Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Election and the church

And no, this post has nothing to do with predestination. Or does it? Maybe it does if you want it to. And maybe if you went through the door that is this post it would have "blog post" written on one side and "predestination" written on the other. Confused yet? I can always try harder. My apologies to all who don't get the Spurgeon reference.

Bible Baptist Church had its business meeting to vote on the church's next pastor tonight. Both the deacons and the pastor recommended me to the church. In secret ballot voting, there was one vote against, and I'm guessing 30 or 40 for (I never did get the exact count, but I think that's about the number of voting members present tonight.) Human nature makes me wonder who the one dissenter is, but it really doesn't matter now -- I've just got to do the best I can by God's grace for everyone, whether they like me or not. Maybe it'll keep me on my toes to know that not everybody necessarily is sold on me. I had privately adopted a 90% requirement for taking the church -- if 90% of the people didn't want me, then I would take that as God's will that He didn't want me there. A church divided in its support for its pastor is a dangerous place, especially for a young pastor.

They also adopted a salary package (adequate but not extravagant) and announced that I will go on full-time in May, then take over as head pastor July 1.

Along with the business meeting, we also started Missions Month a day early tonight. Ray Kennedy, a church-planting missionary from our church, brought the message tonight. He's a high-energy preacher (there's no way I could keep that energy level for a whole service -- and he didn't do it by screaming and shouting, either), had loads of good content, and finished neatly on time. I was impressed.

And so with the election over my wife will sleep a little easier tonight. Okay, I'll confess that I was the tiniest bit nervous. But honestly not much. I forget how scared some people are of being up in front of people until I see someone who isn't used to controlling that deer-in-the-headlights feeling I suppress every time I get up. The poor gentleman who gave the recommendation of the deacon board tonight looked more nervous about asking people to vote than I felt waiting for the vote. I think he'll sleep better tonight too.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Deceit: onward and upward

It appears that the sneaky, dirty politics don't stop with Pender County Democrats. (I know, I know, any Republicans reading this are probably saying "And that's a surprise how? Didn't you just move down from that state where Hillary Clinton is a senator?" But ya gotta understand that the Republican reputation here isn't exactly stellar either. In fact, that's been one of the biggest excuses by local Democrats for how they went about all this -- "But they did it first!" Yes, very mature and moral high-groundish.)

Strangely, a detailed map of the new districts shoved through by the Democratic commissioners has been kept from everyone who has asked. Even the director of elections and the county management haven't been given a copy. The paper copies provided at the meeting are available, but they don't have enough detail to answer serious questions about the new districts -- you can't even tell which district one of the commissioners is in, even when you look at the map at 300% magnification.

When we (county officials and myself) called Raleigh to get a copy of the map, we were told that Representative Thomas Wright (the Democratic legislator from this area who assisted the local conspirators that went to Raleigh) had given orders that the electronic copy not be released. And Wright never answers his phone, nor returns calls (we've made calls to both his office and cell phone for close to two weeks now, I think.)

But he made the mistake of coming to a photo op Friday in town. Myself and another reporter cornered him when they gave him his piece of cake (thereby inadvertently trapping for a few minutes) and asked him why he wouldn't release the map. He explained that on the one hand, the map was secret from his point of view until it became a bill for the state legislature. He didn't want to release it until the bill was done, in case changes were made (of course, this would prevent citizens from seeing it to suggest changes.) On the other hand, he explained that the map wasn't even really his until he turned it into a bill. "Technically, it's not my map," he said. He hadn't released it, because it wasn't his -- it belonged to the Pender County commissioners. Since they had produced it and voted on it to become a resolution, it belonged to them.

So we asked him, all of them, or just the ones who made it or supported it? He replied that it belonged to all of the commissioners. The only reason he hadn't released it yet was because a commissioner hadn't asked him. We double-checked. Any commissioner, no matter which one, could request the map, and Wright would give it to him? Yes, Wright said. Any commissioner.

So when I got back to the office, I called up George Brown, one of the commissioners who had been ambushed by this whole deal. I told him what Wright had told us. He decided to go to the county manager's office and call Raleigh from there. He went in and called Wright's office and told them that he was officially requesting the map. Of course, Wright was in our area, but whadda-ya-know, he never returned the call.

Then Brown called Raleigh Myers, the cartographer who apparently helped generate the map. Myers said that he could have it and that he would personally send it over that afternoon. In the course of the conversation, he asked Brown if he was one of the commissioners who originally came to produce the map, and Brown said no. Brown asked if that made a difference, and Myers told him no, that he would send the map himself that afternoon.

Brown left the county manager's offfice. About an hour later, Raleigh contacted them and explained that he was terribly sorry, felt awful because he had promised to personally get this sent, but Representative Wright was refusing to allow him to send it to anyone.

I called Research Monday and found that Myers was away. I talked to another worker there, who confirmed that Wright's office had ordered the map withheld from everyone. Somehow, Wright never happened to return the call from the message I left at his office Monday afternoon.

