Monday, March 23, 2015

Grieving for the Lost

As a young girl in Houston in the 60s, my exposure to racial unrest was minimal, as the kinds of events that occurred in other southern states did not happen in Texas. I recall just a couple of years ago, Rev. William Lawson, Pastor Emeritus of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, explaining in a sermon that paralleled the civil rights struggle with the Old Testament struggle of the children of Israel, that there was some kind of negotiated agreement between local Black leaders and others of the paler national about desegregation. I do not recall demonstrations in Houston where people were assaulted with fire hoses or beaten or spat on or killed.

That is not to say there were no racial injustices; there were plenty, but not on the scale of Selma, Birmingham, Little Rock or other places. I can cite instance after instance of my own personal experiences, but this writing is about something so much larger than I; it is about all of us. Still, I have to get personal. Because observations, experiences, feelings and impressions are first personal. What one sees, takes into the mind, and filters through knowledge and past experiences, and, hopefully, objectivity, still has a tinge of "it’s personal." So the accumulation of stuff that one sees, hears and experiences day after day – the good, bad, positive, negative, indifferent, ugly, outlandish, vile, unspeakable, disrespectful, encouraging, savage and uncivilized – can be overwhelmingly depressing. And that is personal. Did you notice that the good outweighed the bad? It was so easy to think of the negative stuff. And that is depressing.

So, what does all of that have to do with weeping for the lost? I’m glad you asked. Fast-forward to the present, remembering a bit of what has happened in the past.

I do not believe in coincidence. While leaving Birmingham I took the wrong exit and found myself on the wrong freeway. Getting off at the next exit, I happened to look at my gas gauge which should I had about a quarter of a take of gas. Even a Prius can’t get very far on that, so I pulled into the first gas station I saw and filled up. Getting back on the street I began to make my way to right entrance, I observed a sign – "16th Street Baptist Church." Not yet realizing the significance of that sign, I headed toward 16th St. I cannot describe how strange this was. It was one of those funny feelings I get when something is about to happen and I have no explanation but just know the funny feeling means something. I turned right onto 16th street, drove a couple of blocks, and there it was – the 16th Street Baptist Church. I took advantage of parking on the street in front of the church and I got out of my car and look at the building, taking note of the post
with painted messages that was just to the left. Then it hit me: this is the church that was bombed in the 60s, the church where the four girls who were killed one Sunday.

As I walked up the steps that funny feeling was overwhelming. As I stood at the door of the church I knew I was looking at different doors and windows but it really hit me that this is where something painfully significant happened. This is where a house of God was attacked by people who claimed to believe in Him. This is where four young lines were destroyed and the lives of their families were changed forever.

My imagination ran wild, and in my mind’s eye I could see horror and violence — vicious dogs, men on horseback wielding clubs, others with fire hoses, people posing around bodies burned beyond recognition, hanging from trees, men behind bars whose only crime was an aspiration to be treated with basic human dignity and have the same rights as others. Tears streamed down my face, streamed freely as I stood there struggling to compose myself. Why is this happening to me? Why can’t I stop crying? Part of it was deep sorrow, part was gratitude and part of it was prayer.

I grieved for the loss of life. Only the Giver of life should take it.

I grieved for those girls who would never grow up and experience the joys and sorrows of having done so.

I grieved for the families who lost their precious, priceless treasures.

I grieved for the unjustifiable hatred.

I grieved for the senseless destruction and damage to God's house

I grieved that such evil existed in the first place.

I grieved that it still does.

Even while I grieved for the past, I grieved for the present –

That decades later racism still abounds.

I grieved for the hatred that still exists and for people who want to conserve a way of life that would stifle opportunities and rights of some so they can perpetuate their false sense of superiority.

I grieved for their ignorance.

And even harder, I wept for the lost, those who now take for granted what decades ago others fought so bravely and endured so much, even death, to obtain for themselves and their progeny. Those who do not vote. Those who refuse to go to school and get an education. Those who waste opportunities to improve their quality of life. Those who refuse to take responsibility for themselves.

And being keenly aware that the sacrifices made there and in other places by people I will never know, have impacted the quality of my life. I am grateful beyond words.

And I prayed. I prayed for the peace that we still don't have.
I prayed to see that peace before I breathe my last.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

This is My Prayer

Today I met a 33-year-old woman who has two children by a married man. I am told that it was while she was pregnant with the second child that she learned the man was already married, and so she left him. I had to tell her that she did not qualify for help with paying for health insurance because her income was too low, and that she did not qualify for Medicaid because she was too young. She told me about her income, and I asked if she planned on going to work, to which she replied she could not work, that she has never worked. She appeared to be in good health, but remembering how ticked I get when people tell me I look "alright" I asked if she had a condition that kept her from working and she told me that she was "slow." 
Me:  But you can do something, can't you? Surely there is something you can do to earn an income
Her:  No, I’m just slow.
Me:  Well, maybe it takes you longer to learn something, but does that mean you cannot?
Her:  Well they said I was slow and I can’t do anything. Any way if I work I’ll lose my benefits?
Me:  What benefits?
Her:  SSI
Me:  And how much is that?
Her:  $648 a month.
Me:  What else do you get?
Her:  That’s it. And child support.
Me:  And how much is that?
Her:  $294 a month.
Me:  Don’t you think you’re worth more than $648 a month? What if you could make $1296 a month? Wouldn’t you be better off?
Her:  And they already took some of my money.
Me:  What money of yours did ‘they’ take. You haven’t earned any money! Don’t you want to be free to earn your own money?
No response.
When I took a really good like at her, I saw a hollow, depressed, broken, hopeless soul. I had no idea how she came to be so, but it hurt me to my core. Part of me wanted to scream, and the other part wanted to cry. I cannot help but speculate that from an early age she was indoctrinated to believe she had nothing of value and could do nothing of value. I would like to meet the people who gave her the foundation to imprison herself for life.
God did not create you to have nothing to do or nothing to offer. If you ever decide you want to do something with your life, I will do whatever I can to help you find a way.
In my work I meet people of all socio-economic ilks.  On the one hand, I have visited well-cared for homes, modest and absolutely opulent, and on the other hand, one so infested that it caused me to stand.  (I explained that my knees were bothering me and the seat was kind of low, so it wasn't blatant lie.)  I have met young adults whose sour attitudes and "I-want-isms" made me envision slapping them, while that voice in my right ear (yep, I hear voices) chided me about passing judgment. And I have met folks whose lives, after decades of work and responsible living, have been challenged and stifled by lost retirement funds and chronic illnesses, and whose level-headed and gracious manner made my work easy, even when bearing not-so-good news.
Until I met that 33-year-old, I thought I had seen it all. I am haunted by her visage. And I pray she will find the will to leave her prison and embrace the good, bad and ugly of life – its joys, sorrows, failures and successes. I have no idea how I can help someone so enslaved. And I pray that she will call, and when she does, He will show me a way.
This is my prayer.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Checked Your Kidneys Lately? -- "Medical" Thoughts of a Lay Person

Dialysis clinics are popping up all of the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area like banks. Have you ever wondered about End State Renal Disease? I am told that uncontrolled diabetes or high blood pressure can cause kidney failure (will have to research in my "spare" time).

