Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This Is For Real - Former JP Building in Glow of Sunset

Digital cameras are known to manipulate images or interpret light wrongly. It is hard to judge a photo anymore in terms of trueness to the real object being photographed. But in this picture the old JP building was in fact this exact color. I did not color correct. I took this over by the jail, near the drive through Wachovia "branch" on Washington Street. The other picture - to the right of this one - was taken five minutes later.

Diet and Exercise - Back to the Grind

It hit me yesterday. I may have been overly caffeinated, but still, the heart palpitations were unambiguous. I can feel it when my heart kicks into a different rhythm. My size 36 pants, falling off me a year ago this time, are now uncomfortable again. I suspect my blood sugar is pushing upward again too. I got into the dietary regimen 18 months ago because of hearth health and fear of diabetes. I cut out sugar and simple starches of all kinds, even certain kinds of fructose. I started exercising - walking at first and then busting my butt on the elliptical machine at a local gym. In 8 months I went from 126 to 180 pounds. Then I got sick. Actually I had been sick and did not know it. The last two months of working out meant a daily migraine and extreme tiredness. What I didn’t know was that my hemoglobin had crashed, and my iron stores were about nothing. I woke up one morning with a migraine and I could not stand up. The doctors surrounded me with urgent calls to have my GI tract checked. I hardly had any tiem to process anything. So I did all that, and it seems the culprit was two small ulcers in my stomach - not bacterial related. 

It took me months to recover. I started eating like crazy - including lots of foods rich in iron. I took iron pills. Finally many months later my hemoglobin was normal, and then soon after my iron stores were replenished. And I was fat again - the kind of fat the afflicts my gender - stomach, beer gut with no beer. 

I have gained 36 of the 46 pounds back. My dietary regimen over that year was good - I could eat whole grain breads, vegetables, meat of any kind, milk and dairy products, lots and lots of yogurt, and lots and lots of high bran cereal - dry. 

It has nothing to do with the new Year, but as of today I start back. I won't be able to use a gyn. I'll have to let the world be my gym, and do dumbbells and core exercises at home and in my office.

I figured out how to run or walk briskly downtown. I just head off and at every light I go where the sings say walk - a different route every time.  If I get to the border of downtown I just turn around. It's kind of fun.

My biggest challenge (next to laziness) is sweat - I don't like getting wet and then having to do office work, so I need to figure that out. Someone suggested baby wipes.

I went to a movie last night and bought popcorn. I savored the stuff because I won't be having pop corn again for months.

I don't care really how much I weigh, but my cardiologist says that exercise will cause the body to produce the very same kinds of chemicals as taking medication. he also told me not to rejoice too much that my congenital  mitral valve prolapse had stopped prolapsing. He said that my heart muscle was a little overweight too, and that as I lost weight my prolapse might return.

I choose not to get diabetes II. It scares me more than cancer for some reason. There is only one way to avoid it - exercise and diet.
So, if anyone sees me downtown running or power walking, I am not showboating, except to show off how out of shape I am - I am trying to get healthy.

I guess we'll see how it goes.

New Lincoln Building Through Glass Corridor, Greensboro

Taken on Tuesday December 30, 2008, from the Lindsay (Marriott) Parking Deck 

See some more new downtown pictures here. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Greatest Gift - Page One

When I taught public high school in the early-mid 1980's I was the faculty adviser to a Bible Study Group that met once a week in the morning. One year the group wanted to share an invitation – not to the bible study so much, but to Christ. A couple of the students and I worked on the letter, and the last day of school before Christmas break students handed out the letter above to all the other students as they came into the building. It was kind of cool.

To view in a larger size go to my Flickr Photostream, click on the picture of the letter, and then "all sizes."

The Greatest Gift - Page Two

When I taught public high school in the early-mid 1980's I was the faculty adviser to a Bible Study Group that met once a week in the morning. One year the group wanted to share an invitation – not to the bible study per se, but to Christ. A couple of the students and I worked on the letter, and the last day of school before Christmas break students handed out the letter above to all the other students as they came into the building. It was kind of cool. This is the second page.

To view this scanned document in a larger size, like if you want to read it, please go to my Flickr Photostream, click on the document, and then click on "all sizes."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Greetings from Toyland, 1962

My mother's father, Maurice Sanders, owned a combination toy store and sporting good store in Sherman Texas in the 1940's until his death in the mid 1960's. This is the front cover of the 1962 Christmas catalog. 

You can see a photo of the actual store, well, in 1951 anyway, HERE. It's really cool. Above the picture click on "all sizes" and look at it in large - the detail is really cool. This is the only picture I have of my grandfather Maurice Sanders at his wonderful toy and sporting goods store in downtown Sherman. He died in 1967. He was cool.

I have scanned and posted the entire catalog. Click here for my Flickr Phostream and scroll down just a tad.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Go Tigers

Clemson orange rocks! I went to this game with my dad (my one and only foray into Florida my whole life), and there took my favorite picture of my dad

I just found this button in a box of stuff.  It is about 2 1/2 inches across. I could not keep the edges from being cut off in the scan. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mountain Laurel Blossom

Thinking of spring/summer today. This is Kalmia latifolia better known as Mountain Laurel, taken while hiking on Cook's Wall Trail, Hanging Rock State Park, Stokes County, NC.

This flower is the inspiration for my third daughter's name. I was always a sucker for "botanical" names!

My Photostream

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monkey Bar Portraits

Sarah, Madeline, Liam, Rebekah, and Bremely , Bur-Mil park playground,  November, 2008. I would have preferred a blue sky rather than a white cloud as background, but this is kind of cool in its own way. For a view of the sky that day look here.

Bur-Mil is a great multi purpose park, and the managers of grounds and buildings do a fantastic job.

If you're interested in knowing how much a Tonka truck or Cooties cost in 1962, look here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Clouds, and Lone Crow

Taken at Bur-Mil park Greensboro, NC, November 2008.

For more pictures of or from Bur-Mil, and for my photostream, look HERE.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Night Falls Over Moore's Wall - A Pensive Moment

Here at the office early on a Friday evening I feel pensive. This picture captures how I feel right now. It was taken from Hanging Rock proper after the sun had set over Moore's Wall. It got dark very fast afterward. We are blessed to have such a beautiful place so close.

My Photostream

My Dad's Reflections, upon Turning Fifty

My dad - Curtis Claunch Gillespie, Jr. - wrote this out on sketch pad in 1980 when he was fifty years old.  Note the references to Chapel Hill and the Gator Bowl of 1949. 


As I approach my own half century the reflections are awesome, vivid, and lovely – Why the reflections at this age – maybe fear, joy, or what? Am I afraid to pass this milestone – King of my Grammar School – the Jewish girl who could beat me up but love me – The fights as a twelve year old – Columbia and Woodrow Street – Hand, Dreher – Pawley’s Island – Drinking White Doves Beer at Davis’s – Falling off the back of the pavilion – The cashmere sweaters and pegged pants – Knocking down the door at the girl’s house party – I was bad but I guess normal – The Dark Horsemen, my girls, Woody’s Band at the Jefferson – The Parkway ??? - The Green Derby – The Cotton Patch – the Citadel & that beautiful redhead – My roommate pissing in the middle of the quadrangle & getting kicked out of school – the wonderful years at UNC – The Frat House – My brothers, many of whom are dead now – the Bowl games – The Gator  Bowl in ’49 which will never be topped – The Air Force -  My love for Maurine - our marriage   Denver - St. Louis – Our beautiful children in the 50’s – The Little League teams – The troubles and trials of growing children – My careers mostly successful – My art which I loved – The rest seems to glide by to now – Why am I scared – These reflections make it passable (?) so maybe instead of fear I should look forward to The second half – It could be the best of all – But of all these reflections the thing that made me the happiest were my father, my mother, my wife, my children, all individuals with different personalities and goals – I am sensitive and meditative about these people who I love so much – I have not given enough – But I am me – maybe I can reflect again when I approach 75 – The only regrets I really have is that I have not been able to love enough for I have so much in me


My dad died suddenly in a freak accident in June of 1989. He was 59. He never got to have those reflections he wanted to have approaching 75. He would have been 75 in 2005. 