And so it appears that the sneaking sculdudgery goes beyond the Pender County Democratic Party up into the state level. Supposedly, the map in all its details will become public record, available to all, as soon as Wright sponsors the bill it is attached to. (Senator R.C. Soles, also a Democrat, has promised to introduce a companion bill in the Senate. I still don't know if he really knows what all is going on, or if he has been caught up in the local machinations himself. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt until I talk to him or he refuses to talk to me. I'm not giving Wright the benefit of the doubt, because there is no doubt about the lack of integrity he has displayed in this matter.) The only reason I can see for withholding the map, especially after he promised to give it out if a commissioner asked, is to prevent the public from scrutinizing it for as long as possible.

He said on Friday that he has been receiving calls from people complaining that "this is wrong." (He said the last in a whiny voice, mocking them clearly.) He went on to say that it wasn't wrong -- "It's democracy." The majority of the commissioners voted to approve this map, and, "Majority rules. Move on." (Ironically, he says he would be opposed to a county-wide referendum on the redistricting -- it's the responsibility of elected officials to make practically all decisions, and the responsibility of the people to deal with the officials. So much for true "majority rules" democracy.)

When Brown confronted him Friday night and told Wright that many in the county opposed the new map, he says that Wright told him, "I'm used to opposition. Bring it on."

Wow. Used to opposition. I'm sure that's true, and often necessary at the state level. But to be that defiant to the concerns of his own constituents, possibly the majority of them, that reeks of an arrogance that despises what is good for the people. And to participate in the deceit that has been practiced here, either speaking a bold-faced lie, or going back on his word within a matter of hours with no explanation, that bespeaks a lack of honesty, integrity, and morality that ought not be entrusted with the good of our state.

I can only hope that the residents of our county, all of them, not just the Republicans or east-siders, remember this deceitfulness and manipulativeness displayed by the Democratic Party (and not just by the three Democratic commissioners and Representative Wright -- this seems to run through the entire upper levels of the party in Pender County) in the next few elections. Scheming, self-serving, dishonest leadership never really benefits anyone in the long run, even if it seems like they are playing for your team at the moment -- as deceitful and self-serving as these men have demonstrated themselves to be, I don't even see how the rank-and-file Democrats of Pender County can trust them to work genuinely on their behalf. And I hope that our voters have enough integrity to demand honesty from all of their elected officials, regardless of which party they are from.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Another dunked, another joined

Although attendance was down today in church, we had lots of positive things going on anyhow. A young man who recently came forward to join the church got baptized tonight. It's nice having to keep the tank wet. He and his wife are a sweet couple. They say they love the church, and he plans to start going on visitation with us. She is a stay-at-home mom, so she and my wife may be able to get together and hang out, double-teaming the kids.

A gentleman who has been attending the church for a little over four years also came forward to join tonight. It actually surprised me -- he's been coming for as long as I've been here, so I just assumed he was a member.

Just as positive, one of our other new couples has volunteered (at least the husband has; I think the wife may have as well) to help out with the bus ministry too. If we do get that second bus up and running within the next two weeks or so, that would be terrific. My wife rode the bus this morning, and it was a challenge getting our four-year-old up so I could drive my wife over to the church (she had to be there at about 7:10), then me coming back and getting myself and the young 'un ready for church and back over there on our own. The first couple to volunteer should be up and running for next week.

Tonight I preached on a pretty controversial subject, taking what is probably a minority stand on a minor issue. I know the pastor and I don't see quite eye-to-eye on it, but when we spoke about it yesterday, he didn't ask me not to address it. So I tried to be respectful to those who disagree with me, and still be faithful to what I believe about the passage. I guess it went well. No one said they're going to vote against me because of it. Not even the pastor. *grins*

We've been so blessed being here. It's a terrific church with a terrific pastor in so many ways.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fort Fisher tour pics

I'm having so much fun with this upload feature that I'm pausing in working on my Sunday night message (we're still in Acts -- I expect practically ever person in the church with an opinion on the matter will disagree with me this week on at least one thing, but I kind of like it that way sometimes. It keeps me sharp. Or ground down. One or the other.)

These pics are from our youth group's visit to Fort Fisher after an outing handing out tracts. They were doing tours, exhibits, and gun firings that day -- not a true re-enactment, but close enough to produce fun pictures.

Did you know that "I Wish I Was in Dixie" started life as a Broadway song? I didn't, but this guy did. Somehow, I found that terribly ironic.

My daughter had a blast trying to figure out Revolutionary War and Civil War era toys. It turns out that a yo-yo requires considerably more coordination than her Blues Clues computer game.

This might be the most authentic shot of life at the fort for most of its active history.
After his demonstration on the development of firearms through the fort's history, this fellow gave me trouble for keeping my hair cut short. "A man with red hair," he says in a passable Irish brogue, "ought not keep it cut short in the Roman style. Ye ought wear it with pride. So long as ye have the beard, ye're no violatin' any religious law." I think I'll pass on trying to explain that to my congregation.

