my son

Porter and John before breakfast
Originally uploaded by jpelphrey91

He eats. He sleeps. He does his business.

He smiles. He cries. He burps.

He grunts. He sneezes. He makes funny faces.

He's funny. He's smart. He's a handsome devil.

He is definitely my son...


sleep performance anxiety

i've been a dad for eight weeks now. in some ways it has passed by in a flash. in others it seems like an eternity. Kelly and i are looking forward to the first time he sleeps through the night with great anticipation. we've heard rumors of other people's kids starting it around 3 months or so. i can't wait.

so, i went on a business trip this week for my first night away from home since Porter was born. my whole plan was to get to the hotel as early as possible to try to catch some extra z's. i arrived at the hotel at 9 pm and hopped straight into the bed. but i just couldn't go to sleep. i stayed up till midnight and had to get up at 5 am. i actually got less sleep than when i'm at home. i think the pressure just got to me. is there such a thing as "sleep performance anxiety?" as everyone who reads this knows, i've never had a problem sleeping. i spent my entire senior year of high school asleep. i can sleep sitting up. i can sleep with noise all around me. most nights i'm asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. if there was a competitive professional sleeping tour, i'd be the league champion. but this one night with my first chance at real sleep in two months, i blew it. in the immortal words of charlie brown, "AAAAAUUUUUUUGH!"


2006 and my resolution for 2007

Kelly and I had a banner year. We took vacations to Portland, OR and NYC. My brother lived in Raleigh for a few months. It was nice to have him around. I wish he could've stuck around, but when he moved here I kind of knew it would be temporary. We sold our investment property, a former neighborhood crack house that we remodeled. It's now home to a nice couple attending Duke Med School. We sold off a parcel of land in the country that we purchased a few years ago. The land was intended to have a beautiful modern home on it. As time passed and I began to travel more for work we found that the country didn't suit our (my) lifestyle. It was a lost dream. A dream that we still hold onto, but it will have to wait a few years.

The biggest event of the year was finding out in early September that Kelly is pregnant. We are expecting a little boy around May 6th. The pregnancy has been tough on Kelly physically, but she is so excited to be a mother. I'm almost more excited to see her with our child than I am excited about the child itself. She is going to be a great mom. She's so natural with children. Her instincts are incredible. My instincts, on the other hand, are yet to be truly tested. We'll see...

Personally, 2006 was one of the toughest years I can remember. I turned 30. I spent a lot of time reflecting on my goals and purpose. I've learned that's a really self destructive path for me. We started attending church again for the first time in 10 years. Then we spent a few months toward the end of the year away from it again. It seems like the more time I spend considering who I am and where I'm going, the harder it is live freely. I have a hard time releasing control of my life to anything beyond my reach. I chose a conservative job straight out of college, and I'm still in it. I'm good at it. I have the respect of my colleagues and senior management, but it's safe, secure, and confining. I've always shied away from risk. Ever since I was little. I was never the kid that swung from tree limbs. Instead, I considered all the possible outcomes of climbing the tree and whether the limbs would hold my weight. Then, I'd chicken out. I'll admit it. I'm a chicken when it comes to personal risk. It haunts me. I beat myself up over it. I need control.

So my new year's resolution is to lose control. I think having a kid will be good for me. I hope he teaches me a few things about letting go and living in the freedom of inexperience. I've spent my whole life in a logical progression of well controlled steps. I've never stepped out on a limb in faith. I've always held on tight to the trunk. I hope fatherhood teaches me that the tree trunk is overrated and freedom is letting go.


social capitalism

when i was a kid growing up in Mississippi my parents started a community outreach organization in our church called Love Indeed. my mother had a background in government social work, but they had dreamed of finding a way for the church to get involved in improving the racially and economically divided community we lived in. it started when people would just show up at the church looking for a meal or asking for help with their electricity bills. these people came from all kinds of backgrounds. some were white. some were black. some had lost their jobs. some were traveling through town. some were teenage mothers. some were drug addicts. some were abused. some were criminals. but they all had a need to know that someone cared about them. they needed to see the grace and love that was talked about in the worship service in action. they needed love in deed.

now i mentioned that this town was racially divided, but that is really an understatement. the racism was embedded in the gene pool and this gene pool infested our church. oh sure, they wanted to help people, but probably only the white ones. did they actually have to go to homes in the projects and deliver groceries? what if someone saw them? what would they say at the country club?

there were, however, a group of people who shared the same vision as my parents. they had been praying for years for someone with my mother's background to come along and lead the church to make a difference in the community. so, they went to the church and asked for funding, a place to work, and volunteers. the church agreed and Love Indeed was born. looking back it had a profound impact in my life. i saw my parents and my church welcome social outcasts and offer them help with no strings attached. this church provided a supplement to the inept government welfare programs and they started groups to help people get out of poverty by teaching them about financial responsibility and birth control. the culture in the church changed from just giving money and letting someone else do the dirty work to actually taking action to improve the community. even after my parents moved to another community, Love Indeed is still going strong twenty years later at First Baptist Church in Columbus, MS. this is truly a testament to the power of love in deed.