Recently I met a 29-year-old and his 57-year-old father, both on dialysis. On the same day, about a mile away I visited with a woman who became my client, who has ESRD. None of these people are of Medicare age. All of them have well-worn Medicare Cards. Over the last ten years or so, dialysis providers have consolidated, resulting in two large organizations treating approximately 72% of all U.S. dialysis patients. What does this do to costs? A diagnosis of ESRD entitles one of any age for Medicare. ESRD costs are generally over $600,000 a year. 

While I cannot spout a lot of medical mumbo jumbo about ESRD, I do believe that stuff we drink -- and stuff we should drink but don't -- can have a deleterious effect on kidney function. Various studies show that the consumption of soda in the United States is about 50 gallons per person per year. Realistically, many consume much more (someone has to be drinking my share because the occasional Diet Mountain Dew, about one a month, is only 1.5 gallons a year).

In 2011 there were about 507,326 in the Medicare ESRD population and 108,573 in the non-Medicare population. Medicare spending on its ESRD population in 2011 was $34.4 billion. ( Many ESRD patients qualify for Medicaid, hence an additional drain on states’ funds. 

This is not a "don’t treat ‘em" speech. Rather, it is a suggestion that "we" take better care of our bodies. There are things we can do, and things we can refrain from doing, to help ourselves. Get regular checkups for early detection of dieseases. If diabetes is an issue, avoid stress, eat a healthy diet, exercise, take medications as directed, reduce/eliminate alcoholic beverages, and monitor blood glucose. If high blood pressure is an issue, avoid stress, eat a healthy diet, exercise, take medications as directed, reduce/eliminate alcoholic beverages, monitor blood pressure.  And drink water. 
Sounds kind of redundant? Yep. 


Friday, August 15, 2014

It Didn't Have to Go That Far, However . . .

This is not an easy subject. A young man, already wounded, is shot multiple times by a police officer. People all over the country are inflamed. They assemble to protest. Police overreact. Pictures of the 60s – police with dogs – are compared with those of today.

It is difficult to remain objective when things like this happen, especially if one has experienced first-hand unjust treatment merely because of the color of one's skin. When skin tone matters, all of the intelligence, education, credentials, licenses, skills and abilities matter little, if at all. I am a witness. And if one is to look beyond skin tone, there are other ugly truths one must face, even in the escalated altercation that ended in the slaughter of a young black man. Objectivity, however, is necessary so as not to get caught up in the ugly emotions that drive these horrific incidents.

Ugly truth: The police officer told Mr. Brown and his friend to get out of the street and take the sidewalk. Rather than follow this simple, yet, as it has been reported, nastily spewed instruction, the young men told the officer they were almost at their destination.

Unanswered question: Why couldn't they just get out of the street?

Ugly question: Did this provoke the policy offer? Most likely, it did.

THE question: Is the police officer justified in shooting Mr. Brown multiple times after he had surrendered himself, already shot twice? Absolutely not!

Mr. Brown was murdered. Unjustifiably murdered. I cannot help but think, however, that Mr. Brown would be alive had he withheld an explanation as to why he would not follow the officer's instruction, taken the sidewalk (a pedestrian path), rather stayed in the street (a vehicular thoroughfare).

As Kelli Kox has instructed her sons: "When the police come, this is what you do. This is how you speak to them. Do not get into a power struggle. Listen to them. If they are trying to give you a ticket, get the ticket. Because it's not worth it. It's just not worth it."

Something must be done to stop these murders committed behind shields of authority. The responsibility is everyone’s, not just one side or the other. I always maintained that if George Zimmerman had stayed in his vehicle, Trayvon Martin would not have been killed that night. Mr. Zimmerman’s disobedience was the link to Mr. Martin’s murder. In this instance, Mr. Brown’s disobedience was the link to his own demise. If Michael Brown and his companion had taken the sidewalk, chances are Mr. Brown would still be alive.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Keeping The Strings Straight

Weighing in once again on a recent video snippet, taken out of context, to cast a negative light on the current POTUS:

1.   This country has been being ripped to pieces for decades. One can go back as far as one dares and what will be found over the last few decades are special interest groups out for their own narrow, self-centered purposes, basically getting more of whatever at the expense of others. And, no, I am not a communist. I have a healthy respect for capitalism but not the way a few people have lied, cheated and stolen their way into a financial gain at the expense of others, including the very lives of others. 

2.   Because of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, derogatorily known as Obamacare, I was able to purchase health insurance after being denied four years ago. For the record, I had COBRA coverage which I used for quarterly checkups (a necessity when one takes measured doses of poison --- a/k/a prescription drugs --- to control high blood pressure). Still, as the COBRA was about to expire, the same company that insured me before refused my application. The plans available under the PPACA are –

a.   like other health insurance plans. They either have networks or preferred provider directories, and their networks can be regional or multi-state. Generally, HMOs are network driven, are less expensive, and tend to disallow non-emergency charges outside the network. I have an HMO and have had no trouble seeing my PCP or getting referrals for specialists and even chiropractic care. My health care providers are part of a large health care system that is among the top ranked in the country. 

b.   affordable for those who need help paying the premiums. If this country can subsidize corporations who supposedly cannot afford to fail, pay inflated charges for faulty defense equipment that cause our soldiers to come home maimed, crippled or in a sealed box, finance choice dictators in other countries for the gain of their natural resources, or whatever, what’s a few dollars to get and keep American’s healthy?

c.  optional. For those who i) can afford to pay a full premium; or ii) remain vehemently opposed to the audacious idea of most, if not all Americans having access to health care, or just think affordable health care is beneath them, they can pay the full rate, off-market plans that, by the way, include in their offerings PPOs and the dreaded HMOs. As a matter of full disclosure, they also include open access plans.  (Anyone living in Texas can contact me for those rates as well, and good for you if you can afford them.)

Bottom line:  people will see the glass half empty if they don’t like the person holding the pitcher. They will see through a glass darkly, to steal a Biblical phrase, if their eyes are clouded by negativity. Mr. Obama’s tenure reminds me of a temporary assignment I once had in another lifetime. I was looked over at the outset and the assignment was given to someone else. After the pitifully inept woman made a mess, I was called in to clean it up. When after three days I was still trying to undo the woman’s damage, which she was given four weeks to create, people started grumbling and questioning my competence. Unlike Mr. Obama, I exercised the option of telling them what they could do with their assignment.  Of course, I was younger and had only a small modicum of diplomacy.  I would like to think that 30 years later I would have been more eloquent (though I was not fowl) and poetic when telling them what to do with that assignment.