My Dad

This a great picture of my dad taken two months before he died. 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dad's Doodles

My dad (Curtis Claunch Gillespie, Jr.), who was an accomplished painter of flowers - mostly roses ansd camelias - also enjoyed doodling. He had pretty much stopped painting by the time I was old enough to be aware of things and we were always trying to get him painting again. Alas, we failed, but he would humor us occasionally with his doodles. I like this doodle page. I remember him doing it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I Don't Believe in the Trinity

No, not THAT Trinity silly (I certainly do believe in that one). I mean the unholy trinity, or perhaps better said, the unholy triumvirate that holds our public school hostage to mediocrity -- that is, the triumvirate of the teachers unions, the university programs that oversee teacher certification, and the legislature that keep reform from being possible.

I got to thinking about this while reading the Time Magazine cover story about Michelle Rhee, the federally appointed superintendent of the Washington DC schools.

I have heretofore figured that our public school system is beyond reform, irredeemable, and hopeless. Its mediocrity is felt worse in places that need excellence the most – in our inner cities and areas of socio-economic decline. Why we don’t offer the poorest people the opportunity to escape the system and attend charter, magnet, or private schools is beyond my understanding.

The sentence that most got my attention in the Time Magazine article was this:

“Rhee is convinced that the answer to the U.S.’s education disaster is talent, in the form of outstanding teachers and principals.”

I agree. Don’t misunderstand me. There are a lot of talented and superb teachers in the system, despite low pay, chronic discipline issues, and little regard or professional respect by the general public. As the saying goes, “Those who can, do, those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t teach, teach others to teach."

It doesn’t help matters to have salaries printed every year in one of our local papers, as if to prove how overly paid our teachers are. This is just ridiculous. Putting it in perspective, the highest paid teacher in Guilford County has a Ph.D., thirty five years experience, and National Board certification, and she makes less money than my daughter will make coming out of PA school, and much less money than the average bright twenty five year old person makes coming out of a quality MBA program.

Michelle Rhee wants to make the teachers in Washington DC the highest paid teachers in the nation, and in the process get rid of the weakest teachers. I would like to see the same right here in Guilford County.

Until we offer financial incentives by way of higher starting salary and higher top salaries, teaching will continue to attract the less talented and less bright college students. We need to grease the wheels for lateral entry to enable talented people who have worked in other industries for 20 years not to have to take a 50 percent or more pay cut in order o be a teacher.

And we need a way to weed out the teachers who just don’t cut it, or who have quit caring. The problem in the current system is that whereas it is very hard work being a good teacher, it is all to easy to be a bad teacher. That is not an easy matter to fix because it is hard to objectify the evaluation process. Interestingly however, principles and fellow teachers tend to know who the poor teachers are. Unfortunately, the reality of local school politics makes it difficult to weed out the poorest teachers by subjective observation alone. Plus many of the best teachers are mavericks who aren’t terribly submissive, and who don’t always cooperate with the mountain of administrative work heaped upon them. And sometimes the best teachers are a threat to the worst teachers.

Somehow we have to find a formula that includes objective criteria (improvement in student competence), and subjective opinion, the views of principles, students, and even parents. I think I could come up with a workable system, but the union would never allow it.

Despite all the usual excuses for bad school performance, I believe that with well paid motivated teachers and principals we could turn things around and give the next generation a fighting chance. We don’t have to consign our poorest families to our poorest schools.

There are three things I would voluntarily pay higher taxes for - 1) hiring more policemen and firemen and EMS type workers, 2) maintaining our public spaces such as parks and greenways and such, and 3) paying our teachers more - a LOT more. I would gladly see my taxes DOUBLE for these purposes.

Let’s stop business a usual. As was said by someone in the recent campaign, let’s made education the Marshall Plan for the 21st century, or least for its first quarter century (the green revolution won’t happen unless we have enough people, taught and rained to carry it out).

Mr. Green, look to Michelle Rhee.

That’s where I’m coming from.

Joel Gillespie

Those Were The Days - Maurice Sanders Toyland

My mother's father, Maurice Sanders, owned a combination toy store and sporting goods store in Sherman Texas in the 1940's until his death in 1967. This is the front cover of the 1962 Christmas catalogue.

You can see a photograph of my granddad in the store, with two employees, and amazing detail of dolls and toys and sporting goods,  if you view it on large, here. To view it large click "all sizes" above the photo.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Look to the SE - Crescent Moon, Venus, and Jupiter

Dear Friend,

If you want to be awed at the beauty of this great solar system we're a part of - then go outside - right now. Whatever you’re doing is probably not as important at seeing this. Look to the SW sky – fairly low - see the crescent moon, only about 15% illuminated, with Venus and Jupiter just to the right. Really, you’ll be glad you saw this. It’s awesome!

Thanks to Betsy Clark for the Twitter tip!

It's 6:36 as I write.

Looking Up into Autumn

Taken on Cook's Wall Trail, Hanging Rock State Park, November 2, 2008

My Photostream

Putting Thor back into Thursday (Or Taking Him Out)

Every year a few weeks before Christmas I start getting those mass e-mails which I am supposed to then forward to every Christian I know, all regarding the great offense whereby the phrase “Merry Christmas” has been changed to “Happy Holidays.” I usually don’t participate.

I suspect that the “Christ” part of Christmas means little more to many people than the “Thor” part of Thursday does to us Christians. But regarding our Hindu and Jewish and Muslim and non Christian neighbor, well I understand the discomfort of the name of “Christ” being all over their celebration of a winter holiday. In a secular and diverse nation it is almost inevitable that this issue would erupt every year. I’m fine with "Happy Holidays" myself.

The change of names for the holiday season is of course deeply distressing to many believers in Jesus. The sands seem to have shifted and they are feeling more and more marginalized. Indeed, there has been a seismic cultural change and the influence of Christianity upon our culture and national psyche is in decline.

However, as much as this cultural shift may be upsetting to many Christians, I think Christians should be equally upset by the obscenity that our celebration of Christmas has become. I wish there were some way to separate Advent from Christmas so that our religious celebration of Advent would not be polluted by the grotesque commerciaiam of the Christmas season.

So, instead of trying to put Christ back into Christmas let’s do one better and take Christ out of Christmas altogether. Let’s give Christmas to the pagans and take our Advent elsewhere before we ourselves are crushed by the weight of the materialistic orgy it has become. Then we can celebrate the first Advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a way that pleases Him. We can keep many of the customs and songs, just pick a different time. Maybe July? Then our Southern Hemisphere neighbors can have their own snowy Advent for a while! We don’t know exactly when Jesus was born, so it really does not matter when we celebrate the day of his birth.