i'm an avid reader of fast company. it's a great business magazine and the web site is full of great articles. every year they have an entire issue dedicated to social capitalism. social capitalism is the idea that a "for profit" company can improve society and turn a buck at the same time. click here to see some examples. i must admit at first this seemed very counterintuitive. we have been conditioned to think that businesses are only interested in making money no matter the cost. the news is always bashing greedy "big business" and talking about how big business controls the suits we elect with their cash and lobbyists. while that might be true in some cases, there are people all over the world who want to use their business savvy to improve their community and make a profit. i think it's the ultimate win/win business plan. the business owners or investors build a business that will have a positive impact on the community and the reward for their hard work is a profitable business.

you might be thinking, "why didn't they just start a non-profit? isn't social improvement really the job of organizations like habitat for humanity, the local church, and the salvation army?" while non-profits serve to enact positive social change and fill an important role, the people who start social capitalist businesses often start their careers in the "for profit" world and are more comfortable operating under that type of business model. non-profit business is a completely different model that involves navigating government red tape, raising funds in non-traditional ways, and providing a service that is relevant under some challenging financial constraints.

at my distinguished university we were taught that a corporation has three primary goals: 1) create a product the market demands, 2) exploit that product to make a profit for shareholders or business owners, 3) operate the business in a socially responsible manner. although i was required to memorize these three goals, most of my education revolved around goals #1 and #2. goal #3 was more of an afterthought, but it's probably the most important. after reading about the entrepreneurs in fast company a couple of years ago, i was inspired.

what kind of business could i start that would allow me to pay my bills and help the homeless guy who stands at the swift ave. exit ramp of the Durham freeway? i'm not looking to get super rich. i just want to build a business that will sustain my family and benefit society. is that too much to ask?

for two years i've been racking my brain trying to come up with a reasonable plan. i've thought of a lot of business ideas. some had great social benefits, but they ended up fitting more into the non-profit sector. others could make a lot of money, but they didn't really improve my community. i still haven't some up with good idea, but someday i truly believe that God will provide the opportunity for my family to build a social capitalist business. my mother has the social aspects covered. my father has worked in both the local church and private business. i have a cousin with a tremendous entrepreneurial mind. my bother has worked as an e.m.t and in corrections. i studied business in college and currently work in the big business world. my wife and i have spent the past year rehabbing a property in Durham that used to be the neighborhood crack house with the hope of making a little money and improving the community. we have a great core of talent, but we need a plan. i'm still praying for that plan.

sunday's sermon at the church i've been attending, vintage21, was about something very similar. it was something i needed to here. we looked at Nehemiah chapter 5. in chapter 5, Nehemiah sees the injustice of his society as the wealthy exploit the poor. he has a meeting with the wealthy men in his town where he tells them that they created these injustices and it's their responsibility to fix it. he didn't ask them to close their greedy big businesses because he recognized the importance of a healthy economy. he didn't ask them to hold a fund raiser or have a benefit concert. Nehemiah told the men to run socially responsible businesses. he told them to keep making a profit, but to do it in way that would build up the community not tear it down.

the challenge is embedded in me. i believe it is my calling to build a social capitalist business. i don't know what it will be and i don't know when it will happen. there is beauty in not knowing. there is fear in it as well. all i know is that i'm searching for an answer and that i need to continue to grow in my faith. the rest will happen in time.


feeling the heat

it's hot outside and humid to boot. welcome to the south. the humidity is what gets you. every year i forget how it makes me feel. then there's usually some day in may when it just hits like a ton of bricks. when it gets like this, it zaps all of the life out of me. i mean, i'm already kind of a slow mover, but the heat makes me doubly slow. that's especially unfortunate for my wife who just runs circles around me.

we cleaned out a shed behind our house over the memorial day weekend. it was filled (i mean totally packed) with wood scraps, cardboard boxes and a few pieces of aluminum siding. most of this stuff was left in the shed when we bought the house, but it has taken us a year and a half to actually get up the courage to clean it out. it wasn't fun. when we finally removed the debris, we found a rather large hole probably around 18 inches in diameter. i'm not sure what kind of animal would dig a hole that big and i don't want to find out. we just filled it in with the hope that the animal won't come back. while we cleaned i had to take numerous breaks because of the heat and my allergies were acting up. in the process kelly did most of the work. i must say i felt pretty bad about it because the project was my idea. i don't know where she gets the energy. i tried to get her to take a break (so that i wouldn't feel so bad whimping out) but she just kept working. i wish i had that kind of energy.


both sides of the gun

the new ben harper record, "Both Sides of the Gun," is excellent. click here to go ben's myspace page and preview the album.

