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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Today's Photo: A Good City Intersection


I took this picture from the roof of the Guilford Building looking down upon the intersection of South Elm and Washington Streets. That is South Elm Street running left to right (north being to the right), and Washington Street running from top to bottom (the top of the picture pointing west).

I have crossed this intersection on foot or in a car hundreds if not thousands of times over the last two years, from every direction. This is a very pedestrian friendly intersection. The crossing lights are clear and obvious. The brick walkways delineate walking space very clearly. Cars are set back enough not to impede or inconvenience pedestrian traffic. Most of the eight sidewalks emanating from the intersection are wide, also delineated by the color and texture of brick, and separated from the street by a buffer. It is, in summary, a lively and a safe intersection for the pedestrian.

As a driver I have found the intersection very efficient as well. There are left turn lanes coming from each direction. This does a lot to keep traffic moving quickly. Traffic flows well through the intersections, but at a measured and safe rate. This intersection is thus both pedestrian friendly and driver friendly.

More and more intersections downtown need to work as well as this one.

Today's Lyric: Is There a Bustle in Your Hedgerow?


"If there's a bustle in your hedgerow
Don't be alarmed now
It's just a spring clean
For the May queen"

Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin IV

I've always loved this line ever since Mackie Tompkins and I spent hours on the phone in 9th grade trying to figure the song out, to no avail of course. The "bustle in your hedgerow" line is preceded by that great drum transition after the soft interlude. Although I realy don't have any idea what the lyrics above mean, I'll actually use the "Is there a bustle in your hedgerow?" question in the sense of "Is there something bugging you?" or "Are you freaking out about..." or "Why have you worked yourself into a lather?" I like asking people the question just to get the look on their faces, like, "huh?"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DDG and the Futue of Downtown Greensboro


I have been thinking about the Downtown Design Guidelines now being considered by the city of Greensboro. Until recently I have had little basis for an opinion. I rarely came downtown except for special events like Fun Fourth. I spent little to no money downtown. I really didn't think much of downtown Greensboro.

But now I am downtown almost every day. I have an office at South Elm and Washington. I walk around a lot. I work and socialize and spend my money downtown. I like downtown, well, the part in which I spend my time, which is mostly Elm Street between Center City Park and the railroad tracks.

There are many factors that make a downtown space attractive and appealing to me personally, and one factor more important than all the rest.

Downtown has to be pedestrian-friendly. This is the key factor. There must be ample and safe room for strolling, and little fear of being run down. This invites foot traffic to the shops and restaurants and art venues. To make this strolling pleasant and safe there must be wide sidewalks and narrow streets with slower traffic. Who would ever stroll on purpose along or across Davie or North Green Street? Shade also contributes to a positive pedestrian experience as does having a place to sit down.

There is aesthetic/emotional aspect to a space being inviting or friendly. Parks and green spaces, even small ones, mitigate against claustrophobia and urban fatigue. Many very large cities in which I have lived (or visited for some time) have managed to preserve these green spaces at appropriate “intervals," intervals in the sense of distance (providing physical rest for the pedestrian), intervals in a spatial sense (opening of the feel of the city and reducing claustrophobia), and intervals in an aesthetic sense (providing change in color and texture, particularly in the sense of softer colors and softer textures).

The aesthetic/emotional aspect is impacted by many other factors too – green spaces, hanging flowers, interesting architecture, and what I might call “composition,” that is, the visual balance of sky, street, tree, and building, a balance which contributes to a pleasing and relaxing experience for the pedestrian.

When I think of pedestrian traffic I am not thinking so much those folks who commute to downtown, hurry from car to office, rush out from their office buildings to have a quick lunch only to rush back to office, hurry later from office to car, and leave downtown. Certainly these folks enhance the economic vitality of downtown in many ways.

But it is the non-commuting pedestrians who make a downtown pedestrian-friendly. This kind of pedestrian is not in a hurry. He or she "strolls" more than rushes. I commute downtown, but I "hang out" downtown too. I have the flexibility to do that.