My favorite shot of the afternoon. I couldn't believe how hard it was to actually catch the muzzle blast of these guns (although it is easier than trying to catch it with a modern firearm -- it's practically non-existent on modern weapons.)

Okay, I liked this one too. Them things was loud, by the way.

And finally, appropriately, Taps over the fort after the guns have ceased their firing.

Pics from the aquarium

Let's see if I've got this figured out. If so, here's a few pics from our visit to the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

My daughter and the fish aren't really in agreement about who's the exhibit, I think.

Perhaps the nicest thing about going at a really slow time was being able to spend time with knowledgeable workers who would take a few minutes to tell us cool stuff. Here my wife and daughter get to horse around with a horseshoe crab after being assured that it really didn't come from Mars, in spite of its appearance, and it really can't shred your hand in under two seconds, in spite of its appearance.

This hammerhead shark really has not much to do with anything, but I thought it was cool. I'm SO going to miss this camera when I'm done with the newspaper.

I got much better pics of this trigger fish without the reflection issues. But I liked this one.

I like the way blogger has this set up now -- just upload pics straight to the blog. I don't know what the size limit here is, and that was a problem with msnspaces, but until I start pushing it, I guess I don't have to worry about it. I'll have to pop back in later and post some cool ones from the historical stuff out at Fort Fisher the other day.

Solution to the second threshold

In a previous post, I mentioned that we were reaching a couple of thresholds in our bus ministry. On the one route, we had too many kids for the two bus workers to handle. But on the other route, we had too many kids for the van to carry. The workers on that route were having to pick up the first load, drop them off at church with someone to watch them, and go back out again for another load. The church owns two more buses, but neither is mechanically capable of making the runs.

The problem with the first route seems to have been solved by these two new members (my wife will make the run this week, since they won't be ready to start until next Sunday). Now we've learned that the challenge on the second route may have been solved as well. An individual (not in the church, as far as I know) has donated a used engine that fits one of the broken down buses. Three of the men in the church plan to pull the engine out of its current vehicle and get it into the bus within the next couple of weeks. They plan to go today to pick up the engine.

Anyone who reads this and has been praying about this matter, thank you. God hasn't done much sea-parting lately -- but sometimes, a bus part can be just as important.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Time out with the fishies

Wednesday afternoon (this is after I recovered from my Monday and Tuesday at-the-office induced coma), with my wife and daughter complaining that they were getting cabin fever and that they hadn't really seen me in days, we took some time off. We drove down to the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher and spent a couple of hours alternately following and hauling our daughter around.

We had been before, and we really enjoyed it. But this time was different. It is the off-season, and no one was there. It was wonderful. There were no mobs of school kids or tourists pushing and shoving, shouting and hurring. We could ask workers questions, and one took probably fifteen minutes showing my daughter various critters from the petting tank and explaining various things about them. (My wife's favorite was the conch that is a predator -- it preys on other shellfish, using some kind of acid gizmo to bore a hole through their shell and suck them out. Apparently this is what causes all those shells you find on the beach with a neat little hole drilled through them.)

Although I could ill afford the time away from my two jobs, at some points, I can ill afford not to take some time off with my family. With the car's transmission acting up, we were running late getting back to church (not late to the service, but later getting there than I like). But we had a nice time. I took a plethora of pics, but of course I haven't set up with a good file hosting place yet, so they'll have to wait for another time.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Put 'em to work quick

We've had several people join the church over the last week. Now, as far as we're concerned, a church is not a social club any more than it is just a building. The mere fact that you go sit on a pew for an hour or three a week doesn't actually do anything for you in itself.

A church is a group of believers banded together to serve Jesus Christ. Sitting in the pew is just one of the things we do, both to worship, and to learn to serve better. So when new members join our church, we're delighted when they're willing and able to get involved.

One of the new members is fluent in American Sign Language -- she has interpreted a couple of services for us, and this lets us invite the deaf (of which there are more than you might expect!) to our services, and know that they will be able to understand. This individual has also worked with young people in the past, both in churches and professionally.

Our bus ministry has reached a couple of critical thresholds. We are bringing in too many kids for the van we are running on our shorter route -- it actually has to make two trips. We've been using the bus on the longer route, because it goes too far to make two trips reasonably. But that bus has been picking up more kids than the workers on board can handle -- the driver and one helper just haven't been able to keep control, and they have been getting discouraged. There was talk that we might have to switch to using the van on that route, and simply not bring all the kids who are willing to attend -- a heart-wrenching decision. I can't ride the bus, because I teach Sunday School, and that longer route often arrives after Sunday School has started.