A suggestion to all:  regardless of the camp in which you dwell --- Democrat, Republican, Tea Party, Libertarian -- or even if your standing on the outside of them all like me, wondering what the heck is wrong with these people -- consider cleaning the filters of your mind's eyes.  When you buy into the most absurd representation, just because it casts the object of your disfavor in a negative light, you are allowing yourself to be used, misused and manipulated by others who are merely taking advantage of your negativity.  In short, you have become one of their puppets. 

Now, don't get your strings entangled -- you may fall and sustain injuries.  Then you'll have to seek medical care.  :)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Greatest Shall Be . . .

This afternoon I attended the memorial service of a church member I barely knew.  A couple of months ago our pastor, Steve Wells, suggested to our "younger" members that they may want to attend some memorial services, not only as a show of support to the bereaved family, but also to learn more about the heritage of South Main through our members.  While I am not chronologically so young, I am, comparatively, a young member, just a few months into my 12th year as a South Mainer.

As I mentioned, I only knew the member in passing.  We always spoke, sometimes stopping for a brief conversation, when we met in hallways, and her sweet spirit was evidenced by her sweet smile.  Today I learned more of this woman and was reminded of a conversation I had with a young pastor over lunch just a couple of days ago.  We bantered about our concerns of how the concept of greatness has become distorted and barely recognizable as . . . greatness.  It seems that secularist 21st century “greats” are those who have achieved some modicum of fame and fortune.  Generally the fame stems from some single dimensional achievement.  It matters not that the lives of the so-called great ones are besmirched by willful, trashy living -- not saying that is true of all who have achieved a measure of fame and fortune, whether such fortune was parlayed into projects of redeeming value, or lost to prodical-type riotous living.

By today's standards, there are lots of great folks around (many times referred to as heroes).  And some of them do great things, using their fame to promote great causes.  Whether entertainers, athletes, or something else, for some inexplicable reason, people will flock to them as if they can be the source of their salvation.  Even worse, many live their lives vicariously through these folks, emulating their appearance, mode of dress (this is often not a good idea), and their behavior (even more often a terrible idea).  Then there are the great ones whose callings prescribe them to a life of service.   For some odd reason, rather than tending to their calling of service, many take on servants for themselves, screeners (so as to give attention to only ‘select’ sheep of their flock), bodyguards, armor bearers, and other absurdities.  Those so-called men and women of God are lost in their own worlds of self promotion or worse, allow their flocks to elevate them to some demi-god-like status.  This writer does not consider these people as great, perhaps just special as CNN’s Stephen A. Smith refers to them.

Unlike special people, greatness is not exclusive.  I have learned through the many South Main memorial services I have attended that there are lots of great people around.  Their greatness is evidenced by their service to others, whether singularly or collectively.  They give of themselves, their time, their skills and talents.  They are at work behind the scenes in so many ways, making provisions for others to be comforted in their illnesses and their grief, to receive hospitality in strange places they will call home while they access medical care, to be fed and housed and clothed, to be given another chance – a new beginning, to be given hope in the depths of poverty that are unknown in this country.

Yes, there are lots of greats around.  Their names are not Carmello or Dwayne or Tiger or Oprah or Phil or Peyton or Beyonce or JayZ or Will or Jada.  Their names are Virginia . . . H. H. . . . Roberta . . . Errol . . . Charles . . . Alberta . . .Julia . . . Mary Joe . . . Lyle . . . Carolyn . . . Ward . . . John.  I know, I know – you’re asking “Who are these people?”  That’s okay.  I ask the same thing when some contemporary celebrity’s name is called in conversation as if we just had tea.   I can only say I wish you had known them, my greats.  Some of them I knew well, some just a little.  And each has pricked me in a way that wants me to be more like the One Whose love was reflected in their lives.  No, they were not perfect, but His power was made perfect in their weakness.  It is comforting to know that the One Who called them home knows them even when we do not.

I submit to you that there are far more great people in the world than famous ones, and the two words are not properly used when used interchangeably.

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
Matthew 23:11-12

Sunday, June 15, 2014

He's Still Daddy

Even now, 46 years after his physical death in 1969, he is very much alive in me today.  I only knew him for 14 years, yet Lewis Hoxie is still Daddy, one who occupies my thoughts, shapes my opinions and attitudes, and whose examples of tenacity and faith fortify me with resolve in times of struggle. 

Daddy was born on Detering Street in the "West End."  That's what we called that area of Houston between Memorial Drive and Washington Avenue, just west of Downtown Houston.  His grandfather owned much of the land in that area in the late 1890s and early 1900s.  It is said that as they matured, Great Grandfather gave his children a little plot of land to call their own.  It was in the little house on my grandmothers lot that Daddy was born. 

I remember Daddy telling me that he worked for a chemical company, driving a truck until he was "let go."  Back then, one was only allowed to do that kind of work for a while because of the potential for exposure to dangerous chemicals; then one was simply "let go."  That was before my time.  For the time I had Daddy he rented a lot on Telephone Road, just inside I45 South, where he sold soils, sand and fertilizer.  I've told that story before and won't repeat it here. 

This being Fathers' Day, however, all of the posts and news snippets I've observed have caused me to express my appreciation for Daddy in this public forum.  I've not seen a picture of him in decades, and other than his last driver's license, a full image of Daddy in a suit and a really fine hat, and a snapshot of him sitting in his dump truck with the door open and my brother standing on the ground in front of him, I've never seen any other pictures of him.  Yet, he is as vivid in my mind's eye as I write this, as if he is sitting . . . right there . . . on the edge of my desk. 

Sometimes I cannot help but wonder at how powerful a father he was to have made an impression on me that has lasted more that four times the years I actually knew him in the flesh.  I guess that's what daddies are supposed to do with whatever time they have:  teach lessons that stand the test of time and make impressions that last far beyond their earthly years.   That's what my Daddy did. 

It would really be nice to have had Daddy longer, but it is better to have had him for a little while than someone else for decades, who would not have been Daddy to me the way Lewis Hoxie was, and still is.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Is This Life???

Is this life?
Lying still in bed
Never aware -- no way to know
That others care
No means to
Let go a giggle
Stifle a yawn
Shed a tear
Rise early by the dawn
See the sun shine
Spread warmth and cheer?

Is this life?
Day in and out
Always alone
With every thought
Up and down
Work all day
Home to hear
No one say
How did it go?
I hope it was great
But must have been busy
Since you're so late
Just couldn't wait
To have you home
Time for us
To be alone.

Is this life?
Through man-made power
Making hearts beat
If just another hour --
Or day week, month or year
With eyes, arms or ears
Too blind to see
Nor touch, nor hear
Nor can feel
A bird in a tree
A buzzing bee
Screaming sirens in the night
Noisy crickets out of sight
Trains on tracks
Keyboard-thumping computer hacks
A hug
What is life . . .without a hug?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


We are at war in Houston, Texas.  There are those among us who through circumstances, resort to "financial quick fixes" via payday loans.  These are super-high interest loans, and payments are automatically deducted from a borrower's bank account.  The loan terms are oppressive and sometimes impossible to meet.  Or worse, the quick fix adds a greater burden on the borrower who will, until the loan is paid in full, still have too much month at the end of the money.

