establishing a center, and then the main radial lines. That too requires attachment, walking around the structural line to the opposite point, attachment there, pulling in line, etc.

I mainly got to see her weaving the more circular bits, which of course are really just straight threads between the radial lines. I coud not tell if they were spiral or concentric. I watched for maybe half an hour. By that time she was mostly done and I went in.

Spiders work very hard. The orb weavers have to do this every day or two. It's work or die for these guys.

I did see a few victims the next morning as I headed out to work. They appeared mostly to be moths.

We do have a fair number of black widows around here, and they are pretty easy to identify. Brown recluses are quite rare, and all those brown spiders you see running around hunting that you think are brown recluses, well, they aren't. They don't call them recluses for nothing.

My point is that if you see a circular web (or if you see a hungry tank-like spider running across your floor), well, these guys are your friends. You don't even have to know what species they are. Just enjoy their work. They are doing you a favor by the way.

This is spider season, so it's a good time to learn to enjoy them.

As to my birch tree spider, she was a very light, almost translucent, brown and about an inch across including legs. But I was more intent on her work. Absolutely amazing. I was mesmerized.

Such a rare event evokes many kinds of emotions. For me, it brought forth delight and joy. And yes, it alos brought forth the words of a Psalmist:

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures. (from Psalm 104)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mickey Mclean is Famous

I wrote last week about reading Bob Spitz's most excellent biography of the Beatles, entitled simply "The Beatles." It's a long book, but worth the read. I am totally on a Beatles kick right now, except that I don't have many Beatle's CD's. I mean, I would not OBJECT if anyone wanted to LOAN me a burned copy of The White Album or any number of their records. It's would be for research purposes of course, and would be returned.

Anyway, so I am reading the "Acknowledgments" at the end of the book and what do I read, but...

"Among the many people to whom I am indebted, I must thank Tally Gentry, whose research was of great assistance; Neal Gabler, for exchanging war stories; Jim and Michelle Ford, in whose good hands Lily often resided so that I could work through the weekends; and my great friends at Pace: Nancy Oakley, Mickey McLean, Brian Cook and especially Duncan Christy, whose friendship and generous support will never be taken for granted."

Mickey McLean you say? Our Mickey Mclean? I mean, how many Mickey McLean's could there be?

Well, turns out Mickey McLean and Bob Spitz have worked together for some time in the same publishing company, which kept Mr. Spitz going with enough paying work to keep him alive all the years he worked on this book.

Spitz's acknowledgement section explains clearly enough what goes into a book of this magnitude.

Plus, as if it were not enough, Mickey has been to Liverpool AND inside of Studio 2 at Abbey Road. Wow!
Anyway, here's to Mickey, my hero.