To my pagan neighbors who may wish to change the name of the official national holiday from "Christmas" to some other thing, like maybe "Winter Solstice Day," well, let’s make a deal. How about we take Christ out of Christmas and you can agree to take Thor out of Thursday and Woden out of Wednesday and Tyr out of Tuesday (and so forth), just to make it fair. OK?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Save the Land

From Hanging Rock proper, Hanging Rock State Park, looking down at Route 2054, CC Camp Road, app. one mile away and 1000 feet below. 

Looking at this picture made me think of the old BS&T's song that went "maybe I'll be there to share the land." That was BS&T's wasn't it?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hope This Brings a Smile

I hope this brings a smile. Two brave hikers on the way up to Hanging Rock, November 2, 2008. Sisters no less. What would we do without children and animals to bring us happiness in this short life?

My Photostream...lots of fall color!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Local Film

A local friend just finished a short film and has submitted it to different film festivals - you can read about it at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Alice Cooper Rocks

I never used to listen to the radio at night, but Rock 92 changed that by jumping on the Nights with Alice Cooper bandwagon. I love the show - the music is eclectic and well, I'm old enough to like the earlier stuff he plays. His commentary is funny and informative, and he knows things about various groups that the average person like me would not know. I now quite enjoy getting out in the car at night since I listen to the radio there mostly. I'm thinking of getting a decent small radio I can play at night at home via ear buds without it bothering everyone else.

The guy is a trip. The juxtaposition of his persona, as exemplified by his web site, and his convictions (Wikipedia has a good article on him) is a really interesting to me.

Radical Gay Group Crashes Church service

Check out this story from the Lansing State Journal. Is this what's ahead? I hope not.

Beautiful Days, and King Kong

Can you find King Kong?

I love this place.

Taken from Hanging Rock proper, Hanging Rock State Park, Stokes County, NC, Looking WNW - Taken by Hiking Buddy Mark Graham. The Blue Ridge escarpment in distance.

My Photostream.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Psalm 119:11 - Storing Up the Word in Your Heart

Normally I post these devotion type things at but I can't get access today for some reason. So here it is.

Today we will look at the third verse of the second stanza of Psalm 119. Remember that within each stanza, each verse (or line in Hebrew) starts with the same Hebrew letter. In this the second stanza each line starts with the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet, “beth.” I wish this could come through in the English but it just does not. Attempts to translate these lines starting with the corresponding English letters, in this case the letter “b,” are kind of lame.

As is my habit I will include each line in the stanza leading up to the present line. Psalm 119:9-11:

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

The Hebrew word translated as “stored up” is translated differently in different versions of the Bible. I think the varying translations help give us a feel for the richness of the word. For example, the NASV translates it as “treasured,” the NIV as “hidden,” the KJV as “hid.”

It is hard not to think of the parable of the hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44) when I read this verse:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

This is what the word of God is to be for us, a treasure, a treasure worth more than anything and everything we may have, for in this Word, we find not mere wisdom for living, but the living God Himself.

We get a sense of this treasure in Psalm 19, when after describing the merits of the precepts and law and commandments of the Lord, the Psalmist says of them:

“More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”

Back when this Psalm was written it was quite normal that people would memorize letter-perfect all the existing Psalms as well as many other parts of the Bible, along with family stories and such. Not all the people were literate, and they had to memorize the Scripture to have it available to them at all times. It was much easier to memorize back then. It’s not because they were smarter (maybe wiser) but because we are deluged with so much written information it’s always there to fall back upon. People wonder if the ever increasing availability of information on the internet will in time change the way our brains work, making it even harder to memorize.

But the issue in Psalm 119:11 isn’t merely memorizing the Scripture; it is the attitude which we have toward it. Is it a treasure? Do we hide it away in our hearts so that we may turn to it over and over in time of need, as when we are tempted to sin?

It is very hard to go forward with sinning with the Word of God screaming in our minds and hearts. Rather we shove it to the dark reaches of our mind so our conscience can withstand the assault which sin is upon it.

Jesus promised to his apostles that after he departed that the Father would send “another comforter” who would, among other things, “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

That same Helper or Comforter is with us still, helping to bring to mind and heart the Word of God as we go through our lives day to day.

In his letter to the Colossians Paul urged the Colossian believers to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

This was an encouragement to the whole church. The body of Christ as a whole is to make a suitable home for the Word of Christ and for the Scriptures generally. This abiding word, living in the community, provides the basis for mutual encouragement and teaching and admonition.

But nowhere do we see this principle lived out as with Mary the mother of the Lord. After the birth of Jesus when the angels found the baby Jesus and gave testimony about all they had seen and heard from the angelic host, it says that Mary “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

After leaving Jerusalem and realizing that Jesus was nowhere to be found, Joseph and Mary went back into the city to look for him. They found him in the temple talking with the rabbis there, and gave him a bit of a talking to. His reply was cryptic. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?”

As the passage says, they did not understand what he was saying, but he left the city and went back to Nazareth with them.

And Mary? It says of her, “And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.”

Our verse today tells us of just one of the many benefits of treasuring up the word of God in our hearts – “that I might not sin against you.” However we may understand “’sin,” that is, as falling short, missing the mark, or being “twisted” away from our purpose as human beings, it brings harm to ourselves and others, it dishonors God, and it causes others to dishonor God. If it is true, as I think that it is, that we are created to reflect the glory of God and to bring glory to Him, well, sin keeps us from realizing our highest purpose, and it puts distance between ourselves and our Maker. Bridging that distance came at great cost, and we are not to disrespect the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, and, as it were, spurn the Son of God and profane the blood of the covenant.

The Christian is reminded in Hebrews 10 that, “The Lord will judge his people.” As he goes on to say, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

It is much better to be good soil in which the word of the kingdom can live and grow and bear great fruit. When we hide up or treasure the word of God in our hearts we are being that kind of soil.

Such “treasuring up” is much greater than memorizing the Scripture, but it is not less. We need the Scripture in our minds and in our hearts that we may call it to mind and “treasure it,” and thus live by it.

I wouldn’t start memorizing with Psalm 119, but maybe Psalm 1 would be a good place to start.

God bless,


Great Minds Think Alike

Jim Schlosser were on the same wavelength this weekend! Check out his article on this amazing tree.

I came to love Ginkgo trees wandering around the state house grounds in Columbia. And there was a Ginkgo at Clemson that I particularly loved. As Jim's article suggests, and as you can see from this picture from my Clemson days, the leaves do tend to fall all at once.

My Photostream - more fall color!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hanging Rock Sunset

Taken from Hanging Rock proper, as the sun set in the "saddle" across the valley, over the Moore's Wall ridge.

My Photostream.

Pray for Obama to Be the Most Successful President Ever? Well, No.

There was an op ed of sorts in the religion section of the N&R today by Reverend Joseph Moore entitled "Will Conservative Christians Pray for President Obama?"

Rev. Moore rightly reminded Christians of the necessity and requirement that (among other things) we honor our leaders - in this case now President Obama. He cited 1 Peter 1:17, rightly noting our habit (going back to our founding) of ignoring the last bit:

1 Peter 2:17 "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor."

And yes, this includes honoring leaders of all parties. Why? Because the civil authority is ordained by God. It is ordained with a purpose by God (Romans 13:1ff). Therefore I will pray for that purpose to be realized.

The last two Presidents have each been dishonored to such a degree it has been shameful. It is hard to dishonor the person without dishonoring the office, and, in either case there is a requirement incumbent upon the Christian to honor our leaders, even leaders like Nero.

As I have written on several occasions it is the duty of the Christian to pray for all who lead and exercise authority over men. We have been doing this in our church for fifteen years, for Republicans and Democrats alike.