So, why are we at war?  It is because there are those in Houston who would rather continue the abusive, oppressive practices of payday lenders rather than support a proposed ordinance to limit their hold on the borrowers.  A particular councilmember, James Rodriguez (Disrict I), has "tagged" the proposed ordinance.  If the tag is not removed, council will not vote on this issue and it will die.

Why would Mr. Rodriguez want to have this issue tagged for a second time?  What does he hope to gain? Since he is term-limited, that is a good question to ask him.  And here is another:  What will he do when he leaves office?  Will he then work for the billion dollar payday lending consortium alongside the highly paid lobbyists the payday lenders brought in to defeat this ordinance?

This is not Washington, D.C.  This is local.  Our councilmembers are not hundreds of miles away making policies that affect triple-digit millions of people; they live in our neighborhoods.  Their children go to our schools.  They attend our churches (hopefully) and shop in our stores.  We see them out and about ... in our parks, on our streets.  So why would they NOT support an ordinance that would be good for other Houstonians who find themselves in dire financial distress that would compel them to resort to a high-interest loan ... perhaps to get a car repaired so they can go to work, or get a diagnostic test or medicine they need for their health?

I urge you, beg you, to contact your councilmember NOW, and compel him/her to REMOVE THE TAG AND VOTE FOR THE ORDINANCE!  And contact every at large member.  And, even if you don't live in his district, but especially if you do, contact Mr. Rodriguez and ask him to answer this question:  Will you choose morality and vote FOR the ordinance?  And if his answer is no, ask him this:  How much money will YOU get for selling us out?

If you are not a resident of Houston, but know someone who is, urge that person to take action NOW!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Another Day

This one was exceptionally long: leaving at 0700 and returning at 2230.  The morning started at 0545, the usual time.  Upon becoming aware, the first words uttered are “Good morning, God.”  As with many who live with an unpredictable, chronic condition, the body is surveyed for new changes . . . new anomalies.  There are none.  “Thank You, God.”  Noting that not only is it another day, but the mark of another year, that prompts another “thank You God.”  The phone rings, a friend in Alabama whose wedding I recently officiated.  “You didn’t think I would forget, did you?”

As on all of my past birthdays thoughts quickly turn to my mom, The Boss.  Arriving three weeks premature at 4 lbs, 4 oz. almost six decades ago, no one except The Boss expected me to survive. After living my first two months in an incubator, The Boss scooped me up and took me home, proclaiming that she could take better care of me.  And she did.  I am still here.  And as tight as things sometimes got, especially after Father’s sudden demise just months shy of my 15th birthday, The Boss was my earthly rock.  Even now, at the age of 94, she still asks “Can I do anything for you?”

At some point the mobile phone started beeping.  Birthday greetings posted on my Facebook timeline.  Private messages.  Virtual cakes, balloons and cards.  Well wishes.  The Beatles.  In the meantime, I was on the road to the Harris County Civil Courts building, arriving around 7:45.  More phone beeps.  More greetings via Facebook timeline.  Attempts to respond with a LIKE in acknowledgment and appreciation for the thought.  From the Civil Courts building to the post office to Greenway Plaza.  More phone beeps.  Some text messages via mobile phone and Facebook. Finally to my office.  “Happy birthday!”  A Gmail pop-up announces a gift from my Sweet Pea.

Three hours into may “desk” time I am roused for lunch.  They close/lock the office and the seven of us go a few blocks down Voss.  The 7th, a part-time bookkeeper, says, “I feel kind of guilty; I just got here 30 minutes ago.”  The reply: “oh, just do as you’re told: go to lunch!”  There ensued about 90 minutes of non-business talk, good food, and really funny stories of “when we were kids.”  A single-digit number of folks ranging in age from 25 to 59 (guess who that is), Black, Vietnamese, Caucasian, Hispanic, and Other, and it was then that I recalled that our “event planner” – the 25-year-old, addresses us as “Family” in her emails.  Somehow, it was all so normal, relationships that began somewhere between 4 months and 23 years ago have converged into one Family.

Back to the office.  More messages, phone calls, etc.  The Boss calls with her own embellished rendition of “Happy birthday to you.”  She still holds a decent tune.  My best friend calls, insisting that we “do something.”  We meet for dinner, then she wants to take me shopping. It is way late and I am far spent.  And stuffed!  Still, she is my best friend, so we stop to browse.

It is now 2321.  After 100+ timeline posts, messages, emails, virtual gifts, gift cards and phone calls, Another Day is almost over, It is not a day I will soon forget.  Let me tell you why.

I can remember other birthdays.  Hugely expensive presents — watches, dinners at over-priced restaurants, a diamond pendent, gold pendants with matching earrings, blah, blah, blah.  What the giver did not seem to grasp was that the gift was not as important as the spirit in which it is given.  I came to have no appreciation for such gifts because they were intended to be substitutes for what is most important about being human.  What is that?  I’m glad you asked.  What is most important about being human, and what keeps us human, is the human connection.  For one who spends a good deal of time in solitude, the human connection is not taken for granted.  Whether via keystrokes transmitted electronically, a phone call, or a place at the table, the genuine spirit of the greeting is as warming as a smile, as tangible as a handshake or a hug.

And so, to my friends and family, thank you for one of the best birthdays ever.  All day long, in one way or another, I was connected.

And so ends Another Day, which reminds me of an old gospel song: Another day that the Lord has kept me.  He has kept me from all evil, kept my mind stayed on Jesus.  Another day . . .

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Which Dogs Are You Feeding?

Yesterday was very difficult, 1) because of memories of the circumstances of two six-year-olds being snatched from their homes five years ago (and thank God they were), and that those who abused them rather than cared for them even now stoop so low as to claim them for tax purposes; and 2) then the willful, intentional maiming and killing of people who were just going about the business of their day.  

Every moment is so precious, and we waste so many, going at-after each other for what sets us apart rather than for what brings us together.  (At this point, I am tempted to name names, but my other judgment vetoed the idea.)   You, yes you – you know who you are.  We all attach labels in ways that are inciting and divisive.   Many claim to be followers of The One who came to love, heal and forgive.  Many even attach Him to their transparent attempts to divide:  Christians For _____, Christians Against _______.  Just fill in the blank; you will find labels for both sides of any issue.  That in itself negates the authenticity of the use of His label.  And let’s not forget the Conservatives.  I always wonder what it is they’re trying to conserve.  Is it a way of life where they are always on top at the expense, and by the sweat and efforts of all others who do not look, act, believe or live as they do?  And what about those liberals – you know – the ones that think we need to redefine sin for the twenty-first century, who think discipline of children is an archaic method of torture rather than an act of love, who believe no one and no thing should have any bounds of decorum – in short, who think anything/everything goes.