Ben Harper



i was at churchhill downs a few years ago and watched a horse break his leg while he was charging to the finish line. they euthanized him right on the track. i was sitting just 100 feet or so from it. i'll never forget the chill that swept through the grandstand when he came up lame and the blanket of death that covered the track when they put him down.

today as i watched the preakness that same chill passed across the entire country when barbaro, the winner of the kentucky derby, broke his leg just before the first turn. two weeks ago barbaro blew away the field in the derby. he was a ferrari in a field of ford mustangs. today he didn't even get into second gear. the rest of the race was almost pointless. the best horse wasn't going to win. he's now in surgery and there is a possibility that he will have to be euthanized. although i'm sure the owner will exhaust all options before making that decision. he's worth too much in the breeding barn.

i know today's events are just part of the sport, but it doesn't make it any easier to watch. i hope barbaro makes it through surgery and goes on to live a happy life as a high paid stud.



There is an interesting article on relevant.com (click here to read) titled "Silent Evangelism." It starts with this quote by Dieter Zander, “If Christians in the US would be quiet for a year and only do good works, that would be evangelism. Our actions are way behind our words.” I don't know who Zander is nor do I know anything about his theology, but his observation is interesting.

Certainly there are plenty of passages in the Bible that deal with words and deeds.

Matthew 28:19
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."


Matthew 5:13-16
"13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."


James 2:26

"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."

These are the three that I thought of off the top of my head. In each of these passages we are encouraged to take action. In Matthew 28, Jesus doesn't say "preaching to them ..." He says "teaching them to..." Teaching takes more than just words. The best teachers I've ever had were the ones who taught through their actions not the ones who lectured from the front of the classroom.

I'm not sure what Mr. Zander intended in his statement, but to me it is a reflection on the way the "world" perceives the "church." I can relate. I haven't been active in a church for a long time mostly because I have difficulty with this exact issue. I've watched men lecture the Gospel from the pulpit and not live it out. I've listened to my peers say all the right things in church and then live a different life at home. I began to perceive the church as a hollow social club, and I decided that I couldn't justify the duplicity I was living in my life or watch it in others. I realize that this might not be the best answer, but it was my answer at the time.

Our world values action over words. People are inundated with words. All the blogs (even mine), newspapers, TVs shows, radio, magazines pollute us. What the world wants to see are people who will back up their words with action. For example, we want a President who will stand behind his campaign promises regardless of the politics involved and move this nation to be better. We don't want a man who will say anything to get elected and then start playing games with our tax money to benefit his already wealthy friends. (I'm not picking on Bush specifically. Most politicians are guilty of this including our current leader.)

In the same way, I'm not so sure the world cares what Christians say. The world looks at the fruits of our labor. They see churches organizing book burnings for "The DaVinci Code." What good is a book burning any way? They see stupid bumper stickers and T-shirt theology. They hear their Christian neighbors, and sometimes Christian leaders, sling racial slurs at the Arabic community (and many other ethnicities). They see televangelists selling salvation for a "small donation." They see a close minded sect who chooses to isolate themselves from everyone else by sending their kids to Christian schools instead of the public schools. They see elitism when they visit our churches. They see greed. They wonder why we spend so much money on a building with a basketball court that is only open to members of the church when there are homeless in the community who could use a place to sleep. So, I can see where Zander's statement is coming from.

Deeds alone will not work either. We can't work our way to heaven. If we're not careful the deeds will become just as hollow as the words.

Isn't the answer that we should learn to balance faith with our words and our actions? To me that is one of life's great struggles. It’s something I will struggle with my entire life. For those of you who know me well, I can be quite the loose cannon with my words. As my friend, Lafe, puts it,”John likes to spout off at the mouth." Now that I've written all this stuff, I guess I have to put it into action. I have decided become involved in the church again. I figure that is a pretty good start.


barry bonds and the sports writers

honestly, i don't know what to think. on one hand, barry bonds is the greatest hitter in a generation and a jerk who may have taken performance enhancing drugs to aid his chase of the career home run record. on the other, the sports writers will not leave this thing alone. does anyone care about barry passing ruth except the guys at ESPN? we've got "barry watch" showing us every sinlge at bat in his grueling slump where he's batting .090 since the start of may. do you think the guilt is setting in? why else would this man who averages a home run every twelve at bats only have a handful of hits and no home runs in fifteen days. all i know is barry needs to either hit a home run soon or trip on his way out of the dugout and tear his knee up so badly that he will be forced to retire at 713. one way or the other it just needs to end. this is madness. when does training camp start? i need an nfl fix.

on another sports note, larry brown is a genius. he's going to get $40 million dollars for one year of coaching after the knicks buyout his contract and fire him. all he had to do was finish with the worst record in the nba. genius, i tell you! genius!

my final thought... let's just make mexico the 51st state instead of closing the border. this way we can exploit their oil fields and banana farms, and they can work and live wherever they want. i think its a good compromise. or we could go with the bush plan and waste a couple billion dollars to put our army and national guard to work to fight another losing cause. i find bush's speech interesting considering there were people volunteering a few months ago to do the exact same job for free and the government told them their services weren't needed.



i can't believe i finally signed up for myspace. i never thought i would, but it's really pretty interesting. i found a bunch of friends and acquaintances from college, mostly still aspiring musicians. i'm going to post links to their pages so that you can hear their music. if i recommend them, they are worth listening to. if we’ve met before and you stumble onto my blog (highly unlikely) and your link isn't here, it probably means i haven't found you, yet. so, drop me a note sometime.