This is explicitly commanded in Paul's letter to Timothy, 1 Timothy 2:1-4:

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

I have recently written myself about the need to pray for President Obama. The problems before him are stupendous in magnitude, and it is in all of our interest that he do well in addressing them.

But I take issue with Rev. Moore's closing comments:

"Our obligation is to pray fervently that that President Obama will be the most successful president in history. Our civic duty requires no less. Our religious faith may require much more."

Well, to say the least, that closing exhortation goes well beyond the requirement of the passages cited.

I will pray that President Obama have wisdom, strength, and safety. I will pray that his administration fulfills his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States of America. This is the oath he will take. I pray that he will do as he will vow to do.

But pray for his success? What does that mean? Am I to pray that he succeeds in his stated intent to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act? Am I to pray that he succeeds in his stated intention to reverse the ban on Partial Birth Abortion? Am I to pray that he succeeds in establishing a domestic security force? Am I to pray that he succeeds in re-instituting the Fairness Doctrine? I could go on and on.

Well, I cannot possibly pray such things. The only way I can pray that he be the most successful president in US history would be for him to have a radical reversal of many of his stated intentions and policies. So, yeah, if praying for his success means such a reversal, then fine.

I think it is right that all Americans give their presidents an opportunity to reveal their intentions and to have a crack at our common problems in a way consistent with their own political philosophy. I have been ashamed at how most Presidents in my lifetime have been disrespected. This goes back to the first President I voted for - Jimmy Carter.

Obama has huge challenges ahead, the primary one being the economy. Yes, of course I hope he can do some things that will help us all in that regard, but Presidents have less power in controlling the economy than is generally assumed, in my opinion. Obama will have huge pressure to "deliver" for the Democratic Party base, which is its more liberal side. I cannot possibly pray that they, working through him, will be successful.

I will pray that Obama successfully upholds his public oath of office, and I will pray daily and sincerely for his wisdom, strength, and safety.

But, no, I cannot really pray for Obama's success in the manner in which Rev. Moore exhorts me to do. And neither is that my obligation.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Abortion - The Legal and the Moral

I was particularly impressed today by the words of Cal Thomas, words I read in our very own N&R. You can find the same column online today at the Jewish World Review.

A friend of mine wrote me yesterday about the move at the UN by radical abortion rights activists to create, in effect, a kind of Roe v. Wade all over the world, a universal right to abortion. I think such a move will fail because there are a very large number of countries with much stronger opposition to abortion than we find among enlightened westerners. But we'll see.

What was of more significance to me was my friend's level of profound angst. The first line of the e-mail was "it's starting already." There is fear post-election, realistic or not, that there will be a massive onslaught of such things.

I think that is is hard for many progressive folks who would want more liberal abortion laws to really "get" the horror that abortion is to so many people - people who are not wackos or weirdos or right wing nut jobs, but who are just very normal people.

This angst or even horror might be similar to what a true pacifist feels inside when we undertake a war which does not seem necessary, or how a deeply passionate lover of nature would feel if they went to see the great redwoods and found that they had all been cut down, or perhaps how people feel watching footage of the clubbing to death of baby seals. "No!, Stop!" we find ourselves crying out at the TV.

I do believe that as American citizens, conservative Christians and people of other religions have a voice that should be equal to the voice of the non religious or to the progressive or "liberal" versions of their faith which are usually more in sync with progressive or liberal politics. But like Cal Thomas, I don't think in the long run that the legal battle on these issues is going to be successful.

The legal window may be closing but the moral window is not. Cal Thomas talks about the change of heart that comes with Christian conversion. I agree. Until hearts are changed there will be little progress on the political side as regards many of these issues. But the process of seeking to teach people about the Jesus Christ of the New Testament should never be motivated by any sort of political or even cultural goal, even if the result of a new great awakening would include significant cultural change, as such awakenings tend to do.

And, I reminded my friend, it was Reagan and Bush Supreme Court appointees that chose to uphold Roe v. Wade when the window of opportunity was open to do so.

Again, the legal battle may be over for the most part (well, not as regards partial birth abortions), but the moral battle is not. Within the framework of existing law, we still have freedom to make the moral case for the sanctity of unborn human life, and this case is not purely a religious one. Many atheists oppose abortion on moral grounds. It is within everybody's pay grade to understand the seamless transition of life from conception to birth; modern biology has made this case easier, not harder, to make.

And so, in my view, and speaking to those passionate about this issue, now is the time to put resources into making the moral case and to risk disapproval by all sorts of friends and neighbors. Human beings have consciences, and these consciences are still persuadable as to the sanctity of human life growing in the womb.

It is both less personal and less risky to address this and other issues purely on the political side. Yes, there will be legal battles to wage, such as if Congress tries to overturn the present ban on partial birth abortion. I kind of hope they will try as the American people will push back I believe pretty hard on that one.

In the mean time we must love our neighbors, and since the category of neighbor includes the unborn, one aspect of this love will include making the moral case on various levels for the sanctity of all human life. No matter how gentle we are in making the case some of our adult neighbors will take offense, and perhaps dislike us very much, but such is the cost of taking a stand. That is the risk.

We Evangelical Christians also need to make common cause with pro-life movements within other cultural or legal groups. The first "March for Life" I ever participated in was led by an activist pro-life Jewish group in Columbia. The first crisis pregnancy center I was a part of was run by Catholics. And a keynote speaker in another March for Life I attended was a professed atheist. In making the moral case, and in protesting the current million + forced deaths a year of unborn human beings, we need all the co-belligerents we can find.

Between 40 and 35 years ago the United States experienced what Christians would call an "Awakening" - of huge proportions. It took root mainly in the youth of that era. Millions upon millions of teenage kids were walking around one day as vague agnostics or extremely nominal church goers or even rabid atheists, and then, bam, the next day their lives were flipped all around and turned inside out. I know, because I was one of them. We must pray that this will happen again.

Once the conscience is awakened to the sanctity of human life, all human life, from conception unto death, life of every race and creed and gender, one cannot look at these issues the same way again.

We've been lazy. It's time to get to work.

I Didn't Think I Would Ever Agree with a Chinese Government Official

Well, at least with the headline...

Sourwood Tree, from atop Hanging Rock

Oxydendrum arboreum

Looking down from atop Hanging Rock proper, Hanging Rock State Park, North Carolina

Thursday, November 06, 2008

GM Hopkins' God's Grandeur

The juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness surrounds and befuddles me. Being somewhat "sensitive" to beauty, yet also sensitive to ugliness (especially the ugliness of human behavior), I bounce back and forth each day from joy to sorrow, over and over. Sometimes I wish I were just jaded. It would make life easier, at least emotionally! But I am not. No matter what we as a species do to mess things up, and to hurt each other, life and beauty keep popping up, almost as if there is an inexorable force behind it. Even the ants and weeds in a ghetto sidewalk give me joy, while the sufferings all around cause me sorrow. But that's life. There was a guy who said it better...

God's Grandeur

GM Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Two Blessings in One Week - A Hanging Rock Sunset and a Bill Mallonee House Concert

I have been fortunate this week to have had two particularly blessed moments.

The first came Sunday as a group of us sat up at Hanging Rock watching the sun set over the Moore's Wall Ridge saddle. The day could not have been nicer, and the colors were the best I've seen in all these 19 years of goign to Hanging Rock. I said to my compadres, "No matter what else is going on in your life, or what your struggles are, this is a beautiful moment. We are sitting up here on an incredibly beautiful autumn day watching the sun set as friends who love one another, and nothing can take this away from us. Soak it in. We don't get to do this every day."