Why does it take a tragedy of unusual scope for us to just come together, to work together, for the good of the many.  Why must we spend so much time feeding the dogs of jealousy, hatred, lust, exclusivity, carelessness and complacency?  What will it take for the many to see that together everyone achieves more.  What will it take for us to be a team – more often than not?  When will we decide to feed the dogs of compassion, caring, community, and peace?  How much more time must we waste fanning the flames of fires that consume – and destroy – our relationships and our peace?

Which dogs are you feeding?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Divided Ballot for a Divided Citizen of a Divided Nation

For the past several weeks I have written and rewritten this --- over, and over, and over again.  It will cause me to lose "friends" on both sides of the political divide.  If one is to be honest, I dare say one would find some good on both sides.

First, a little housekeeping:  1)  When writing for this public space, I tend to try to avoid writing in first person.  After awhile, "I" gets to be so well-worn.  The reader will probably find more references to "I" here than I (see, there's one already) would normally use.  2)  When referring to the "sides" I generally mean the Republic and Democratic parties.  That is not to say there are only two parties; any marginally informed person knows there are others, but for purposes of this piece, the elephants and donkeys are my primary focus.

Now, moving right along.  Second, a little background:  One can see from my picture that I am of the darker nation (if you're not acquainted with this term, I commend you to Stephen Carter's The Emperor of Ocean Park).  I am an American who happens to be a diverse mix, and the DNA of the darker nation prevailed in my skin color.  Still, I am an American.  I do not believe in or subscribe to hyphenated terms; they are more divisive than anything else.  (By the way, this is my writing, so hopefully it is understood that these are my thoughts and opinions unless quoted and properly cited.)

Although I am black, I was taught by a white woman, specifically how to vote.  What do I mean?  Oh, I'm so glad you asked!  Back in the early 70s, Judge Geraldine Tennant (God rest her soul), invaded the worship hour at Wesley Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church one Sunday morning during the political season.  In the way of explaining to the congregation of hundreds of worshipers as if they were children, how to vote, she said that all we had to do was turn that one little lever and vote for all of the candidates in the Democratic party.  Can you imagine my indignation???  Who are these people?  Shouldn't they be given individual consideration?  And so, in telling me how to vote, Geraldine Tennant taught me how not to vote.  I vowed never to vote a straight ticket for the sake of expediency, or, God forbid, for the sake of the party; and I never have.

Why I dislike political parties:  Well you didn't ask this question; I want to tell you anyway.  One of my Republican acquaintances with whom I spent hours on the road, literally back and forth from Houston to Victoria countless times during a Medicare Annual Election period, told me of his conflicts and woes with the Republican Party, and despite his experiences, remained a faithful party member because that's the only way anything can get done.  Well, that may be true, to a certain extent, but everything that gets done because of party alignments isn't necessarily the thing that should be done.  And parties are just divisive.  We have become a nation of us vs. them.  The sad part about it is that there are people who are loyal to one party because it's the party of their ancestors -- on both sides!  And what if your party's candidate for XYZ office supports a position that is totally antithetical to yours?  Do you still vote for that candidate?  Really?  Or what if the person holding XYZ office has been totally ineffective for years???  Do you still vote the straight party ticket and risk the possibility of helping to elect that dud?   Really?  Okay. I'm moving on; this is supposed to be about my divided ballot.

My divided ballot:  The ballot was long, and I won't speak of every selection, but know that none of my votes were cast based on race, color, party, gender, religion, or sexual orientation; rather character (from what I can determine), effectiveness, experience and position on critical issues were important factors determining my choices.  Sometimes it was the lesser of two (or three) evils. :(

For Judge of the 333rd Judicial District Court, I voted for Tracy D. Good.  Admittedly my vote was more against the current judge, Joseph "Tad" Halbach, who I believe was not fairly re-elected in the last election.  I would love to speak with any person who can explain to me the numerical possibility of his prevailing with the Democratic party prevailing in Harris County.  Mr. Goodwill Pierre should be sitting on that bench now.

For Representative of Congressional District 18, I voted for Sean Seibert.   I believe that elected officials are  not holders of public offices for life; and it is our duty to limit their terms when they are no longer effective.  Mrs. Lee has long been ineffective.  Far too often Mrs. Lee goes to extreme measures to keep herself in the public eye, even for circumstances that have no bearing on her constituency.  Do you remember her outrageous behavior after the death of Michael Jackson?  The tragic murder of Robert Byrd?  Mrs. Lee is always in the spotlight, until one needs her help.  I speak from personal experience.  Besides, who wants to be represented by The Terror of the National Airport as she is known?  And . . . who wants to be represented by someone whose staff, when one calls her office with a concern, makes a cursory check of the rolls and announces to the caller I don't see your name on the voter rolls and then we have "X" number of people in this district! rather than how may I help you?  Indeed, it is time for a change.

For President of the United States of America, I voted for Barack Obama.  Not because he is black, but because he is

  • the most intelligent; 
  • the most compassionate; 
  • the most thoughtful; 
  • the most trustworthy; 
  • the most critically thinking; 
  • concerned about the entire country, not just particular demographic segments; and 
  • the most mature and grounded of the two candidates.  

My vote for Mr. Obama was every bit as much a vote against Mr. Romney, who

  • has a history of gutting companies and outsourcing jobs (you know, those things that people blame Mr. Obama for not creating?);
  • attacks with lies and innuendo (isn't that what they say:  the best defense is a good offense).  This is my logical deduction after reading and fact-checking; 
  • opens his mouth and says really inappropriate stuff, trying to make points for himself by trying to make Mr. Obama look bad.    
  • cannot be trusted to be concerned about the welfare of the entire country, rather than just the 53% (remember, he has already discounted 47%).
  • painfully unstable.  Who knows which Mr. Romney, if elected, will be sworn in?  Even members of his party have agonized over his vacillations.
What I do not understand is that there are people, among the 47%, who access federal and state aid like food stamps (or whatever the new label is) and health care, and want college scholarships for their kids who barely graduated from high school and haven't even thought about college tuition, yet, they despise the current POTUS who supports helping families and promoting access to education for all.  And, even though there are aspects of the Health Care Reform Act that I do not like, who can not want 1) an annual physical; 2) coverage for the child who is not quite independently employed; or 3) coverage for preexisting conditions?  Yes, people say ObamaCare with disdain.  I tell them that ObamaCare is because Obama cares.

And finally, I can identify with Mr. Obama.  In my early adult years, as an employee I tended to replace some incompetent dimwit (okay, the gloves are off!) who did not do her job, and left a mess for the next person to clean up.  My supervisors were always impatient about getting everything in order and asking why is it taking so long?  My question in reply was how long has it been like this? 

My bottom line:  When you have people in office who --
  • will say YES to corporations that export jobs
  • are more concerned about personal gain or enriching their friends 
  • refuse to work together in a spirit of cooperation for the good of the country
  • will say NO to anything in hopes someone will fail
you have a divided country.  Fingers are pointed at both sides.  Some on both sides need to go, some need to stay, and some should never have tried to come.