Downtown needs residents. Residents create demand for services and then the availability of services attracts residents. The more people who actually live in a downtown the better the pedestrian experience will become.

There is another kind of "commuter." This is the person who drives downtown in order to enjoy downtown - go to a play, eat dinner, have a drink, shop around, etc. This kind of commuter leaves car behind in a parking space to become a non hurried pedestrian. As far as developing the kind of pedestrian traffic that is most desirable, this sort of commuter is very important - crucially important.

Downtown can no longer compete with suburban shopping centers for car-based shopping and business. Any attempt to try will fail. For downtown to be vital it must offer an alternative - a much needed alternative - to the suburban car centered shopping center. It must be pedestrian friendly.

Having read about the founding of Greensboro and a little bit about its history I would have to conclude that it has been extremely poorly planned from the beginning. It seems that short term expediency has guided planning measures more than anything else along the way. The city has woefully lacked vision – vision that extends into the future to children and grandchildren.

I say that because I see almost no recourse for parts of downtown other than ripping up some of the main streets and rebuilding the traffic-pedestrian-store interface. We need to get rid of the multi lane one-way racetracks. These streets act as barriers to the growth of a pedestrian friendly downtown.

Obviously downtown needs investment dollars from the private sector. But a “downtown” as a physical/cultural/economic entity almost inherently requires collaboration from many sectors – the private sector of course, the local and state governments, and various advocacy and interest groups.

I know that there is much debate at present about architecture – about maintaining the “ambiance” of the more architecturally interesting and coherent older buildings. I myself like this ambiance.

As I weigh the primary need – that is, of making downtown pedestrian-friendly – against the interests of historical preservation and architectural conservation, I think I am less concerned about the architecture of many of the old buildings (on Elm for example) as I am in attracting capital for new residences and businesses. Many of the older buildings in the 300 block of South Elm, while having interesting and diverse facades, do not strike me as being particularly noteworthy structures. All things being equal I would much prefer to see them preserved, but if I had to choose I'd rather see newer structures designed and built as part of a strategic plan to attract residents and businesses into a pedestrian-friendly downtown.

If extensive renovation or reconstruction would impede the development of more residences and pedestrian-friendly businesses, then I’d rather see new construction which “mimics” a generally desired look or feel. I certainly would not wish to see any more buildings like First Citizens, which is to me the most horrid building in downtown Greensboro (next to the News and Record and the various Stalin-esque government buildings). I would want to see enough of an actual planning framework in place to assure visual and aesthetic coherence, yet with wiggle room to allow for diversity, which is itself interesting and pleasing. But the bottom line is that if there is no investment there will be no people and no impetus to convert the rest of the downtown core into something vital and pleasing.

There has to be a bold vision that is embodied in clear and accessible planning guidelines. The city has a key role in establishing and articulating) this vision – seeing ahead ten or twenty or even fifty years and putting in place the framework for getting there. Everyone needs to “give” – the city which may want to control everything, the developers who may wish to build anything, and the preservationists who may wish to preserve at all costs.

I hope as the process runs its course various interests can coalesce as one mind and find ways to balance varying interests. That’s asking a lot, and perhaps praying people have their own role in this process too.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Alice Cooper playing a great song from back in the day. Nantucket Sleighride by Mountain.
Digging Marshall Tucker in the car. At a light. Take the Highway. Rock 92. Southern rock block.

Monday, July 27, 2009

XP to 7 "Clean Install" - O the Dread

OK, so I have two underpowered desktop systems, one with leaking capacitors that I think I can replace, the other that I have just fixed enough to use. Windows 7 promises not to be nearly as bloated as Windows Vista or even Windows XP, which means that having Windows 7 would enable me to extend the life of these machines (before I switch over to Macs!). But there is no upgrade track from XP to Windows 7.  One has to reformat the hard drives and do a clean install.  OK, there is some merit whenever one uses Windows in doing a clean install once a year. But who has the time? It's a big hassle. Getting new Windows systems now or after Windows 7 comes out would be about as equally as much trouble in terms of reloading everything. So, if I am going to have to go through the expense and trouble, why not just get the Macs now.