Enter the new members. Pastor spoke with the couple tonight, and they are willing to start riding that bus route in two weeks. Woohoo! Up until these new families joined, we really didn't have anyone with the faithfulness and skills to do this -- you don't put just anybody on a bus full of kids and tell them to keep order. That way lies madness for the worker and lawsuits for the church. But the Lord knew our need, and just as it arose, He brought this new couple to the church. We're hoping and trusting that this will solve the problem and allow this couple to be a meaningful part of our ministry.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What I won't miss about the newspaper business

The 3:30 a.m. bedtimes. At least, I think that's what time it was when I crawled into bed this morning. That was after going in to work at 8:00 a.m., with only two short breaks to stuff food into my mouth and dash back out again. Of course, I was back in the office again today before 10:00 a.m. to proof the pages I helped write yesterday. I just got back from taking pictures at a wrestling match (not bad duty, itself) around 8:30 tonight. I am SO sleeping in tomorrow. *grins*

Okay. It's not so bad. I'd rather be up until 3:30 than have to get up at 3:30, to be honest -- the one job I had where I had to do that for a summer well nigh killed me. The bad thing is that for a couple of days each week, I just don't get to see much of my family -- I'm out before they're up, and they're long down when I get back. Lest I think I'm bad off, though, my editor worked straight through from about 9:00 yesterday morning until when I left the office at 5:15 this evening. I'm too tired to count how many hours of work that is.

It's probably a symptom of being tired, but I felt a little grumpy when people said anything about the paper running late this week, after the editor and I did that yesterday -- and it's not like we slacked off last week. With the shenanigans the Pender County Democratic Party pulled this week along with the Board of Education's all-day meeting Friday (now, THAT's what I really don't like about the newspaper business), editor-guy and I just had a ridiculous amount to write and only the two of us to write it.

Oh, well. It's over now. We've probably made irrevocable enemies of local Democrats by telling people what they did, and we'll probably never quite catch up on all the sleep we lost doing it. But there's probably a tiny twinkle in my bleary eyes. It was kinda fun.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Two weeks to know

Things have moved quickly here at Bible Baptist lately. At the deacon's meeting last Monday, Pastor Gibbs notified the deacons that he planned to retire June 30.

Though the announcement itself took the men back a bit, I don't think anyone was surprised that it was happening. As we talked, we decided that it would be good if I could leave the newspaper and go full-time with the church before Pastor retires, so I can get a feel for everything he does. We settled on May as the ideal time for that, since the church probably has enough saved to sustain the two salaries for that long, but not three months.

We then decided that we should have the church vote about me becoming the pastor sometime prior to that (getting a new pastor isn't a fiat kind of thing -- the pastor doesn't just appoint his successor in our church. The church votes about any new pastor.) Since our constitution mandates two weeks of notice before such a vote, we settled on announcing the vote the first of April and having it in the middle of April.

We made the announcement to the church on Sunday, as I mentioned in an earlier post. But as we got to thinking about it, the deacons, pastor, and I thought that the earlier we voted on my becoming the pastor, the better. Not to ramrod things through, but to minimize uncertainty and delay. We moved the vote up into March.

Then at the annual business meeting Wednesday night, the deacons announced that they were nominating me to be the new pastor, and we'll vote in two weeks. Whew. At least that means we should know very soon where we stand.

I haven't set a specific percentage of the vote I'll want before taking the call, but it would be high. I'd hate to walk into a leadership position with only 60 or 70% of the people behind me. I might not necessarily need 100%, but I'd sure like it to be close.

And if you hear about some scandal involving me and the ABC store and a high-speed chase and automatic weapons, it's just a rumor started by my newspaper -- they're threatening to use the power of the press to prevent me from leaving to go full-time at the church.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Still too busy to keep up, but this was neat

That title sums up all sorts of things going on lately.

Monday, I attended the local Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at a local school gym. It was quite an experience. Especially in contrast to the last musically oriented event I covered -- the North Carolina Symphony visit. Frankly, the orchestra is more up my alley -- but I'm glad I got to stroll down this other alley for a bit.

It was a fascinating experience. The singers and dancers were surprisingly good. The atmosphere was unique. I felt a little out of place (I think I counted four white adults in the place -- one of the others was a reporter for a competing paper), and people kept looking at me just a little funny, but I'll assume that was due almost as much to that monstrous camera I tote around as to my color. No one went out of their way to make me uncomfortable, and many were downright friendly. And the event gave me a slightly different perspective on a lot of things that some of us don't think about very often.

It still seems odd sometimes that the people who spoke in that gym still remember when an African-American couldn't walk through the front door of a fast food place and order food like anybody else -- just as when I visited a Holocaust memorial service in a synagogue, it was astounding listening to people who remember their families being slaughtered.

More disturbing, though, sometimes, is how quickly people forget. They forget how ugly times can be when decisions are made based on the color of a person's skin, or the background of their ancestors, rather than that person's own actions. Sometimes, we learn nothing from history. Sometimes, perhaps even worse, we learn the wrong things from history. And sometimes, going to an event like this can help us learn the right things from history.

