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Posts Tagged ‘Harrisonburg’

RISESince November of last year, I have been attending a Methodist church in downtown Harrisonburg called RISE.  For those who know me, this news may seem a bit odd; after all, I am not a Methodist and still am a member of a local Presbyterian church.  So what would draw me to this church?  Well, like a playwright or a musician, my actions were inspired by a woman.

Now, in truth, my church attendance in recent years has been a bit spotty.  Since coming to the realization that I was no longer a Calvinist, I dabbled in a few other churches, including the Seventh Day Adventists, but nothing ever lasted for more than a month or two.  My last roommate at William & Mary, who has since become a Methodist minister in the northern Shenandoah Valley, had been encouraging me to rejoin a church community, but the problem was that my faith no longer fit neatly into a preformed denomination.

Although I was never specifically invited to RISE, I decided to attend my first service back in November as a way to show this friend that I cared for her.  In the weeks and months that followed, our relationship flourished, was snuffed out, rose again from the ashes, and has now, unfortunately, disintegrated completely.

I’m not going to into the details of what happened here, but I will say that it has been one of the most difficult times in my life. The joy of discovering someone who became so special to me only to lose everything, to find my hopes and dreams that I had been building high into the clouds suddenly collapse into a heap of useless rubble was almost more pain than I could bear.

And yet, through these difficult trials, much like my friends, RISE has been there for me.  It is much more than mere church service every Sunday; it is a group of fine individuals who genuinely care about others, who ask me how things have been going, who know of the trials I’ve suffered, and who have prayed with me through the whole ordeal.  They have given me the strength to carry on when I was at my lowest and, as you might imagine, I am immensely grateful.

So what’s the take home message for you, my good reader? Although there is great merit in studying the scriptures on your own, as I have done most nights before bed for more years that I can remember, my advice is to similarly find a supportive religious community that you too can call home.  Sure, you may have theological differences, I still don’t consider myself a Methodist, but that doesn’t mean that one cannot find and forge strong bonds with new brothers and sisters in Christ.

In closing, although my Facebook friends have already heard this song, I’d like to share a bit of music I listen to when I’m sad or my faith needs a little bolstering.  Given that RISE plays contemporary music, maybe one day they will play this one as well.

Whatever dark trial you maybe be facing today, or a new challenge that arises tomorrow, it is likely that you too could benefit from the folks who meet in the theater behind Capital Ale in downtown Harrisonburg.  Perhaps a community like RISE will give you the support you need to endure.

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IMG_1953As someone who grew up in Harrisonburg, I spent many a childhood afternoon and weekend enjoying the public parks the city offered.  However, around the age of ten, the city constructed a new structure in Purcell Park called Kids’ Castle.  Made primarily of wood, with a few bits of metal and rubber, the place was absolutely fantastic.  Without a doubt, it was one of my favorite spots and so I often begged my parents to take me there.

Several weeks ago, I got together with a friend who lives near Purcell Park and so I suggested taking a walk through the area.  Although I had visited the park several months prior, this time I took the opportunity to return to my childhood destination of Kids’ Castle.

Unfortunately, what I discovered was very distressing; the wooden structure was falling into disrepair.  Many of the metal surfaces had begun to rust, some of the boards were exceedingly worn, a few nail ends were visible, ready to pierce the hands of unaware children, a tire bridge was actively disintegrating, and a handful of weeds grew up through the gravel.  Although it was beginning to rain, I toured a bit of the castle and nearly fell on an exceedingly slippery piece of wood.  It was as if Kids’ Castle had been more or less forgotten, abandoned these last 22 years.

I brought up this matter during the public forum of the next meeting of the Harrisonburg City Council.  Reaction from the council was mixed.  For example, Council Member Chenault mentioned that a newer park, A Dream Come True, over on the west end of the city was built to replace Kids’ Castle and given the sorry state of the facility, it might be best to tear it down.  After the meeting, I received an email from Council Member Degner and a phone call from Council Member Shearer; due to these contacts, I also spoke to the manager of Harrisonburg’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Yesterday, I was featured on WHSV TV-3 to briefly speak about the matter.  That segment, which aired at 11 PM last night, can be found at this link.