Now, tell the truth:  
  • Many of you will vote for Mr. Obama because he is black (you will probably admit this publicly).
  • Many of you will vote for Mr. Romney because he is white (you probably won't admit this publicly).
  • Many of you will vote for Mr. Obama because of his position on same-sex marriage.
  • Many of you will vote for Mr. Romney because of his position on same-sex marriage.
  • Many of you will vote for Mr. Obama because he is a Democrat.
  • Many of you will vote for Mr. Romney because he is a Republican.
  • Many of you will vote for Mr. Obama because of his position on immigration reform.
  • Many of you will vote for Mr. Romney because of his position on immigration reform.
  • Many of you will vote for Mr. Obama because he is concerned about 100% of Americans.
  • Many of you who vote for Mr. Romney may be hurt by his policies and attitude regarding the 47%.
Finally, I respect your right to vote however you choose; you should respect mine as well.  In that regard, it is okay if you do not agree with me; just write your own blog.

Now, the tarring and feathering can only be done by appointment.  Call my office number to get on the list, but not before 9:00 a.m.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

God Winks for Music Too

I am a lover of music, all kinds of music.  That's a broad term:  music.  There are sooo many styles, so many genres.  When I mention the word music, however, even in its broadest definition the terms rap and heavy metal are not included.  Not in my broadest definition.  

My music proclivities were diverse from the time I was six years old.  Even now, vivid are my memories of the first classical (a term loosely used here) pieces, among them being  March from The Love of Three Oranges by Prokofiev.   Mary Ellen Owen, my first grade music teacher, will always have a special place in my heart for introducing me to that world of music.  

But not only classical, but jazz, sacred, gospel, popular, Broadway, and more, including mine, a hybrid, mixed-bag of all of the above, music is my drug of choice.  So, where am I going with this?  Well . . . right here:

A lifetime ago when I made large bucks, I had a season subscription to the Houston Grand Opera (another reason Fall is my favorite season of the year) -- a nice orchestra seat, smack dab in the middle of the row.  Facing the necessity of trimming expenditures, my last opera season was 2002-2003.  Since then, it has been hit or miss, and mostly miss.   Still, I am on the HGO's mailing list.  It was a routine matter for me to receive a postcard in my post office box a few days ago, advertising, this time, La Boheme.  Conversation with self:

Man, I wish I could go.  Maybe if I brownbag it I can divert some walking around money and get a decent seat.

Yeah, you could do that, and maybe plant some stash at Gordon's office if you're gonna be there a lot; then you could avoid ordering food to be delivered.

Yeah, I can do that.  

Then, just a few days ago, it became clear that my work station was on its last leg (it's last boot[-up]?).  Next conversation with self:

Well, there goes the opera.

Are you sure?  Can't you just go anyway and deal with the computer later?

Are you kidding?  Next to a vehicle, that computer is a significant work tool!  How're you gonna make a dollar without working technology?  Huh?

So, the decision is made to be an adult (again??) and do the responsible thing (again???).  Yep.  After many hours of hand-wringing a computer is ordered.  Unlike the last time technology purchases were made, there was no air of excitement, just resignation.  It had to be done.  :(

Then, a conversation with my Sweet Pea (Daughter) this afternoon.

The phone rings; it is Sweet Pea.

Hey, Babe.

Hey, Ma.

What's up Sweetie?

Ma, I've got something for you.  What're you doing on the 27th?  [Note to self:  Warning . . . warning . . do you hear that sense of urgency in her voice?]

I don't know, Babe, let me look at my calendar.  Oh . . . I'll be at the United Health Care store on the Southwest Freeway.

What time, Ma?  [Warning . . . warning . . . a tad more intensity here.]

From 9 to 3.

Then what, Ma?

[At this point I'm asking myself:  what is she up to NOW?]

Oh, nothing, Babe.  What's up?  [Admittedly, at this point I'm getting a little wary.  Sweet Pea has a history of pulling stuff . . .nothing bad . . . or negative . . . but she seems to revel in the shock value of stuff.  (No offense, Sweet Pea.)]

I have opera tickets for you . . . it's La Boheme.  

What??!!!??  Wait a minute . . . my heart . . . [At this point my heart is pounding so that I press my hand to my chest.]

Then she says:  I bought 'em in March but I just picked 'em up today.

Wait . . . my heart . . .  It all came back to me:  a routine trip to collect mail from my post office box -- the desire to go to the opera -- the plot to splurge on a really good seat -- the realization that I should use the money for something really necessary -- and the grand tier tickets purchased for me SEVEN MONTHS AGO by my darling Daughter!!!

Life today is more challenging than it has ever been for me as an adult.  Despite that, I have sobered myself from the occasional pity party with the knowledge that however bad it might be for me, millions -- even hundreds of millions -- would gladly exchange places with me.  And even on the very worst days, even to this day, when I cannot not utter a word in prayer, God places a song in my heart that pulls me out of a miserable pit:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
(Horatio Spafford)

And, God's winks don't stop there; in fact, they never stop.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Would Like to Hear From YOU!

During sporting events, TV broadcasts (for instance, Tony McNeill's "Scandal"), and, of course, political events (conventions, debates, news conferences or whatever), I check out Tweets and Facebook friends' comments.  Debate frenzy (schoolyard brawl?) aside, I would like to know your objective, logical, dispassionate (yes, this is possible) reasons for your candidates of choice.  And no, this is not just about the presidential campaign.  Please share your thoughts about any candidate you deem worthy of your input.  Since I am soliciting objective, logical, dispassionate reasons about YOUR candidate and NOT your candidate's opponent, there should be no need to ask that responses be respectful and without vile language, but just in case:   Please keep your comments within the realm of civility and devoid of disrespect toward your candidate's opponent.  

I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Has Mitt Romney Written ME Off???

.The Video That Prompted the Question

A rare note from me re politics:  

Dear Mr. Romney,

I am an independent and have never in 40 years voted a straight party ticket.  You never know which candidate of which party will get my vote.  After viewing this video (see the link above), I cannot help but wonder if you have counted me as one of the folks you have written off.  

I have undergraduate and graduate degrees, have pursued additional post graduate studies, and have professional credentials and licenses; but I don't work a lot.  And, for the record, it is not because I have a flawed work ethic.  What I do have is a flawed body and, to some, a flawed paint job.  

For 16+ years I have lived with a chronic medical condition that often dictates if and when I will get out of bed.  Even so, when I was bedridden for 18 months straight and wasn't even allowed to READ, I was denied the social security disability income to which I was ENTITLED BECAUSE I HAD PAID TAXES, by an administrative judge who in later years was found to systematically render biased opinions about people who look like me.  Now, I am no longer eligible to receive the benefits for which I PAID TAXES; someone else will benefit from MY LABOR and contributions.  I often wonder what will happen if one of my walks through the valley of "out-of-remission" turns into another 18-month-or-longer confinement to bed.  