There's lots more happening in the crazy place that is my family's life, but it'll have to wait for another post.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dirty Dems play race politics

That's what I think I'm going to suggest as the headline for my article on the Pender County commissioners' meeting. I've seen some ugly politics in my time, but last night's Pender County Board of Commissioners meeting probably takes the cake. As a pastor and reporter, I don't generally weigh in on local political issues much, except as they touch on morals and good sense. I'm a registered independent, and in the last election, I voted a split ticket based on the position and the candidate. But as an individual opposed to deception, self-serving politics at the cost of the public, and any form of racism, I found what was done by local Democrats last night abhorrent.

A little background.

Pender County currently elects its commissioners with at-large elections, which means that every person in the county votes for every commissioner; the commissioners are simply required to live in the district they will represent. There are currently three Democrat commissioners and two Republicans. The chairman of the board is a Democrat.

A strong group of minorities in Pender County has been pushing for a redistricting for quite some time, decades, in fact. Pender County has had minority commissioners, but it has been several years since one was elected. This group would like to change things so that each commissioner is elected solely by the people in his or her own district, and they would like to redistrict so that at least one district is created in which a minority composes the majority of voters, so they have a better chance of getting a minority representative on the board of commissioners.

Now, the last part of that shouldn't be that hard. People all over the county have been calling for redistricting because of the drastic population growth and shift; areas on the east side of the county are now under-represented, considering their population. If we redistrict, it's not hard at all to draw a district on the western side that would have a slight majority of African-Americans. I think every commissioner has said that they would be willing to seriously consider this, if they could see some research on the future districts, the legalities, ect.

This group of minorities came before the new board of commissioners in December, at their first meeting after the election and asked them to consider redistricting. The commissioners agreed to put it on the agenda for their retreat, when they'll have plenty of time to look things over and consider possibilities.

But one Democratic commissioner got together with at least one minority leader (there were apparently other people involved, but I haven't been able to find out who they were yet), and they took a trip to Raleigh over Christmas. They met with the requisite people there and worked out a map with seven districts including a majority minority district. They say they think the map meets all the legal requirements for redistricting.

Here's the problem: they didn't tell anybody.

They did not put this issue on the agenda for last night's meeting. They did not notify the two Republicans on the board that it would be discussed. Remember that everyone thought this had been tabled for the retreat next month -- they had no reason to suspect any action would be taken on it at this meeting.

Oh, wait. They did tell some people. Yesterday morning, the calls went out through the Democratic party and the NAACP that this issue would likely be addressed at the meeting.

So when I showed up, the place was practically full, largely with minorities. Since several controversial issues were on the agenda, I didn't know what they were there for. When the time came for public remarks or items from the commissioners, representatives of this group got up and asked the commissioners if they'd done anything with redistricting. And the commissioner that went to Raleigh got up and handed out copies of a map he said he got just that afternoon. It had the seven districts and the majority minority district. And before anyone really had time to examine or discuss it, he read a resolution requesting the state legislature to enact that redistricting plan and made a motion that it be passed. A fellow Democrat jumped in to second it (adding that he hadn't seen the map until just then either), under the condition that the legislature had permission to make any minor adjustments necessary to pass it without it needing to come back to the county level.

This left the two Republican commissioners sitting there with their mouths open. They had never seen the map before. They were being asked to vote on changing the entire commissioners' electoral system for the entire county and a map of the new districts without any opportunity to discuss or examine it. One pointed out that there are over 47,000 people in the county, but only the dozens in the room actually knew this enormous decision was being considered. He asked for 30 days to consider the plan. Any attempt to delay passage of the motion was met with outcry from the audience that these two commissioners were trying to keep them from getting fair representation.

The chairman, also a Democrat, called for a vote, and the measure passed 3-2.

The Republicans were forced into voting against a measure they might have supported if they'd had time to consider it, and they both said that. This was one of the most important issues the commissioners will vote on this year, possibly the most important, since it shapes the political landscape of the county for the foreseeable future, and they could not in good conscience vote in favor of it without a chance to look at it.

The Democrats, by concealing critical information from their fellow commissioners, managed to cast them as anti-minority. They sacrificed meaningful discussion on a crucial issue in order to make their opponents look bad -- on a board that's supposed to be (according to even the Dems in their campaign speeches) basically non-partisan and committed to the good of the whole county.

Huge issues were not addressed. For instance, if you only vote on one commissioner, but there's a board of seven, when an issue in your district comes up, you have no say in six of the people that will be voting on it. Does that really improve anyone's representation?

Each commissioner would also only be answerable to the people who voted for them -- one district of the county. This could easily create incentive for the kind of pork-barrel politics we see on the national level. Is that really good for the county as a whole? Maybe. But it should be discussed, in a forum that the whole county is aware of, not snuck in without being put on the agenda.