Problem is, I don't have the money, but if I did, the lack of a clean upgrade pathway from XP to Windows 7 would definitely lean me away form a Windows system. I just don't get it.

Today's Picture: My Aunt Evelyn Dressed for Prom, Mid 1930's


This is my great aunt "Aunt Evelyn," then Evelyn Andrews, in her prom dress, mid 1930's, in LaGrange, GA. Evelyn was the youngest sister of my grandmother "Nanny." Evelyn was about 18 years younger than Nanny. They were in fact half sisters. Nanny's mom died when Nanny was a little girl, and her dad remarried. Nanny had a brother John and a sister Evelyn by her step mother, whom she always called just "mother." Since I first posted this picture on Flickr a few years ago my dear Aunt Evelyn passed away in the summer of 2007 in LaGrange Georgia surrounded by loving family.

For more pictures of my Aunt Evelyn and her siblings and daughters (and wonderful great nephew) check out my Flickr set, "The Andrews Family."

Today's Quote: from Thomas Hardy


"When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun."

Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd

This is the very first sentence of the Thomas Hardy book Far from the Madding Crowd. Hardy is worth reading just for his great sentences!

Today's Lyric: from Jackson Browne

"But when you know that you've got a real friend somewhere suddenly all the others are so much easier to bear"

Jackson Browne, The Late Show, Late for the Sky

Saturday, July 25, 2009

2, 3, & 5 (Heather, Laurel, and Madeline)

I took this with by brand new uber cheap Canon point and shoot. The truth is I'm not going to carry my big DSLR around with me all the time, and it's nice to have a camera I can pull out of my pocket and snap! Thanks kids!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Joel's Top 10 Songs of All Time - Sort Of

He said: Sounds like a list you need to post - "Joel's Top 10 Songs of All Time......"

I said: Well, if I ever post a top ten songs list it would likely include 6-8 from among the following (since this is off the top of my head):

Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones
Early Morning Riser by Pure Prarie League
Have You Ever Seen the Rain by CCR
Resplendent by The Vigilantes of Love
Love, Reign O'er Me by The Who
The Abbey Road side B medley (or Hey Jude) by the Beatles
Since I've Been Loving You (or Stairway to Heaven) by Led Zeppelin
Fountain of Sorrow by Jackson Browne
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberto Flack
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol (or Precious Angel) by Bob Dylan
Have You Ever Loved a Woman by Derek and the Dominos
Where the Streets Have No Name (or New Years Day) by U2
Paranoid (or War Pigs) by Black Sabbath
Fly Me to the Moon by Tony Bennett
Gravity by John Mayer
Beside You (or Into the Mystic) by Van Morrison
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams
Always on My Mind by Willie Nelson
Statesboro Blues (Whipping Post or Melissa) by the Allman Brothers
Hotel California by The Eagles
Helplessly Hoping by CSN
Let's Stay Together by Al Green
Hallelujah by Rufus Wainwright
Blue by Lucinda Williams
Whammer Jammer by J Geils Band
Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland (or Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole)
Question 67 and 68 by Chicago Transit Authority
A Long December by Counting Crows
Roll Over Beethoven by ELO

And then I said: these are my personal favorite songs, not a list of what I think are the greatest or most historically significant songs...you can make your own list :-) and what's on your list does interest me...

Now, to whittle it down...