It is my great hope that Kids’ Castle can be repaired so that the present and next generation of children can treasure it as much as I once did.  And, assuming I ever experience the joy of children of my own, I’d very much like for them to have a wonderful and nearby place to play outside, a recreational option that is much healthier than the hours of television or video games that parents increasingly rely upon these days.

So what will happen next?  Well, as a result of the city council meeting and the reporting of WHSV, I’ve been told that the city is planning to repair much of Kids’ Castle by the end of July.  It is excellent news.  It is time to reclaim Kids’ Castle!

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Last night, I joined about a dozen or more local political activists at a restaurant in downtown Harrisonburg for about two hours.  As the title of this piece implies, the group was a social gathering called Drinking Liberally.

Now, it seems likely that many of you might question why I, the author of a blog entitled “The Virginia Conservative”, would willingly choose to spend any time with a multitude of self-avowed liberals.  After all, aren’t these people our political enemies, a group that should be shunned at every turn?

When I first became embroiled in politics a number of years ago, I held a similar view of political activists across the aisle.  These people are unreasonable, intolerant, and best avoided.  As far as I could tell, they didn’t care much for me, so why should I treat them any differently?

However, in recent times I have come to a somewhat different realization.  For example, prior to attending a number of Libertarian functions many years ago, I held a rather dim view of those sorts of people.  However, the more time that I spent around them, the more I realized that we actually did share a number of common interests, that they were not some radical monolithic group that wanted nothing more than to spend their day smoking pot and abolishing all forms of government.  Perhaps the best aspect of all was the friendships that came about as a result of our time together, including one that I treasured more than all of the rest combined.

Now, I admit that I don’t share much, if any, political ground with most liberals these days.  Issues that might normally unite us, like a concern for the erosion of our civil liberties and a rejection of an interventionist foreign policy seem less likely given that President Obama has been promoting policies that stand in stark contrast to these views.  Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean, nor should it mean, that each and every self-identified liberal endorses this course of action simply because a Democratic president does as well.  Just a handful of conservatives (not enough in my mind) opposed these same big government policies of Republican George W. Bush.

It is natural for people to band together into like-minded camps such a liberals, conservatives, libertarians, statists, and the like.  However, the sickness in American politics is that there is very little communication between these groups these days, in part, because we are constantly bombarded with an “us against them” mentality promoted by the talking heads on radio and television.

However, I believe that this widening gap is a situation that can and ought to be remedied, which is why I attended this gathering last night.  Now, I didn’t, of course, either literally or figuratively enter the group wearing a sign proclaiming my conservatism; doing so would likely would have created an air of hostility and suspicion from the onset.  Rather, I sat down with a number of folks and spoke to them one on one about issues, current events, and predictions for the future.  Yes, believe it or not, the other side isn’t some collection of political monsters.

As some of you may know, I am currently in talks with a local radio station to craft a new radio program about state and local politics that explores a multitude of political opinions.  Ideally, I hope to showcase the entire political spectrum, not to degrade these other viewpoints, but to create an atmosphere where discussion and rational thought is encouraged rather than simply shouted down.

Although I am not a liberal, nor do I have any plans to become one, I still enjoyed my time with the Harrisonburg and Rockingham liberals last night.  Despite our differences, it is my hope that we can expand this interpolitical dialogue so that each of us can express our viewpoints without fear of rejection or immediate condemnation.  That, I believe, is the hallmark of a classically liberal society, an ideal that we should all strive to achieve.

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IMG_1873Recently, a war has been playing itself out in the opinion section of my local newspaper, The Daily News Record.  This conflict is waged over the opening of a new restaurant at the Valley Mall in Harrisonburg called The Tilted Kilt.

So what’s the big deal, you might ask?  Well, one of the unique features of this establishment concerns the appearance of their employees.  Their well-endowed all-female server staff wears short plaid kilts (though they look a bit more like mini-skirts than kilts), a matching top, which accentuates their physical features, and a tied shirt that leaves the midriff more or less completely exposed.

Many in the religious community, especially the Valley Family Forum, have strongly condemned the Tilted Kilt, declaring it to be blight on the Shenandoah Valley and a place that sexually exploits and objectifies their women servers as well as their male clientele.  Others, however, including one local church, see the Kilt in a positive aspect, as it is a place that offers new food choices as well as a variety of jobs to citizens.

Yesterday, along with a couple of friends, I visited this establishment to learn a bit more about the controversy first hand.  Given the animosity in the newspaper, I was a bit surprised that there were no angry protestors picketing outside.