And for the minorities, are they really helped by being given a single district in which they are the majority? This means that if they act in a unified manner, they can put one commissioner on the board that represents their views. But if those views are really so different from the rest of the county (I'm being charitable here by assuming they want someone on the board who reflects their viewpoints, not someone whose skin is a particular color -- remember, I loathe racism, whether it's whites voting for someone who is white just for their color, or blacks voting for someone just because of their color), are they benefited by only being able to vote for one of seven commissioners? Or would they be better off being 25% of two or three districts, effectively the swing votes in an election? Their one commissioner would be awfully easy for six others to outvote, even on matters that directly concern his constituents -- and there's nothing he can do about it. But two or three out of out of five that have a sizeable percentage of minorities in their districts -- they had better pay attention.

Again, maybe they're better off with major control over one commissioner than with a partial say in a few. But that should have been discussed, with more than just the proponents of the action present. And what the Democrats did prevented that.

This also prevented any discussion over the representation of the booming Hispanic population in the county. Although there weren't enough Hispanics in the area at the last census to justify a district, there very well may be by the next census -- will plans be put in place to create a district for any sizeable minority group in the county, or will this group get special treatment? Again, this should have been discussed.

As it happens, the commissioner who put this forward lives in the newly drawn majority minority district. I can't speculate on his real motives for this, or what he hopes to gain for himself, his party, or, as he claims, his constituents.

But I have no question that what he, the local Democratic party, and this group did was dishonet and underhanded. While redistricting along these lines may be a good action (no one has argued that it is bad -- no one knows enough to argue anything), it was unquestionably done in the wrong way.

Local Democrats and this group of minorities got their way. But they did so at the cost of any possible non-partisan unity on the board, at the cost of the trust of most of the people in the county, and at the cost of preventing the tens of thousands of people affected by the action from having any say about it. That might be good politics. But it sure ain't right.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Another family added to the family

Another couple came forward to join the church tonight. They have an adorable son and another child on the way. They've been coming for a while, and though they're quiet, have seemed pretty pleased. I've visited them a few times, and they're super nice folk. The young man will need to be baptized, but both were saved as young teenagers.

When pastor went to visit them the other night, I guess they told him that although they had visited a few other churches in the area, ours was the only one that actually came out to visit them. Of course, we don't want to be obnoxious and pushy, but we want to show people that we're actually interested in them, and willing to invest our time and efforts in them as individuals, not just as faces in a crowd. I guess old ways still work sometimes.

Can't blog fast enough!

With the two jobs and family to keep track of, I'm realizing that I just can't post fast enough to keep up with what's going on. Here's the briefs: (I'm going to refrain from making the obvious jokes here. Please applaud my strength of character. Thank you.)

Yesterday, we went with a few people from our church to help a fellow we support who is planting a church in a nearby town. My wife, daughter, and I went along to help hand out tracts. With the BEAUTIFUL weather and good company, everything went pretty well. Ray Kennedy, pastor of the church we were helping, actually led five people to the Lord over the course of the morning.

Following the tract distribution, we all went down to Fort Fisher. They were having tours, gun firings (by "gun" I also mean "really big mounted cannon"), and whatnot. Very neat. If I can figure out how to put up pics here, I'll have to post a cool one or two.

Today, we made the announcement to the church that pastor is retiring in July. You should have heard the silence. People took it pretty much in stride, I think, though that might have been shock. He's been here 18 years, has seen the church grow from about 20 to last week's 130 (and even bigger for a while). Under his leadership, the church has completed a new building, added a radio ministry, bus ministry, prison ministry, and jail ministry. The food pantry may also be his doing. Along with the announcement, we had an estimated 160 people in church today, the highest I've seen, I think. Three came forward to join the church (this is after two were baptized into church membership last week). My wife had the largest crowd she's yet seen in children's church as well.

Whew. That just scratches the surface. But I've gotta get back to working on my message for tonight.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Well, the verdict is in, and the car is found guilty. Guilty of having a bad transmission, apparently. Told you it was a sabateur.

I was a little concerned when mechanic-guy told me it was the same part that he replaced a couple of months ago -- it doesn't sound like just a bad part if it fixes the problem for a matter of months. Sometimes, at least in the appliance repair world I used to grudgingly inhabit, it means something else is wrong, and that is breaking the obviously bad part -- until you fix the under-lying problem, you can go through an innumerable succession of surface fixes.

And when they went in to replace this gizmo, that's apparently what they found -- the transmission itself is on the ka-flooey route. So now, I've got to decide if this car is worth the few hundred to put in a used transmission (if a decent one can be found for a car this old) or the several more hundred to pull this one and rebuild it. If we go with the fixing-this-one approach, the car will still probably need the inner CV axle replaced sometime soon (another hundred or two). And the A/C isn't working well, which isn't bad now, but come July, that's a problem.