Those Worn Out Computer Blues


My laptop, it did fall and crack it's head
Oh yeah my laptop, it did fall and crack its head
So I better back up all the data
Because very soon it will be dead

My office desktop - you know the CD drive don't work
Oh yeah my office desktop - you know the CD drive don't work
So I can't load any new software
And it's about to make me go beserk

The one at home - it's so old it's leaking stuff
Oh yeah, the one at home - it's so old it's leaking stuff
It's past time to buy a new one
'Cause I've really had enough

And so I'm thinking, is it time to switch to Mac
Oh yeah I'm thinking, is it time to switch to Mac
But then the money it would cost me
Would have me living in a shack

And so I'm crying, those worn out computer blues
Oh yes I'm crying, those worn out computer blues
It seems that I'm heading for the poor house
No matter, no matter what I choose

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Post Oak Tree, Green Hill Cemetery, Greensboro


See my new Flickr set - trees.

Look here for a more detailed description of this wonderful oak species.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Walter Cronkite Memory

I was very sad today to hear of the passing of Walter Cronkite. He was a fixture of my childhood, and his voice is ever etched in my memory.

I have one particular and very special memory of Walter Cronkite. It again involves his voice.

In April of 1980 my parents and I were gathered on a Saturday morning (if I am not mistaken) for my formal induction into Phi Beat Kappa. Walter Cronkite was to be the guest speaker, and we were all looking forward to that.

But when we got to the banquet hall and took our seats it was announced that Mr. Cronkite would not be able to attend. During the night, half way around the world, Operation Eagle Claw, President Carter's bold attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran, had ended in disaster in the Iranian desert and been aborted. We had heard about it on the news that morning. It was very sad for me as I liked President Carter and of course wanted to see the hostages freed as soon as possible.

So, as we all took our seats we received the news: Walter Cronkite had had to stay in Washington to cover the story. Someone else filled in, and that was fine, but what I especially remember is Cronkite's voice.

For Mr. Cronkite, despite the seriousness of the news that day, took the time to call in and speak to us all and apologize for his absence. There was a sad gravity to his voice, yet in that short call he took the opportunity to congratulate us all and wish us well in life.

I thought it was a classy thing to do.

We didn't get to see him, but we did get to hear him, and maybe on that sad day in our national history that was just what we most needed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guilford Trees

My office at present is on the 5th floor of the Guilford Building on South Elm in Greensboro. I love it downtown. I look to the north out of my window and see downtown proper and beyond. Though I can’t make out individual trees in the distance, there is a lot of green out there.

A while back I had an office in a building near the corner of Westridge Road and Battleground Avenue. There was a parking area that backed up to a gas station, to one neighbor’s back yard, and to a side road called Nathaniel Street. There was a small buffer of a few feet between the parking lot and each of these different bordering pieces of land.

One day while sitting in the parking lot I wrote the following. I call it “Guilford Trees.” I was speaking at first of the small little spaces of trees surrounding the parking lot.

In these rather small spaces a variety of typical local trees are reaching and stretching for sunlight. There is a young sycamore maybe 8 inches in diameter, the trunk completely white, that has bent and wound its way to its spot in the sun. From it hangs many of last fall’s sycamore balls. There are a couple of sweet gum trees, each with its component of unfallen sweet gum balls dangling as they do. There are several young tulip poplars growing tall and straight trying to outrace as it were all others to the open sun. There is a loblolly pine tree (most common tree of my hometown), several Virginia pines, a few maples, a red oak, a dogwood, a white oak, a black locust, and a small hickory tree.

300 years ago before settlement by European colonists, many of these same kinds of trees would have made up the mature forests of the rolling hills and stream bottoms of what is now Guilford County.

It is highly likely that over the course of time well over 95% of the land in Guilford County has at some point been cleared for crops. What has not been cleared for crops has been logged for wood. There are no known stands of “virgin” or even mature climax forest in Guilford County.

In fact, most of the land has been cleared several times over again. The remaining forested parts of our county, even in the creek and river bottom lands, contain second third or even fourth growth forest.