Communicating with the wait staff was a bit of a challenge at first; given the abundance of cleavage, one did have to try hard not to stare.  However, as my cousin pointed out, is there too much difference between the Kilt attire and spending a day at the beach?  I ordered a cup of their chili.

After the meal, I took a bit of time to speak with our waitress regarding her experiences.  Perhaps defying stereotypes, she was fairly well educated, a college graduate.  Although she too expected an angry barrage of folks outside the restaurant when it first opened, she stated that protests have been pretty minimal thus far.

So, what do you think about the Tilted Kilt in the culturally conservative Shenandoah Valley?  Is it a boon or a burden?  Is it simply another restaurant trying a new tactic to earn a buck or is it degrading to its employees and customers?

Either way, if you do ever plan on stopping in either to gauge the controversy for yourself or for a bite to eat, I’d recommend against the chili; a few too many onions and not quite enough spice for my tastes.

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When considering U.S. foreign policy, how often do you think about the morality of our nation’s actions?  Presumably many of us don’t pause to consider this question and, if we took the time to do so, it is likely that we would very troubled by some of the actions our leaders have taken on our behalf.

Joel-McDurmon-150x150To explore this topic in greater depth, I’m pleased to announce that Dr. Joel McDurmon will be coming to Harrisonburg this coming Saturday, May 4th.  Starting at 7 PM in the Board of Supervisors room for Rockingham County (20 East Gay Street), Dr. McDurmon will be speaking on “The Bible, War, and American Foreign Policy: What’s the Problem?”.  After his talk, members of the audience are encouraged to participate in what will surely be a lively question and answer period.  The groups sponsoring this event are: The Republican Liberty Caucus of the Shenandoah Valley, Grassroots Solutions Inc., and the Providence Baptist Church.

I hope you’ll strongly consider coming to this event on Saturday.  Entrance is free though donations are accepted.

If you would like a flier with more information, please click on the joel flyer.

See you there!

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Harrisonburg City CouncilLast night, the Harrisonburg City Council assembled for their bi-monthly meeting.  Although I had attended several of their gatherings over the last few months, tonight I went for a specific purpose; I planned to speak with the council regarding pedestrian safety in the city.

When the mayor motioned for me to approach the podium, my heart became a jackhammer in my chest.  For those who know me, this reaction might seem rather strange.  After all, I love speaking about politics with anyone and everyone who cares to listen (as well as many people who don’t).  However, this experience brought back a rather harsh memory, a reminder of the last time that I spoke before the council.

If we rewind the clock, 2006 marked both the first and only time that I stood before the Harrisonburg City Council.  Back then, the council held a public forum regarding selling the Harrisonburg High School building to James Madison University.  As it turned out, the hearing was little more than a formality.  Looking back, it seemed that the deal was more or less made and whatever the public opinion happened to be, it mattered little to the members of council.  As I recall, they weren’t a particularly receptive or sympathetic group and offering my opinion to them was a waste of time.

However unreceptive that council happened to be, the Harrisonburg School Board was far worse.  Arguing that the city schools shouldn’t forgo any usable classroom space, I informed the board about my experiences in 8th grade at Thomas Harrison Middle School; where I spent a good chunk of my days in one of those trailer units and how, when we got a heavy rain, I had to place a trashcan on my desk to collect the rainwater which dripped through the leaky roof.  Once I relayed my thoughts, I left the meeting.  I was told that after I did so, one of members of the school board stated that I was a liar.  As you might imagine, news of this allegation made me so incensed that I located my 8th grade homeroom teacher, a woman that I had not seen in many years, to see if she would either deny or confirm what I had said.  Yes, she told me that my memory was correct.  Another bitter pill to swallow was the fact that most of the councilmen and school board members, including the one who claimed I was deceptive, were fellow Republicans!

So, getting back to last night, with all of these thoughts in my mind as I spoke before the council, I felt that my words were horribly nervous and disjointed and, although I had planned what I wanted to say beforehand, nothing came out right.  It was an important issue, but, at that moment, I thought I was a poor spokesman.  I tried to remedy the situation in my mind by reminding myself that all but one of these men were not the same as the ones from 2006, that I had spoken to each previously and, with the possible exception of Mr. Chenault, each knew me and presumably we had some measure of respect for each other.  In fact, in mid 2012, Mayor Byrd told me that he read this blog.  But the memories from over half a decade ago gone by proved to be too strong.  Hopefully, they will lessen in time, but I believe that I must force myself to go before the council again, (once I have something important to discuss) so that these newly rediscovered demons from the past can be put to rest.