Fortunately, mechanic-guy tells me that driving the car as-is will only further destroy the tranny, which needs to go anyhow. I'm supposed to call him next week to find out what he's found about a used tranny. Of course, with the probably $1,000 in repairs needed to turn this into a reasonably driveable and safe car (that's not touching the A/C), we can make several payments on a new car that won't need fixing and would hopefully get a little better gas mileadge. After getting badly burnt with the last car that needed a new tranny (nothing but trouble -- between something like three transmissions we had to go through and several other repairs that followed close on their heels, we could have paid for something like a third of a decent brand-new car), I'm a little hesitant to dump large chunks of money into a decade-old car.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Car sabotage

Not that I think anyone has sabotaged my car -- it seems more likely that it is trying to sabotage our life.

A couple months ago, I had it in the shop because it wouldn't shift into overdrive. The mechanic, father of my editor, replaced a gadget, and it worked just fine -- until just before I needed to go pick my wife and daughter up at the airport Monday night (I probably forgot to mention that they were gone; that's for another post.)

I had it in today to have him look at it -- he says it's the same gizmo, and to bring it back tomorrow when he has the part, and he'll fix it. Very nice, but that's hours both days I both could have and should have been working. Not to mention the extra drive time for the last week and a half, because the car won't go into overdrive. See, this sabotage has a ripple effect -- it not only holds me up, it delays every person who gets stuck driving behind me on a two-lane road. I would sympathize with them, but when they finally go roaring past, something about their expression just says that they would not appreciate it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

It's official

Last night at our church's deacon's meeting, Pastor Gibbs announced to the deacons that he plans to retire June 30, with the recommendation that I succeed him as pastor, starting July 1. He and I had talked about that date a few months ago, but we chose to keep it quiet until a few things gelled.

Although I suspect that the deacons knew that part of the reason for bringing me to this church was for me to take over for Pastor Gibbs when he retired, I also suspect that the timing caught some of them by surprise -- I'm guessing that most did not expect him to retire so quickly. Although Pastor Gibbs is about 77, he is in remarkable condition for his age, with tremendous stamina for any age.

I will still have to be voted on as the new pastor -- that has to be determined by the church itself, not handed to them by the pastor or anyone else. But we don't anticipate any trouble with that, since I have the unqualified support of both the pastor and deacons, and there hasn't been any negative noise among the church membership that I'm aware of. The current plan is for me to go full-time with the church in May so that I can spend some time with Pastor Gibbs really learning the details of what he's been doing, then take the helm in July. The church will likely vote on this in April.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Variety in the newspaper business

This is one of the things I love about my job -- it's different every week, and often wildly different every day.

Wednesday, I was listening to the North Carolina Symphony play Tchaikovsky. Thursday, I interviewed a local high school basketball player. Today, I went to take pictures of the antlers of the deer that won the "Biggest Buck" competition held by a local hardware store, then I visited a teacher and English class that have written a book of writing prompts for use in schools. Oh, I interviewed a high school wrestler too. Then there were the calls to the county attorney about a redistricting lawsuit and to the winner of a $60,000 award for a local school. Tonight, I need to check to see if the professional boxer I wrote the article on last week, Donnell Holmes, won his fight tonight. (If he wins this one, he figures he's probably one more win away from a world title fight; his current record is 24-0-2 professionally. He's a cool guy who grew up locally.)

People complain about the pressure and stress of writing for a newspaper, but at least it's not boring!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

An appointment for eternity

On visitation tonight, I visited the brother of a man who recently accepted Jesus Christ and joined the church, along with his family.

This brother and his family visited the church once and were very positive about it, but we haven't seen much of them since, so tonight I went out there with another church member. They invited us in, and we sat down to talk. After I answered a question or two for him, he told me up front that he isn't a Christian and wanted to hear more about it. I went through what the Bible says about how to have a relationship with God and asked him if he wanted to make that decision tonight.

The problem is, while we were talking, he had a child on the borderline between toddler and infant (really adorable kid, actually) tearing around the place wanting to chat or play. The man said that he understood what I was saying, and he wants to get saved, but he wanted to set aside a time when he could devote his complete attention to what I was saying, and he asked if I could come back tomorrow or over the weekend.

I asked if Saturday would work. (I usually work for the newspaper pretty much all day and night on Fridays, but if that was the only time to meet him, I would have taken any time off necessary.) He said Saturday would be fine. I asked when would be a good time, and he said he didn't know what was going on that day, but it didn't matter -- this was more important than anything else, just set a time, and he'd be there. So I'm meeting with him and his girlfriend (might be fiancee) Saturday at noon.

We all have an appointment with eternity. Hopefully, after Saturday, he'll be ready for his, whenever it might be.

Still waiting...

The wrestling team I help out with here is brand new this year, after the school has been probably five or six years without one. This means that practically none of the wrestlers had any mat experience whatsoever.

The head coach is also brand new; he wrestled in high school in New Jersey and did pretty well, going to state (which is like being REALLY good most places), but dropped it after high school and hadn't touched it since. He's got good rapport with the kids, and he's a great guy, but he's still learning the coaching ropes.