The early settlers who came down from Pennsylvania and Virginia came to an area almost absent of a local Indian population. The Saura Indians based in the present Eden area to our north and Randolph County area to our south had at one time roamed and hunted and even farmed freely in what is now Guilford County. Because of pressure from marauding Iroquois tribes the Saura had fled from the area before it was setled. Yet, they had left their mark. The first settlers were surprised at the number of open fields filled with tall grasses that would reach up to the height of a man’s chest riding on a horse.

But mostly the land was continuous forest. Early settlers cleared the forests for crops lands, usually using poor farming techniques, and either cleared more land or moved on when the soil was depleted or eroded away. Fields would convert back to forest, which future farmers and settlers would clear and log again.

Not only were the forests cleared for growing crops, but the trees were needed for fuel for fireplace and furnace, as well as for building supplies – for wheels and casks and barrels and furniture. Many trees were cut and exported for use by the military or by industries growing up around the country.

Most of the forests we have today are in the midst of various stages of the process of plant succession. Thus on a hike around Lake Brandt one might come across (even in a thickly wooded area), a large oak tree with old branches spreading out horizontally, a sure sign of a tree having grown up in an open space with no competition from neighboring trees, and with no need to waste resources in a race to the top of the canopy. Likewise, amidst stands of mixed hardwood and pine woods one will come across a row of old red cedars, marking no doubt an old fence line dividing field from field.

Had we been able to walk into what is now Guilford County 250 years ago we would have found largely mature hardwood forests, though even some of those forests would have grown up from fields cleared by Indians long before. These mature piedmont forests would have been characterized by a dense high canopy made up primarily of white oak, chestnut, hickory, southern red oak, and tulip poplar, the lower part of the canopy itself perhaps a hundred feet high. At ground level the field of view would have been dominated by large tree trunks spaced much farther apart than we are accustomed in our woods today. Tree trunks would have exceeded two feet in diameter for the great white oaks, and up to four or five feet in diameter for tulip poplars. The forest floor would have been relatively clear of brush, with somewhat of a park-like feel. Under this think canopy would have been scattered dogwood, sourwood, ironwood, redbud, beech, and other smaller trees.

Creek bottoms would have been dominated by huge sycamore trees up to six or more feet in diameter, along with massive tulip poplars, with great beeches and maples on the bluffs.

Through these forests ran many well worn paths, some used by Indians, and many packed and cleared of undergrowth by traveling herds of buffalo. It is hard to believe that in our little section of North Carolina, as recently as 250 years ago, there would have been an abundance of buffalo, wolves, elk, and eastern mountain lions, in addition to the common animals we still see today. It was a wild and often dangerous place!

Clearing this land was not for sissies, but cleared it was, in time almost every single bit of it.

Today we have the privilege of watching many forests coming to regain some of their earlier splendor. With agriculture waning in economic significance, there is the likelihood that if we can set aside enough of the tracks of land that are left, maybe our children and children’s children will have even more opportunity than we had of knowing what it would have been like to wander a piedmont forest of long ago.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Flapper Grandmother (Nanny)

This is far and away the most-viewed picture on my Flickr site. It is of my grandmother Mary Sue Gillespie, my dad's mom, before she was married to my grandfather I think, and in a beautiful 1920's outfit. The condition of the 80+ year old print was outstanding, and it made for a great scan. "Nanny" was always a classy lady, and a wonderful guide and help and friend to me. I just thought I'd share this photo with you all again.

See my Flickr Set - Nanny.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Patsch, A Village in Western Austria


Got nostalgic about Austria today,, so I went back and looked at some pictures that I took in early April 1978. This little village in Western Austria is called Patsch. In our train tour around the continent we had wearied of the rush and decided to spend a little time in one place, and took a bus ride out to this village. Thanks to Flickr friends for helping me identify the place - I had forgotten.