My take-home message to you, the reader, is as follows.  No one should ever be afraid to talk with their elected representatives, be they local, state, or federal.  Don’t ever be tricked into thinking that you exist to serve the government; the government exists to serve you.  And so friends, I encourage you once again to study the important political issues of the day, speak out when the time calls for it, and never be cowed into silence, as I was for many years in local matters.

In liberty, now and always!

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Around 3 PM on Saturday, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli arrived at the Republican Party headquarters in Harrisonburg to officially kick off the opening of that office.  About seventy-five people attended including several elected officials such as Delegate Ben Cline of Rockbridge County and Harrisonburg/Rockingham Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson.  Also on hand were representatives from a handful of other campaigns: Jeannemarie Davis’, Corey Stewart’s, and, of course, State Senator Mark Obenshain’s.

After a prayer and a few introductory remarks, Delegate Tony Wilt spoke to prep the crowd for Ken Cuccinelli.  The following video captures the entirety of the attorney general’s speech.

Cuccinelli & BootsOnce Ken Cuccinelli finished, Georgia Long, a 6th Congressional District State Central Party Representative, offered him a gift of flowers in a boot-shaped pot.

After Mr. Cuccinelli left, with the start of the campaign season officially underway for the Republican Party in Harrisonburg, volunteers manning the phones to begin anew the process of identifying and targeting voters.

In the Shenandoah Valley, the long and likely heated contest to select the next governor of Virginia has begun!

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In the next several days, both Susan Stimpson and Ken Cuccinelli will be making stops in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

First, lieutenant governor candidate Susan Stimpson will be hosting a meet & greet on Friday evening.  This event will be taking place at Franco’s Pizza, which is located at 225 Burgess Road, from 4:30 PM to 6 PM.  Perhaps the location is better well know as being in the same shopping center as Walmart, Staples, and Barnes & Noble.  To RSVP for this event, please email RSVP@SusanStimpson.com.

Then, on Saturday, presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli will be on hand for the grand opening (or reopening) of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County GOP headquarters at 2:30 PM.  As has been the case in the last several election cycles, this office is located on 182 Neff Avenue, in the shopping center right behind the Valley Mall.  For additional information on this event, please contact Adam at ashepherd@rpv.org or call (540) 478-2690.

Yes, it is an exciting time politically here in the city of Harrisonburg as more and more candidates make campaign stops in the friendly city.  So don’t miss these opportunities to learn more about your political choices!

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As mentioned in a previous post, both Jeannemarie Davis and Delegate Scott Lingamfelter spoke at last Friday’s Republican gathering at the Woodgrill Buffet in Harrisonburg.  Although not as large a turnout as the previous month, the attendees from the various portions of the central Shenandoah Valley still filled a good sized room.  While Mrs. Davis and her staff attended the entire meeting, Del. Lingamfelter and his staff arrived a bit late as they were held up by a previous speaking engagement in Goochland County.

For those who have not heard one or either of these two candidates, I’m pleased to present the entirety of their speeches.  If you are wondering why there is not a video of both, the battery in my camera was nearly dead and thus I had to switch to an audio recording for the second presentation.  Hopefully, this information will be useful to you as you decide amongst your choices for lieutenant governor.

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On Thursday, February 28th, the Harrisonburg branch of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party hosted Dr. Robert Subrick at their monthly meeting.  Dr. Subrick is a Professor of Economics at James Madison University whose work has been featured in numerous publications including the Review of Austrian Economics, the Indian Journal of Economics and Business, and the American Review of Political Economy.

In his lecture, Dr. Subrick offered a brief introduction to Austrian Economics as well as an overview of many of the thoughts of the Nobel Prize winning economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek.  News of Dr. Subrick speech brought a number of new faces to Thursday’s tea party meeting.  It should also be noted that this information is particularly important for those individuals who are unfamiliar with this important topic.

Rather than present a summation of this talk, with Dr. Subrick’s permission, I’m pleased to present a video of his speech in its entirety.  I hope that you find it both interesting and informative.

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