Of course, I have a solution:  line all of your good Texas buddies up and have them contact me.  (I'm easy to find; just type "Andrea Hoxie" in the search box or address window of your browser, especially if you use Google, and you will find me; or send me a comment on this blog page.)  I will hook them up with some nice seven-figure equity indexed universal life insurance (EIULA) policies and use the commissions to:

1)   get licensed in other states so you can send your buddies all over the country to me so that I can show them the tax-free EIULA hook-up; and 

2)   get a couple of those EIULA policies for myself.  Then I can borrow from mine, tax free, as your friends will do with theirs, and support myself for the remainder of my life . . . perhaps.  I will even be able to see my doctor quarterly and do all of the tests she prescribes.  And I will painlessly afford the cost of the one prescription that is currently $157.11/month. 

And, I will hire an assistant, someone who can help me do the things I need and want to do for myself and help other people (most of whom you have already counted off) change their thinking, and by doing so, their lives.  In return, my assistant will be paid a decent wage (that means, well above minimum) and will be mentored, the intent being that working with me will be a stepping stone to something better.  And when I send that assistant off to better things, hoping that she (or he) will have a heart to help others whom you have already counted off, I will simply hire another assistant and start the process again.

And . . . I will be able to attend opening night opera and ballet performances which have not been in my budget for years, meet more of your good-old-boy/gal buddies, and sell more EIULA policies, making more commissions to fund my ministry, hire another assistant, and further perpetuate the helping out someone whom Romney has written off campaign.

Perhaps then, I can be assured you will not have written me off.  Now, let's get started, Mr. Romney:  send all of your Texas cronies to me.  Even they will be treated with decency and respect, just I treat those whom you have written off.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Kinder, Gentler Andrea

A note to the young woman who had the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to park in my RESERVED parking space: 

You are fortunate, my dear, that it is 2011 and not 2001 or earlier.  In 2001, I would not have canceled the request to have your vehicle towed from my parking space.  You are also fortunate that, despite your flippant attitude, I did not throw my vehicle in "park," turn off the ignition and leave you there to deal with being blocked in.    

Today it was only a thought, but just a few years ago, amid your protests of "you're blocking me in," I would have said "give it your best shot," gone inside and played my piano, leaving you to do just that:  give it your best shot.  I would, of course, have made a note of the make, model, color and license plate number of your 
vehicle, and at sometime in the afternoon, instead of writing this little note, traced your plates to ascertain the identity and address of the vehicle's owner and followed up with a certified letter.

Indeed, young woman with the nasty attitude, you should thank God for the modicum of grace and tolerance I had today, which I did not have not too long ago.  You should thank Him also, that on this Lord's day, I had just returned home from two worship services where each element of prayer, scripture reading, litany, hymn, gospel song, anthem and sermon touched my heart, convicted and convinced me -- for perhaps if it were yesterday, and I had returned home from errands in the heat, traffic jams caused by bad driving and closed freeways, and other annoyances of being exposed to rude people -- I would not have been properly equipped to show you any modicum of grace because I would have run out.

You should thank God for South Main Baptist Church's intern, Timothy Peeples, who reminded me that while it all started with dirt when God formed man a blew into him the breath of life, it all ends with love -- the love of God for us in giving His Son, and the love His Son taught us to have for God the Father, and for each other.  

You don't even realize it, because to you it was nothing to trespass on my rights. Indeed, young woman, your Sunday afternoon could have been fraught with conflict as you strode to your vehicle, counting a wad of cash that you probably did not earn, and if you did, not legally, for it is uncommon to carry a wad of C-notes like scratch paper, which at first glance would cause any bank to report a cash deposit of that nature.  Your entire afternoon might have been ruined by your insensitivity.  Instead, you parked in the RESERVED parking space of an older, kinder, gentler, and more gracious Andrea.  

Please take notice, young woman, tomorrow I will still be older, but tomorrow does not hold the promise that I will as kind, gentle or gracious.

Monday, July 16, 2012

They are to be Pitied

Note:  I often mention my Family of God.  This writing, is not about them.  In fact, it is because of some like those described herein that I was compelled to join my FOG.


Pitiful are the small, inconsequential minds of those who think that they can hurt me because of their offices and self-deluded thinking that they have some kind of authority over me.    

Pitiful is their self-contempt because they see they fall short of what/how/who they really want to be, so they lash out at and try to hurt others, when in fact, in doing so, they hurt themselves more.  

Tragic is that they confess to believe in my God.  

Tragic is that they foolishly forget my God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  He was there when they lied to themselves and each other.  And He was there when they perpetrated a fraud, calling it worship.  And He was there in the aftermath when they set about their deceitful intentions, justified by their lies.  And He will be there when they stand in my face and try to assert their authority.  In response, I will simply go home, play my piano, and be at peace, at least two out of the three of which they are unable to do.  

All they can do is go home.  And most likely the places where they normally bed down for sleep, hang their clothing, prepare their meals and groom their bodies (at least the exterior) are no more than way stations rather than homes.  “Home” is a place of sanctuary, rest, relaxation, restoration, rejuvenation and refuge.  Home is a place of caring, love and acceptance, despite conflicts which may arise.   Whether a 700-square-foot one-bedroom apartment, a row house, a condominium or a three-story new construction, what they call “home” is most likely a way station, a place for them to go and get ready for the next attack on someone else because they refuse to look in a mirror and see the real problem, the real culprit.  And because they have no inner peace, it matters not the quality, size or cost of their dwelling place; there is no place that can really be home for them.

In the meantime, I will go home, a 2/2 apartment that houses both work and living space, and my piano.  It is not the piano I would have if I could have my pick of instruments, but it is the one I own.  It is not even acoustic.  But it has all 88 keys and they are reasonably weighted and the thing, a Kurzweill PC 88 that has served me well for 17 years, never needs tuning.  And on this instrument I played and recorded my very best rendition of Blessed Assurance ever in my life.  I will play my piano, commune with my God, and be at peace.  

I have a home.  I have a piano.  I have peace.  I have my God.  I have wealth beyond measure.  On the other hand, they do not.  They are to be pitied.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Facebook Rantings

This post will probably get me "unfriended" by one or two hundred folks.  That's okay.  I have been unfriended before, and this probably won't be my last time.  It's just another indication that Facebook outgrew "friending" a few million folks ago.  Maybe friending should be renamed "connecting" or "aligning" or some other term that is more suitable to birds who only seek out those of like feathers.  I allowed myself five minutes to vent and came up with this my top ten list of pet peeves -- at least for today:

1.    I REFUSE to LIKE Walmart.  My heart falls and my gut twists into a knot everytime my mom, The Boss, sends me there. Walmart is a vicious, despicable conglomeration of predators.  It preys on and victimizes its suppliers, its employees and its customers.  It gouges its suppliers.  It mistreats its employees.  And it passes off poorly manufactured goods to its customers, like laptop computers with barely enough memory to run operating systems.

