Let's clean out the notebook...
It is good to be back after nearly a week in central North Carolina, where I visited with two good friends in the Charlotte and Greensboro areas. (No, they were not affected by the hurricane.) It is great to get away and to be loved and supported by old friends, as well as their wives.
But North Carolina is a great place to visit. The highlight was the Billy Graham Library (billygrahamlibrary.org), which is as professionally and spiritually designed as it could be. The video presentations were innovative, the artifacts were plenty and and even the famous animatronic talking cow looks as realistic as one Disney could come up with. You learn a lot about Graham's life. I had no idea he had a pavilion at the New York's World's fair, and you got to see his crusade pulpit, an IBM designed contraption that could be raised and lowered — and which had a red light to tell him when to wind it down. (So deacons can order a lighted warning pulpit and say, "If it was good for Billy Graham ...)
But it was all designed to ultimately bring to gospel to visitors, ending with a short video that uses segments of Graham sermons to bring one to Christ. One is given commitment cards and leaves that auditorium and walks through neon outlines of a cross, meeting up with counselors they can talk to; a nearby prayer room can be used along the way. It is well designed, not only being informative but also carrying out Graham's lifelong work to bring people to a saving knowledge of Christ. There is also a great restaurant and a bookstore, and one may visit the graves of Billy and Ruth Graham (as well as the graves of Mr. and Mrs. Cliff Barrows and for George Beverly Shea, which are a short walk away). Check for slower periods, as I hear they are slammed for Easter and other periods.
One friend just north of Charlotte had a speed boat and we went out on Norman Lake (visitlakenorman.org), their version of Smith Lake. We sat out on the boat and talked, but not before passing huge mansions on the lake, signifying someone has a better 401K than I do.
Another friend took me to downtown Winston-Salem, where we visited Mast General Store (www.maststore.com). It is actually a chain of nine store in the two Carolinas (as well as Knoxville, Tennessee), where they renovate old historic buildings (ranging in date from 1898 to 1940) to make multi-level general stores with everything from vintage toys to camping clothes. (Think of it as the store part of Cracker Barrel times 1,000.) It is well worth a visit.
Nearby, Old Salem (oldsalem.org) is a collection of buildings, some dating back to 1800 or so, that serve as a living 75-acre history district that shows a restore Moravian community, with pottery, a bakery and demonstrations. (Many of the buildings are run by a women's college.) The humble Moravians were Europeans that were ahead of Martin Luther on reformation and led the way on many evangelical elements we take for granted. Skip Mondays so you can see more in action.
Then I went Sunday to an Anglican church, the Church of the Good Shepherd in Bermuda Run (GoodShepherdBurmudaRun.org) in the Greensboro area. One of my friends is the worship leader there, and the service was very spiritual and meaningful. But it got a boost by the fact it is in the Win-Mock Farm Dairy, built in 1927 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was a real working dairy barn for years, and has been renovated to to be a community center owned by a Christian who makes sure the church had a place on Sundays, with set-up and take-down. It worships on the second floor, just under a massive roof with wooden beams intact, making it feel like a cathedral.
I should also point out one friend had a son who had a flag football practice that I attended on Saturday. It turned out it was on the green of a golf club - the Trump National, in the Charlotte area (www.trumpnationalcharlotte.com). Turned out Donald Trump bought the club and renovated it; I must say, it is nice. My friend lives nearby in Mooresville and he said he knows when roads are blocked that the president is in town.
There were many other great things for the week, from some great breakfasts to playing with the pets, but I will cut it off here. I will note that I was surprised at the Birmingham airport I was let through with the pre-TSA designation, meaning I didn't have to take off the belt and shoes. I think it may have been from having the STAR ID on my driver's license, but truthfully they didn't recognize that in Greensboro and I had to do the additional. But Greensboro was so slow that morning I sailed through and still had to wait two hours for the flight.
• One benefit of being picked up by Dad at 1 p.m. Tuesday is that we went straight to the one-month old Shoney's in Trussville. To my shock, it had a bar to the side; we stuck with tea, not to mention the Half-O-Pound dinner (still seasoned in the Shoney's manner) and topped with a Hot Fudge Cake. It's not far from Jasper, as it is off I-65, east of the exit once you get off at for Target, JCPenney's and all those other shops.
• Hamilton got some news long rumored that finally resolved a long-time problem. The Ramp ministry announced it has purchased the shopping center that was once home to the movie theater and the old TG&Y, next to Hardee's and across from the current Ramp auditorium. The parking lot has been an eyesore for years, which the old owners would never get to repairing, always holding out to redevelop it. City leaders have held meetings about it. I think it will now be the home of a larger auditorium for the ministry.
• While I was out, I am sorry I missed Will Ainsworth and Joe Siegelman (the latter left a note on a business card). The biggest news was local, as Tanya Guin dropped her independent bid for county school superintendent. She misssed a deadline, so her name will still actually be on the ballot, meaning Interim Superintendent Joel Hagood is still campaigning to get people to mark his name.
But many are not surprised this happened in the wake of Hagood's Republican victory, followed by his appointment as superintendent once Jason Adkins resigned to be reassigned as a two-year consultant. Hagood and Guin were friendly and respectful to each other, and Guin certainly doesn't put Hagood in the same category as Adkins. I think she and her supporters can chalk up a victory of sorts, considering it would also be hard to go after a freshly-minted incumbent who just won the Republican nomination. It would have been a tough go as an independent.
Of course, this leads us to the next question, which I have not had time to explore since arriving Tuesday: As the superintendent race has been removed as a major attraction, how much will that impact turnout for the sheriff's race and its candidates? Will that help Nick Smith in concentrating to get his voters out, or will it hurt? Will it detract for people to come out for the two independents? Will all of them take a hit? My guess is that it will still be an uphill battle for the independents in the race, but the turnout on Nov. 6 will fall that much more. It could be a ho-hum night save for any state upsets, with the Congress the real attraction.
• Politico paints a rosy picture for new federal funding for Fiscal 2019. The Pentagon's first on-time annual funding bill in 22 years is part of it. Billions of dollars are set to fight opioid addiction, and the biggest military pay raise in a decade in included. But the headline is buried in all the uproar over the Supreme Court nomination. Worse yet, Congress hasn't known whether President Trump would veto to deflect attention or make points with his base, when it would be a natural sales point for the mid-term elections.
Meanwhile, the latest from the Cook Political Report, aside of some progress in a few individual races, sees more bad news for Republicans, as the situation has turned worse since Labor Day.
"But both parties are seeing Republicans' numbers continuing to erode in professional suburbs, and some in the GOP feat they still haven't hit 'rock bottom,'" Politico quotes Cook as saying. "This week, five more districts move towards Democrats. Overall, 13 GOP seats now lean to Democrats and another 29 are Toss Ups. Democrats, who only need 23 seats, remain clear favorites for the majority."