The second came Thursday evening at the apartment of Charlie and Ruth Jones on S Elm Street, where singer songwriter Bill Mallonee and his wife Muriah Rose did a house concert for 30-40 folks. One thing that made this event memorable was the manner in which Bill annotated his songs with stories and reflections on art. Several very familiar songs took on a new and deeper meaning for me. He sang all original songs except for the encore which was an early Neil Young song the name of which escapes me at the moment. I had for a moment a sense of being in a little hangout in Greenwich Village in 1963 or so listening to Bob Dylan. There were a few goose bump moments. I love good live music.

For Bill Mallonee fans - I can't remember the whole set list but off the top these songs come to mind:

Solar System
Nothing Like a Train
Cloth of Life
Blister Soul
High and Lonesome

"Flowers" was the highlight for me, but it was all good.

Cheif of Staff - Please Help Me Understand

I do not understand Obama's choice for chief of staff. Rep. Rahm Emanuel certainly seems like a competent person, yet, from the standpoint of partisa ship, or rather the ideal of bipartisanship, it seems sort of like McCain choosing Dick Cheney or Karl Rove. It doesn't seem to fit the ideal of bringing change to the way Washington works. I am open to persuasion.

Hanging Rock Sunset Silhouette

Mark Graham, on Hanging Rock proper, Hanging Rock State Park, sunset, Sunday November 2, 2008.

My Photostream

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Music Transcending Politics - Bill Mallonee Tonight on S Elm

Hey Friends (especially those of you in the Piedmont Triad),

This Wednesday night we are fortunate enough to have the talents of singer/songwriter Bill Mallonee come to S. Elm Street. His is a wonderful blend of folk/rock/soul, with a little jangly Brit pop thrown in for good measure. If you like Neil Young or Bob Dylan or Tom Petty or Bruce Pringsteen... you'll love Bill. His music is very personal and crosses many boundaries of genre. The Concert is in the outrageously huge apartment of Charlie and Ruth Jones, 614 S. Elm St., 27406, just a half a block north of Lee. Drinks and hors d'oeuvres will be served. Cover charge is $10 if you can, and we will pass the hat as well. For links to sample Bill's music see:
or his web page:

If you can come, drop Charlie a note - his info is below. Or you can e-mail me at

Charlie & Ruth Jones
614 S. Elm St.
Greensboro, NC 27406-1328

Congratulations Barack Obama

Congratulations to Barack Obama. He ran a great campaign. He excited and energized great numbers of people to vote. His victory has helped heal and cleanse one of the great stains upon our national history and character. His victory has proven the inherent greatness of the idea of America.

I remember vividly 34 years ago when I worked as a volunteer for the election of Charles “Pug” Ravenel, a Democrat running for governor of South Carolina. I remember how much I was energized and excited about being a part of that campaign. I was not yet even old enough to vote, yet there I was canvassing neighborhoods, and sitting in living rooms (complete with my long hair) talking with older couples and anyone who would listen about the issues of the day! That experience impacted my whole life.

I have seen the excitement of young people pulling for Obama. I saw tonight the sheer exuberance of so many African Americans. I doubt I can ever really understand the significance to African Americans of Obama's victory. I am happy for my African American neighbors. I hope the momentum of young people and the previously alienated or disenfranchised being engaged will continue.

I wrote Tuesday of my fears. I had over the course of the last few months moved from openness to Obama's candidacy to opposition to his candidacy. I had seen an undercurrent of anger, and had a sense of radical views that caused me deep concern. It is possible that what I have perceived as anger is but a quirk of his style, or the urgency of his battle for the Presidency. I hope so.

It is my hope in the days and weeks and months ahead that I will be proven wrong. I hope that Obama will indeed do what he has said he will do, and that is, bring a different way of doing business in Washington. I worry more over the House and Senate and I will hope that Obama will not be their patsy. Thinking of Pelosi and Reid I am inclined to say, "Good luck with that." It won't be easy.

I find some hope that perhaps Obama has learned much from the tendency in the past of the left to over reach in such times. Frankly I still really don’t know what Obama is about, and I hope and pray that he will have great wisdom in the days ahead, and remember that he is the President of all of us.

I feel a kind of odd happiness as I write. Maybe it is just relief over the end of this longest of campaigns in the history of the world (or so it felt - has campaigning already started for 2010?). Maybe it is because I believe that conservatives now will have to regroup and rediscover who and what they are. I have a hope that articulate conservative voices arise from these ashes and bring a better and more accessible set of ideas to the table. Maybe I feel a sense of peace because I trust in the providence of God and look beyond the politics of the day for my hope and joy. Maybe it's all of the above.

In short, congratulations Barack Obama. My Lord tells me to pray for all who lead and exercise authority over us, and I will pray for you. Every leader needs more wisdom, energy, and creativity and grace than seem available to any one person, and I pray that God answers your own prayer, the one you left in the wall in Jerusalem:

"Lord _ Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will,"

Looking Up Into Autumn

On the Cooks Wall Trail, Hanging Rock State Park, Stokes County, North Carolina. More Hiking Pictures

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Eulogy for a World Gone By

It’s 1:30PM on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 – Election Day! I have already voted so I don’t have to fight the crowds today. I’m glad. I’m not fond of standing in long lines.

I have a little tiny ray of hope that I won’t hear the words that I expect to hear early this evening, but it’s tiny, very very tiny.

I voted for George W Bush, and I think that history will look more kindly upon him than current opinion polls do. It is no small feat in my view that we have been spared another terrorist attack within our national borders, and Bush’s dogged single minded determination has had a lot to do with it. I really think that we have not been grateful enough for that, even given his other failings.

On the other hand, between the costs of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the costs related to two major hurricanes, the passing of budgets that contained too much spending, the bursting of the housing bubble, and the unprecedented “bailout” plans, well, to say the least our economy is in need of a “correction” which will, I think, be long and painful. It is not just our leaders’ fault. Our buy-now-pay-later culture is in need of a massive correction as well. The American people need to find a different way. I have often said that if just the Christian folks in the United States started to get serious about addressing their own materialism and hunger for affluence we would go into a deep recession if not a depression. Contentment does not high consumer spending numbers make.

In my mind George Bush’s greatest failure has been his inability to articulate vision or explain things well or motivate the American people. There was a time when his grammatical shenanigans were merely embarrassing and a little funny. We past that point long ago (shout out, JB). We need a president who can speak in complete sentences.

I am not really all that hot about MCain/Palin. I do think McCain would make a good president, but he has run a very odd and awkward campaign. My vote this year was more a vote against than a vote for.

When I first started hearing and paying attention to Obama I was attracted to him as a person and as a candidate and as a leader. Then there was a point during the primaries when I felt that I saw into him. I also saw how he was subtly using the race card to manipulate voters, and my support went over to Hillary Clinton. But by then it was too late.

What I have seen in Obama the last several months worries me very much. No, I don’t think he is a Muslim, and other than the fact that he has said he is a Christian, I wouldn’t really care either way if he were a Muslim. His race is not an issue for me, except that it makes me slightly more inclined to feel a little glad that as a country we are at the cusp of electing an African American president. I would rather it were a different African American president; but still, it truly is an historic moment in our nation’s history. If anything I would more inclined to vote for him because he is black.

What bothers me most about Obama is that I believe that he has gone to great lengths to hide from the American people who he truly is as a person and politician. That he has done this in the bright light of day speaks to a profoundly keen political acumen.