The team has one kid who just moved down from Pennsylvania (he's actually the grandson of a man in my church; PA is tough wrestling country too, by the way) and maybe one or two others with experience. Aside from that, it's just kids who played football, or nothing at all, and one who is some kind of kung fu whiz (and cross-country runner -- I don't think I've ever even seen him look tired). Several weight classes are completely empty, while others are being filled by guys bumping up a weight or even two.

They're fun to work with, some of them are very athletic or talented, and a few are downright tough. But as a team, they're still waiting for their first win. They came close, dropping a match 35-36 (after an inexperienced wrestler, in his rejoicing over winning his match, left the mat before shaking his opponent's hand -- that costs the team a point.) They went to another school, and when they got there, the other school hadn't realized they were having a match that night. They ended up scrimmaging, and Pender won -- but it doesn't count in the record books.

Then last night, they wrestled at home, and actually tied the other team. But they lost on the 6th tie-breaking criteria (that's so far down the list, I don't even remember what it is.) They're on the road again tonight -- maybe tonight's the night.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Perks of the newspaper biz

There are several, but the one I was reminded of today is that you sometimes get to cover really cool things, and you even get paid for it.

A phone call from my editor woke me up this morning (that can signal the start of a potentially rotten day), telling me that we got a press release last night (another bad sign -- if an event is a good thing, it's usually advertised well in advance, during office hours). But this time was different.

The North Carolina Symphony was coming to play for the county's 4th and 5th grade students in the local high school gymnasium. The organizers got the event thrown together last-minutish, and I got there last-minutish. But I caught the whole performance, and aside from a 20th century piece of cacophany (I guess it was technically 21st century, but I can't tell the difference from the racket), the whole thing was delightful, capped off by the last movement of Tchaikovsky's third symphony. The kids were remarkably well-behaved; just about as good as many more "adult" audiences I've sat in.

I certainly didn't expect to get to listen to a professional state symphony orchestra today. And there's nothing quite like listening to Tchaikovsky live.

I'll have to remember this while I'm sitting through the next school board meeting.

The Eagle Has Landed!

Okay, so those who know what I look like might think this would be better titled "The Red-Headed Woodpecker Has Landed." But eagles are much cooler than red-headed woodpeckers, and although my head might be as hard as a woodpecker's, I lay claim to the coolness of the eagle, at least for this post.

I haven't updated this in far too long -- my apologies for that. Maybe I'll fill in some backstory in future posts, if I can find the time to keep this up.

We did indeed make it to Burgaw, NC, where I am now the assistant pastor of Bible Baptist Church, working under Carl Gibbs. After many exciting adventures involved in moving to a new state and doing things in the wrong order for all the people bound by red tape, we ended up renting a decent little house that as of today has a fence around the back yard for the benefit of our extremely hairy collie dog. I work for a local weekly newspaper, The Pender Post, with the official job title of "staff writer." That means I get to write all kinds of things and copy edit and take pictures, and generally make a nuisance of myself all over the county. Mostly loads of fun.

The pressure/stress of working under the deadlines of the newspaper world (and working with the high-strung people who wind up in the news business) actually don't bother me much. Years of writing research papers at the last minute, and months of writing 90 minute flash challenges at Liberty Hall were remarkably good preparation for a lot of what goes into newspaper writing. And yes, that research paper writing was often done at awful hours of the night (I mean morning), just like the paper has me doing pretty much once a week.

We love the new church. There are people there who are a blessing to us, week in and week out. They have made us feel right at home, immediately. I'm sure you'll learn about more of the church people as time goes on, because I can hardly help talking about them sometimes.

Things are going pretty well at Bible Baptist. They finished a new building a few years ago. The members are active, and we operate a bus ministry, jail ministry, prison ministry, and radio ministry. We see people saved almost every week, it seems, and often several in a week. New families have been coming, and a few have joined. We should have another baptismal service next Sunday, Lord-willing.

I teach the adult Sunday School (I love teaching) and preach on Sunday nights. (Okay, so I'm having a lot of fun with that, too.) I also direct the choir and sing with a couple of quartets, along with doing random solos and whatnot. My wife, daughter, and I usually go on bus visitation, and of course I go on regular visitation. Between this and the paper, I keep pretty busy. If I had a regret (and I really don't think I do), it would be that I can't work with the church full-time (as much as I enjoy some of the newspaper work -- I mean, they even pay me to go to football games, take pictures, and tell people about it!)

I try to get out to wrestling practice at a local high school that just started a wrestling program twice a week, but I haven't been able to be as consistent with that as I would like. When you eat as much fried chicken and drink as much sweet tea as we get down here, it takes a lot to stay in any shape but round.

I'm going to try to update this more often, now that I've taken the plunge. No promises, of course, but I'm planning to try sneaking updates in here regularly. And hopefully, I can get you caught up a bit on what's been going on for the last few months.

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