More Europe in 1978 pictures.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Purple Rock - Badlands SD



I took this on a drive out to Vancouver in August 1980 with my dad. We had taken a detour off I-90 so as to go through the Badlands and we came up on a helicopter - an OLD looking helicopter - sitting on the dirt outside a little shack, with a sign advertising rides. He looked at me and I looked at him and he said "what the hell." So we pulled over. We walked into the shack and there was a very, well, worn looking woman, and she called for "Frank" or whatever his name was, and Frank came stumbling out of the back half asleep. "Want a ride," he said. My dad looked at me, and I looked at him, and he said "what the hell" (again). So Frank started up the chopper and off we went. It was way fun! Dad and I had a blast and got some good pictures too.

Flags for the Fourth




My favorite Greensboro flag picture, in honor of July 4th, 2009!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Evolution Revolution Devolution

OK, I admit, the title of this post is dumb. Was just playin'

Anyway, a high school student who currently attends a public school, and who used to attend a private Christian school, asked the following (edited) question about evolution, and I answered as best as I could.

Here is the question...

"Well, I am in Biology this year...my exam in on Friday...and we have been studying the theory of evolution. While we were taking notes in class on evolution the verse from Ecclesiastes came into my head, where it says, "there is nothing new under the sun". Based on the verses before and after that verse I don't really think that it had anything to do with that, evolution I mean, but I was just wondering if it did. It was alot easier at (my fomer school) in science class because we were able to talk about these things from a biblical perspective, but being in a public school that is not how it is taught, or how the discussions go (though, really there are no discussions...it is just accepted as fact). So, I don't know. I get confused because some of it makes since...and then all of a sudden the teacher writes something that I am to copy down and I cannot see how anyone could believe it. So, there you go..."

Great question, don't you think?

And here is my answer...

"Dear ****,

You're right, the verse in Ecclesiastes has nothing to do with evolution, though it does speak to any and all ideas that come to man. Philosophically speaking, in terms of how people so quickly and easily jump from evolution to evolutionism, that is, from a scientific/historic theory of development to a purely materialist view of reality, then it's not new under the sun.

You're also right, in public school for the most part one cannot look at this or most other topics from a biblical perspective, or from a Buddhist perspective, or a Hindu perspective, or Scientology perspective, etc. It's a good thing and a bad thing.

I would venture to say that at most Christian schools they don't really look at the topic from all perspectives either (even if the discussion is more open) because they don't take evolution seriously enough to evaluate it and examine and respect it as the powerful model that it is. In my opinion one cannot speak with credibility to a matter if one does not understand it. I have found evolution too easily reduced to silly cliches by those who like it and those who don't.

Yes indeed, some of it makes sense. In fact, a lot of it makes sense. Not all of it makes sense to me or anyone else, but it is a powerful model or framework for understanding change - especially biological - over time.

We have to remember though that the processes that add up to evolutionary theory are strictly impersonal and with no purpose whatsoever. Evolutionary change is not progress; it is just change. There is no "point" to it. But, since we have a hard time swallowing that, we slip personal language into the process. We give the process "purpose."

On the other hand, and this is important, all scientific study has to have a kind of atheistic methodology. If you want to cure cancer, you find the mechanisms that cause it and you don't assume that the gaps of knowledge are to be filled in by God. We don't just say "God made cancer" and let it go at that.

In a similar way if we are curious about how so many of the plants and animals on an isolated island (like Madagascar) are so different, we don't just say "God made them that way," we try to understand how it is that they are or became different. There is nothing wrong with the impulse to want to understand that. That impulse is a significant part of what makes us human beings.

If you take both the Bible and science seriously, which you should, you will grapple with this issue most of your life one way or another. Just try to learn and understand as much as you can.

More later,

Mr. G."

Turning Stones into Bread

My favorite book on the pastoral ministry was and is "The Art of Pastoring" by David Hansen. I have read it four or five times over the years and given a copy to many people along the way.