For me the highlight of the whole election process was his interview with Bill O’Reilly. I thought Obama did an incredibly good job. That was one of the best political interviews I have ever watched. Obama was impressive to me at many levels.

Bu when I see Obama now I see a divider, not a uniter. I see a person who is much more politically radical than he projects himself to be. I don’t mean “radical” as a compliment, though I sometimes do mean the word that way. In Obama I see a person riven by a deep anger. He is smooth and articulate and charming and composed, but underneath all that is an extreme agenda which seems to me to be rooted in anger.

Despite his great skill as a political campaigner, he has slipped up, and between his slip ups and information uncovered about him, a foreboding picture emerges for me. What is it? Well, it is his remarks about rural and small town folk to his radically liberal buddies in San Francisco. It is his plan to create some sort of domestic security force with funding and ability to match our military. It is his history of association with radical leftist characters. It is his now very clear desire to redistribute wealth. It is his particular plan to increase the tax burden upon businesses. It is the ease in which he accepts adulation of a messianic nature. It is his hubris in Denver with the columns; his hubris in planning a massive victory party weeks before the election was over. It is the specter of the “Fairness” doctrine. It is his radical views regarding late term abortions and the disingenuous manner in which he has wiggled around that issue. It is purported non support of gay marriage while actually taking positions politically, such as opposing the Defense of Marriage act, that are tantamount to complete and radical support of gay marriage. I think, in short, that Obama is a much more radical leftist ideologue than he comes across, and somewhere along the line, maybe about the hundredth time that he complained (in his patronizing manner) that his words “were being taken out of context,” I stopped listening to his answers.

I don’t know if Obama is sincere when he talks about a “different way to do business” in Washington. I think in fact that he is sincere, which worries me greatly, because what I think he means by it is profoundly different than what the American people mean by it.

I think we’re in for a tsunami of radical left wing legislation coming forth from Congress, signed by Obama, and forced upon an American people the majority of whom (even in voting for him) are intending and desiring something less radical. Eventually the left will over extend, during which time conservatives perhaps will have found leaders who can articulate a political conservatism for the 21st century. Whatever it means to be conservative in a secular nation undergoing significant cultural change in the midst of massive economic globalization has yet to be determined.

The current Republican Party can’t decide what it is or what it stands for. The current Republican President has failed either to articulate or to act consistently with any clear political vision. I would hope that any President would be able to compromise and reach across the aisle (as they say), and I am not keen about left wing or right wing ideologues. If one is going to reach across the aisle one should know from what and from where they are reaching, and so should the American people.

So, anticipating left wing control of all three branches of government I am filled with foreboding. I am glad that my own personal life hope does not rest in the powers and principalities of this age. Yet still I do feel some fear, mostly for my children and their children, fear for how they will deal with the economic mess we are giving over to them already, and fear for how they will fare in the new world being created (as it were) this day, this very day, this very moment, fear for the culture of death they will inherit. There will be a lasting legacy, I think more for ill than for good.

Meanwhile, as Hopkins wrote, “the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.” Beauty and goodness are to be found every day and in all kinds of unexpected places, and in the eyes of human beings whom I find unceasingly interesting, their stories, their lives, their quirks and interests and gifts.

So, life goes on, for me with more trepidation than before, yet wanting irregardless the political winds to do good, to seek justice, to celebrate the world God has created, and to try to point people beyond themselves, and beyond political parties and election decisions to deeper and more abiding realities. I hope I can. I want to.

Joel Gillespie
November 4, 2008

Fall Colors, for Republicans and Democrats Alike

Taken from atop Hanging Rock proper, Hanging Rock State Park, Stokes County, NC. It was a perfect day in every way. We stayed until the sun set over the "saddle" across the valley, and walked down in the dark.

My daughter Madeline took this picture with our dated little Canon Powershot A85.

More hike pictures...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hanging Rock Sunset

Taken from atop Hanging Rock proper, sun setting over the saddle on Moore's Wall Ridge, Sunday November 2, 2008

My Flickr Photostream

Friday, October 31, 2008

Take Stock of Bonds

Hurray, I voted already!

I think the sign that says vote yes to property tax relief is totally misleading, to the point of being not merely disingenuous but downright deceitful. It ticks me off so I voted no. Just be honest already!

It bugs me when the public votes "no" to a bond, and then it keeps coming back. Maybe there should be a time period when it can't show up again. It's like if they keep bugging us we will relent.

I can't see issuing large bonds in these times. Sure I'd like a spiffy new medium size music venue, but it is a luxury, not a need. I would like to know, given the capacity of the War Memorial Auditorium, and the number of NON symphony acts, how many people per anum actually use the facility. And if it is really for the symphony crowd, let them pay for it; they can afford it. My vote - no.

I am all for improved infrastructure, especially roads, but when we're dealing with such large debt issues as a nation - and as families - I think we should wait. And besides, the bond is misleading. I am for the downtown loop, but it should be in a separate category and people need to have a clear idea what they are voting for just by the name of the bond. My vote - no

One million dollars for help with housing. One million? What's the point? My vote - no.

As to parks and recreation I have a different view. I was noticing at Bur-Mil park recently the sheer number of people using the facility. And it was a cultural melting pot - groups of all colors and languages, plus lots of mostly white guys riding expensive bicycles. There were families playing golf. In the summer the pool is packed. I think parks and recreation is the mostly extensively and democratically used service the city offers, and the most used by people not of means. OK, yeah, I think Bur-Mil is a actually County Facility run by the city, but every time I go to a park in the city or county, I see the same thing. And you thought I was for this because I am Joe Nature Boy. No, not for that reason. My vote - yes!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's About Time

The AP has been in the tank for Obama for the last several months, but finally they put out a story that really calls to question Obama's economic "policies," if they can be called that. I just hope some people will read this. Will it show up in our local paper? Hmmm.

Check it out - "Obama's prime-time ad skips over budget realities."

That was one lousy infomercial. I think it may have helped McCain.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

South Elm Music - Bill Mallonee

Greetings My Friends,

I hope this cold and windy day finds you well. Would love to chat…

…but this is a **News Alert** for a public “house concert” to be held downtown on S. Elm Street in the “flat” of Charlie and Ruth Jones. I put the word “flat” in parentheses because, well, it is not an ordinary apartment, but the third floor of an old hotel converted into an apartment.

I am teaming with Charlie & Ruth Jones (and I owe much of the wording of this news flash to Charlie) and other local friends to bring the talents of Bill Mallonee to Greensboro. Do you like Neil Young? Have you loved Bob Dylan? Does Tom Waites intrigue you? Does Woody Guthrie make you wish you had something to protest... all over this land?? Well, you will flip over Bill.

At 7:00pm on Wed. Nov. 5, at 614 S. Elm St. (the Jone's apartment) Bill Mallonee and his wife Muriah will be giving an intimate house concert for 50 or so friends and fans. We want you to be part of this. There will be a $10.00 cover charge, and we will "pass the hat" to help defray expenses. But this is an opportunity of a decade! We have "lucked out" on this deal. You gotta come join us for Bill's concert. This DEFINITELY is not a profit-making venture... Along with Charlie and Ruth I just want to be a part of bringing exceptional Art to S. Elm.

(no need for reservations but if you could email to let me know you're coming that would be great - if you don't remember too please come anyway)

Let me quote from Bill’s website:

"Being a son of the South, it's hard not to be surrounded by the beauty of things fractured and incongruous...that's the stuff of real songs...and that's what I learned on the road doing 180 shows a year from 1995 till about 2002... What came out was my own version of what I deeply loved in the work of those two." [Dylan and Neil Young] Mallonee's love for all things folk-rock and raw-boned acoustic won out over these early influences. The "4- guys-in-a-van-with-no-safety-net-beneath-us" dynamic of life on the road left a profound imprint on Mallonee's way of looking at his life...and is deeply woven in the sound and feel of his music. "The work of folks like Flannery O'Conner, Thomas Merton, Kerouac, and a fella named Frederick Buechner helped me make sense out of things out on the road. We made 24 records over 16 years. It all played out, very unglamorously, on the asphalt and in the clubs. I gravitated to the old soul of folk and country artists because it seemed like what we (Vigilantes Of Love) were doing and how we were doing it lent a measure of authenticity to the art." He says, "I tend to be a heart on the sleeve fella. I figure it'll resonate with someone somewhere...we're all made outta similar stuff, I think."

If you have never heard of Bill, I invite you check out some songs and lyrics on his MySpace page:

or his web page:

See you on Nov. 5 - just give me an idea if you can make it -


Friday, October 24, 2008

Sliding Down Issaqueena Dam, Clemson

This was a favorite hang out in September at Clemson. People also dove in - I remember a guy not jumping out far enough. It wasn't pretty.

Ahhh, the college life...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Top Ten Reasons I Will Not Vote for Obama

1. Harry Reid and the Democratic Senate

Harry Reid is a disagreeable fellow, which is fine, but he is also a very liberal disagreeable fellow, and thought of a filibuster proof Democratic Senate sends shivers down my spine. I am bracing myself for country wide speech codes like in most universities, reversal of the ban on partial birth abortion, and other such stuff.

2. Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic House

I think Nancy Pelosi is a despot, and a very liberal one at that, and the thought of a Democratic House sending legislation to a filibuster proof Senate seriously wigs me out. If we ever needed divided government it would be now.

3. Partial Birth (and Live Birth) Abortion

When a country supports infanticide, well, God help us all. We deserve whatever comes our way. Obama has shown his cards on this issue. Despite his soaring rhetoric his record shows that he won’t lift a finger to maintain the ban.

4. William Ayers (et al)

Either Obama was simply using these connections in his rise to power and influence, or he agrees with these folks at some visceral level, or he is just clueless. None of the options thrills me.

5. Joe the Plumber

I don’t care what Joe the Plumbers actual tax status is, his question was legitimate, and Obama’s answer regarding "spreading the wealth around" sent a chill down my spine. Is this Cuba?

6. Tax Policy

The vast majority of Americans are employed by small to medium size businesses. If their taxes are increased they will either pass along the costs by increasing prices on their products, or they will decrease their work force, or just stop hiring people. Or all of the above. Oh, and then there is that capital gains increase…

7. The Fairness Doctrine

I cannot think of any single law that so violates the first amendment as this sham of a doctrine. And the hypocrisy is that “conservative” talk radio” will be labeled “conservative” which it certainly is, but MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, will not be labeled as “liberal” which they all certainly are. The fairness doctrine is not only reprehensible from a fee speech stand point, it is also unfair to the core.

8. The Messiah

That Obama does not do all he can to squash all this Messiah-like stuff going around tells me that he either believes it or is willing cynically to use it to his advantage. Hubris…

9. Wrong Change

I have seen no evidence whatsoever that Obama intends to bring change to the way Washington works. When most Americans think of the idea of “change in how Washington works” they have in mind its partisanship, the bickering, the inability to compromise. As far as I can tell the only change Obama will bring is a tidal wave of liberalism.

10. Foreign Policy

Yes, the world loves him. In fact, Hezbollah supports him. That’s all I need to know.


Mosaic Like Reflection, Downtown Greensboro, Old JP Building off First Citzens Bank.

More Downtown Pictures

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jesus Lover of My Soul

One of my favorite hymns is Jesus Lover of My Soul by Charles Wesley. I was caused to think of it yesterday as we were looking at Psalm 2 in our weekly Bible Study. The last line of Psalm 2, a messianic Psalm taken up and applied to Jesus throughout the New Testament, reads “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” The word “refuge” reminded me of a line in "Jesus Lover of My Soul,” the first line of the second stanza.

I am very happy that this coming Sunday Cindie Brown is going to sing this hymn as special music accompanied on her autoharp. She knows the tune that I came to love via Ken Medema’s unique take on the hymn, which you can hear on You Tube.

This hymn must be taken in balance with a thousand others. As Christians we are called to be active and engaged in our world and not flee from it, yet, the Lord is our refuge and our strength, and we find refuge under the shadow of his wings. In these days and times when we see how slippery is the foundation of our culture, it is comforting to know we can find refuge and grace in our time of need.

Jesus, Lover of my Soul

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

By Charles Wesley, 1740

The text below is from the cyber hymnal,

"Mrs. Mary Hoover, of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, whose grandmother was the hero¬ine of the story, has related to her pastor this family tradition: Charles Wesley was preaching in the fields of the parish of Killyleagh, County Down, Ireland, when he was attacked by men who did not approve of his doctrines. He sought refuge in a house located on what was known as the Island Barn Farm. The farmer’s wife, Jane Lowrie Moore, told him to hide in the milk house, down in the garden. Soon the mob came and de¬mand¬ed the fugitive. She tried to quiet them by offering them refreshments. Going down to the milk house, she directed Mr. Wesley to get through the rear win¬dow and hide under the hedge, by which ran a little brook. In that hiding-place, with the cries of his pursuers all about him, he wrote this immortal hymn. Descendants of Mrs. Moore still live in the house, which is much the same as it was in Wesley’s time."

My Favorite Autumn Picture

I took this picture while on a walk with dog Clancey in the pond area around my home in SC. I am partial to pictures that have colors/textures spread over the whole, and sort of like this shot. These leaves are from a sweet Gum tree, Liquidambar styraciflua. A few of my favorite fall shots here.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Oblivious to It All

Boots, the Queen of 5405.

More Felines

Why Does It Itch Daddy?

Yesterday toward the late afternoon my 11 year old asked me if I would like to sit outside with her and "play" around with beads, jump rope, and maybe climb a tree. We had been inside for a while just hanging out. I told her that I would love to, but that I didn't really want to get eaten alive by mosquito's. she said they didn't usually bother her and I said I was a mosquito magnet.

She came in a little while later obviously uncomfortable, talking about the mosquito bites. Her legs were covered with large unevenly shaped bumps - almost like welts. The itching was driving her crazy. "Why do they have to itch so much Daddy?" she asked.

I had never really thought about that. It doesn't seem to be in the interest of the mosquito for its bite to be so uncomfortable for us. In fact, the chemicals it releases to slightly anesthetize the bite wound and thin our blood seem designed to avert our attention.

I offered the guess that our body had developed a chemical response to the mosquito that resulted in the itching as part of a defensive strategy to keep us from being sucked dry. I asked to her imagine what it would be like if the mosquito bite didn't itch and if we didn't run inside or into the sunlight or cover ourselves? We both decided that eventually we would bleed to death.

So, in a way itching is good in the same way that pain is good. Pain tells us something isn't right. Without pain warning us about this or that we would probably all be dead within days or weeks.

I don't want to see us go through a depression or severe recession, but it's like we've been on a decades long binge and the consequences are just setting in. We're in for a lot of pain I am afraid. I take no joy in the suffering that will come upon many people; it makes me want to weep to think about it. I hope that this pain will make us more sober minded, more frugal, more oriented toward producing real goods and services and less towards relying on asset appreciation and financial games.