In his book Hansen talks about how a person called to be a pastor puts aside the prerogative of what he calls “turning stones into bread” or what I might call “working for a living.” Thus I derive the title of this post from Hansen’s book, though I do not wish to fault him for any bad or erroneous ideas I have come up with on my own!

Technically speaking as a pastor I was not “paid” to do a job as much as “supported” to do that job, in a similar manner as a missionary. OK, that support gets turned into a salary and a paycheck, but the official “call” from the congregation goes like this…”In order that you might devote yourself exclusively to the ministry of the word and pray, we the congregation…”

Once calledin this way, many business instincts are out the window. In my 20 years of pastoral ministry this was one of the most frustrating and also rewarding aspects of the calling.

Although there may have been an indirect correlation between how hard or well I worked on the one hand, and how much money was in the coffers (or in my paycheck) on the other, the pastoral ministry requires that such correlations be far from mind and heart.

If I run a business I can choose to work more hours, spend more money on advertising, or develop new proficiencies with the motive or goal of having more business and as a result more money. I may fail in those efforts, but there is nothing wrong with those efforts or their motivation.

Granted, one would hope that I see some greater good being served through my work, but seeking to provide better for myself and family is a perfectly decent motivation. It isn’t in the church. The moment I am connecting anything I do as a pastor with an increase in “business” (more money coming in) and the normally concomitant increase in “salary,” well, I have profaned the calling and am worthy only to be cast out of it.

Just think of the mischief to which such a motivational correlation would lead . First, it would cause me to spend more energy “courting” wealthier visitors than poorer visitors. Such favoritism is an obscenity. Second, it would lead me to focus pastoral attention and care more on those who offer possibility of financial return rather than on those who really need the care. Usually in such scenarios the mentally ill, the elderly, and the needy get shorted. Third, it would lead me to focus a church outreach on an affluent neighborhood rather than a poorer neighborhood. There is nothing inherently wrong with outreach in a more affluent neighborhood of course;, well, depending…(This reminds me of the almost universal tendency for church plants to be located in what are, on average, more affluent areas. Something seems wrong with that picture.) Fourth, the motive of “building the business” might be the driving force for all sorts of interesting and hip advertising campaigns. That would be bad.

Had he not been called to fast, and were he not being tempted to distrust his Father, there may have been nothing wrong with Jesus turning a stone into bread. Likewise as a pastor I gave up the right to work for my personal well being and benefit, especially financially. I gave up, as it were, the right to turn stones into bread.

On the positive side giving up that right forced me to trust and to pray more. God’s faithful provision over the years for my family’s needs also trained me to attend to the essentials of the calling while being able to rest in the knowledge that He had taken care of us all along the way and would continue to do so.

I was raised in a family of small businesses – my dad, his parents, my mother’s parents, my siblings, and so forth. I sought out work as soon as I was old enough to push a mower, and always had money. If I ran low I went out and made more money. If I needed to I advertised. If I needed to I sought work in the rich neighborhoods rather than the poor ones. If I needed to I worked dawn to dusk day after day.

And so, on the negative side, giving up the “right” to turn stones into bread went against almost every instinct I had and have. This reminds of my first rugby game at Clemson. I played left wing, and I remember on about our first offensive move down the field, after the ball came to me, my football instinct kicked in. I saw a crease and I cut and I ran for it. Had it been football I would have made a twenty yard gain, gotten a first down, and lots of pats on the head. But it was rugby. All I did was cause our team to lose possession once I was down. I got a few knocks on the head for being stupid, that’s about it.

After being well trained in the ministry mindset I am now back in that other world. All in all, I think I like it. It’s scary in a whole different way, but I am enjoying the opportunity to think creatively about how to survive.

As you think of your pastor or rabbi or priest, remember the unique challenge it may be to him or to her to give up the right to turn stones into bread. Be generous and do what you can to allay the anxieties that may eat away and tempt him or her to take that stone, that calling to trust and wait while being devoted to word and prayer, and turn it into bread. The temptation is always there. It can be insidious.