It's going to itch like hell for a good while I'm afraid. I hope our community is up for the mutual help and love that will be required. I hope it pulls us together rather than tearing us apart. We will need each other (black and white, male and female, old timers and new comers, Christian and Jew, etc). "Every man for himself" scares me more than anything.

I hope the itching makes us wiser before it makes us insane.

The Pope Speaks

We are in a worrisome and scary time. I have no idea how wide and deep the financial panic is going to spread, and how long we'll be in it. It looks like a world wide crisis has developed, and who knows all the repercussions? I fear for many friends and loved ones - for their jobs and well being, and many of the weakest who will not have the ability to ride out this storm. I worry for my children, and for myself to some degree, as I have no liquidity whatsoever.

I have no pie in the sky pat Christian answer. Yet, I have found Pope Benedict to have the sanest voice in the midst of this mess. Obviously we share deep fundamental values. But he speaks truth, and provides moral and spiritual grounding in these times. His words are not mere comfort, but challenge, necessary challenge I think. Here he addresses western values generally, and here our tendency to fall for the false promises of mammon.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Bill Mallonee and Muriah Rose Coming to South Elm

Wednesday November 5th at 7:00 - Be there!

This is just an initial announcement, and I will probably mention this several more times, but longstanding and extremely gifted song writer and former front man of the band Vigilanaes of Love, Bill Mallonee, and his wife Muriah Rose, will be playing a "house" concert in a large flat on South Elm (I mean, LARGE flat), above Deal Printing. It will start at 7:00 and there will be a charge will be $10.00 (if you can) and a love offering will be taken as well.

Bill Mallonee is one the very top tier singer songwriters of the last twenty years, though he has taken the Indy music route and not known great commercial success.

You can read about VOL and Bill Mallonee on Wikipedia. Bill also has a MySpace site with lots of music to listen to. Rumor has it that VOL is comign back in a Spring release. That would be cool.

Bill has his own web site,

There is a great You Tube music video for his song Resplendent. It's a truly great song.

I'll be getting more info as time goes on, but do yourself a favor and plan on makign this show!

Hyper Debate Analysis, O'Reailly Blows Stack

I have always liked Joe Biden. I disagree with him profoundly on very significant issues, but I like the guy, what can I say. I like Sarah Palin. I'm not goo goo over her, and prefer a southern accent :-) but she's plucky, and no pushover, and underestimated I think.

I thought they both did a good job in the debate. I didn't like Palin's question avoidance and I didn't like Biden's fact avoidance, but overall it was a nice, decent debate. And again I thought both did a good job.

My biggest problem with the debate was that I thought the time frame was too short and it made both candidates rushed. They had to talk extra fast and give rapid fire mini speeches more than thoughtful answers. I would much prefer a town hall meeting leisurely conversation myself.

I really don't think there is high drama in this election other than by how much Obama will win. We all pretty much know where the candidates are coming from, and if we don't we can find out online, including party platforms.

The endless media chatter I do find annoying. I remember in the late 1970's Jimmy Carter was having a new sconference. Bill Marshall, Van Kornegay and I were having a bible study of some kind in Bill's garage apartment. But we watched part of the news conference or whatever it was beforehand.

I remember how the media got all over Carter after the news conference and felt compelled to offer their endless mind numbing analysis. And I remember just wanting to scream. Why can't we, the American people, listen to our President without the media having to inject themselves into a mediating position (hmmm) and tell us what we should have heard and should have thought. I liked Carter, and at least thought that as President he should be able to speak to us without the seeming required mediation. I have thought the same about every president since.

I scanned all the post debate blabber I could find last night and it was the same old stuff. I just don't know why we can't watch debates and such and let it sink in and come to some of our own tentative conclusions. That usually takes more the the 13 seconds before the media jumps in and tries to spin it this way or that way.

Perhaps some bipartisan or non partisan group could run some commercials telling the people exactly where they can find each candidates stated positions, voting records, and party platforms. I hardly know the point of having an opinion if we don't read that stuff first.

I like Bill O'Reilly. I think his interview with Obama remains one of the high water marks of this election. I often don't like his fill ins (Laura Ingram) and I am not a fan of either Hannity or Colmes. But overall I think O'Reilly does a good job. Deep in his heart he seems to be a populist who does have "the folks" in mind and there are some things that just make his blood boil.

I like Barney Frank and we certainly disagree on a lot of subjects! I think his oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has not been splendid. But I don't think he is being honest about his culpability. I think he was BS-ing O'Reilly, though I give him credit for going toe to toe. But I don't think it is either good theater or edifying for anyone for O'Reilly to blow his stack. He's been a volcano ready to erupt for weeks on this financial crisis issue, but somebody just needs to cut to commercial when he goes that way.

He did it once with Geraldo Rivera over immigration, but Geraldo stood his ground and gave it back pretty much as good as he was getting it. That was decent theater since they were colleagues who seem to liek and respect each other, but the O'Reilly Barney Frank blow up was not. I think O'Reilly should apologize "to the folks."

Greensboro Coliseum, UNCG Water Tower, at Dusk, from My Office Fire Escape

Downtown Greensboro

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Time to Turn the Pointy Finger Our Way

I hope the House passes the bill approved by the Senate, though the inclusion of candy on the Senate side is only going to invite the same on the House side, and this could end up taking weeks to finalize.

It will be a hard pill for moderate democrats and fiscal conservative republicans alike.

After the bill passes I hope we enter into a bipartisan review and investigation (if such is possible) as to who did what to contribute to this mess.

And then I hope every American will start looking at their own lives.

Its time we all bought Personal Finance for Dummies, or books by Dave Ramsey or Suze Ormond or whomever, and started taking responsibility for our own financial houses.

Yes, it is true, many of us got into to debt because of medical expenses. That happened to me. But we're not going to socialize medical care and we each have to factor those costs into the equation of our own lives. And if it makes us feel better we can continue blame the whole mess on the health care system, or the oi industry or any particular thing outside of our own tendencies to buy what we don't need with money we don't have. But things won't get better.

And from my point of view home ownership is over rated from a financial standpoint, unless you're riding a housing bubble. But then, bubble's burst...So let's quit enticing people who can't really afford to own their own homes into mortgages they cannot maintain.

Deep down in the American psyche, for reasons that are complex and varied, we have this idea that if you don't own a house you're a loser. I know men and women who are wonderful and mature people and do great things for others and they don't own their own homes. So what?

But since this whole week has been about "available credit" who is going to say the obvious: for all too many of us credit is TOO available, and we're TOO tempted to rely on it. We all know we shouldn't pull out those cards so often, but we do...

And then we have financial scammers in effect ripping off the least wealthy among us so as to extend super expensive credit for a few days - you know those check cashing kiosks all over the place? Criminal I think.

It's time to revamp our economic preparation system to equipp people to have the skills to take useful jobs in the new 21st century economy. Not everyone really needs to read and write papers on Emily Bronte and James Joyce. We'd be better off with more machinists, computer designers, aircraft mechanics, and people who actually design, build, make, and fix things.

And the two waves of the future now present are Bio Tech and Green Tech, so maybe we could be helping people to ride those waves and not phony financial schemes and bubbles.

Old school environmentalism is dead. The future of the environmental movement is with high tech alternative energy and a new wave of biological/agricultural practices that are more in sync with our climate and local ecologies, and which are more renewable.

But none of that will matter if we don't get our financial houses in order. It's time to start blaming Wall Street less and and start blaming Courtfield Drive more.