2.     I  have NO idea who or what Kim Kardashian is or even if she has any socially redeeming value, which I doubt, based on the circumstances under which I hear her name in popular media (that is, if media has any veracity, which, again, is doubtful), nor do I care to know.

3.     Jesus, the Christ is my Lord and Savior, of Whom I am not ashamed.  Still, I doubt that in the flesh he was the handsome dark-haired, blue-eyed hunk as he has been portrayed.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  (Isaiah 53:2).  

4.     I pray daily, throughout the day, and am uttering one now, asking God the Father to still the hands of folks who think it their mission to shove their beliefs, regardless of the issue, down my throat, by telling me what to LIKE and what to SHARE, and the contingent circumstances upon which I am to do so.

5.     Despite my beliefs and my opinions, they will be mine even if they are not yours.  I may or may not agree with you, but I respect your right to think/believe as you deem appropriate, even if contrary to what I think/believe.  Please allow me the same consideration.  Of course, if you don't that's okay, too.  You will be ignored.  And you will probably unfriend me.  Cool.

6.     I do not believe that SHARING or FORWARDING or LIKING anything in particular, for any specific number of times with a specific number of people, will put me in better stead with the Almighty God.  It rains on the just and the unjust, and we are all some of both.  

7.     God is not a genie.  You don't get three wishes; you get to live your life based on the choices you made, as do I.  Sometimes He will show you an extra measure of unmerited favor -- perhaps you call it grace, or sometimes you will forego the consequences of your actions -- perhaps you call that mercy; that doesn't make you any more highly favored as the next person; we all get that, to some degree, from time to time.

8.     I do not care to see intimate moments of anyone on my Facebook page, whether male/female, male/male, or female/female, or, God forbid, male/other or female/other, where other is something in lieu of homo sapien.

9.     I do not care to see pictures of barely dressed people.  I don't know which is worse, a picture posted to laugh at or ridicule, or a picture posted to tantalize.  Neither are appealing.  Both are offensive.   This being said, I am not a prude; there is simply a time and place for everything.

10.     My "church" clothes are always ready.  I get up on Sunday morning, do the necessary daily grooming, go to my closet and pull out something neatly pressed and clean, generally a dress shirt or twin set and a pair of trousers, occasionally a suit, and appropriate accessories.  I still have to watch those dirty stains that appear on my heart, however.

Looking forward to "friending" new folks as my current roll declines, and

Finally, brethren, Be perfect, be of good comfort,
be of one mind, live in peace;
and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
 II Corinthians 13:11 (KJV)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

For Christopher and Daryl: My Musical "Sons"

Most of my music aspirations have gone unfulfilled, and as many, I have made peace with my place in the music world, what I have accomplished, and what I am still able to do.  You will be spared the litany of mishaps and unfortunate occurrences.  On this day, 27 June 2012, I can only be grateful as I remember those of my musician relations who are no longer here to share their gifts to any degree at all.  And, as an old song begins, I’m still here.  

Having begun playing (or attempting to play?) piano around the age of six, five-plus decades later I am still trying.  In my school years I sang in school choirs, including while an applied music major at the University of Houston, and studied voice off and on privately because I had to teach my choirs and felt like the lessons would help me help them.  Yet, just a few years ago, I found a very large bucket in which to carry my alto voice; that bucket has proved itself to be serviceable, and said yes when occasionally asked to do solo work at my church.  My thought was that I ought to be safe at my church, if I’m to be safe anywhere.  (Of course, there is an exceptional group of folks that are the family of God called South Main Baptist – but that is for another time.)  By a series of incidents, a mixed bag of negative and positive, I was invited to join the Houston Ebony Opera Chorus.  This positive experience has brought me face to face with young, talented musicians, and I am blessed to get to know them, sing with them, and, hopefully, encourage them.  

Among those young ones, I met a tenor, Christopher Harris.  Mr. Harris later invited me to join his Houston Master Singers.  There I became more acquainted with him and his original compositions.  They continue to stir my heart and are new, fresh, exciting and uplifting each time my mind’s ear visits them.  

On this past Sunday, 24 June, Houston Ebony Music presented its annual Juneteenth concert at Riverside United Methodist Church here in Houston.  Our unique program featured works by local composers.  Two of the works performed were composed by Christopher Harris.  This long, lithe young man has depth and breadth of ability found in more seasoned musicians.  Faultless and I Am Loved are night and day.

Faultless, based on one of my favorite Biblical passages (Jude 24-25) starts with a quiet intensity that builds to a bright, glorious celebration of God, the Father and Son.  I like this passage from The Message:

And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.

Perhaps the reader will be more familiar with the King James version:

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

Either way, these fine, fine Words that are rendered in three versions and hang on the wall just to the right of my front door, and Mr. Harris has set them perfectly to music that makes the heart swell to bursting. 

On the other hand I Am Loved is broad, sweeping, exciting, and, at times, joyfully overwhelming.  Taken from Sarah Teasdale’s poem, Mr. Harris again created the perfect music setting for these words:

I am wild, I will sing to the trees,
I will sing to the stars in the sky,
I love, I am loved, he is mine,
Now at last I can die!
I am sandaled with wind and with flame,
I have heart-fire and singing to give,
I can tread on the grass or the stars,
Now at last I can live!

When we sang Faultless, there was first a wave of murmuring from the audience, then applause and excited utterances.  When we sang I Am Loved, which ended the program, the applause was even more adnimated.  As I stood with the chorus, my heart swelled with such pride as he, and we, witnessed the audience’s appreciation; it could not have been more had he been my own son.  

And now, a little more than 24 hours ago, I sat near the center aisle in the 6th or 7th pew at Grace Presbyterian Church on Sam Houston Parkway near Westheimer, in Houston, Texas with a direct view of Daryl Robinson, a young man who is not so tall in height, but who is a giant among his immediate peers, those who play pipe organ, the wider circle of peers who are musicians, and the even wider circle of people who just like music well executed.  Perhaps there were folks in attendance who had never been exposed to the grand sound of a well-played pipe organ, or who had never had a live experience like that.  Bless their hearts; they were certainly in the right place!

Daryl played as diverse a program as I could ever imagine.  While each of the four works were wonderfully rendered, the third, Ettrick Banks by Judith Weir (b. 1954) was the most unusual.  It evoked scenes that I easily visualized, unfolding a story in my mind’s eye.  The fourth, Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H, S. 260 ii, by Franz Listz, was the most powerful, heart-felt and breath-taking – literally breath-taking.   At its end I found myself exhaling, right hand clutching my chest, and faced streaked with tears.

This is only a lame attempt at painting a word picture whose elements are unique combinations of sound – and quiet – that stir every aspect of the human psyche.  The problem is, either words -- or my vocabulary -- are simply inadequate.  Music is not to be spoken of, but to be listened to, to consume, to be consumed, and to enfold, caress, soothe, renew, restore and rejuvenate.  It can do all of that, and more.

Both Christopher and Daryl, while they have their specialties, are well-rounded musicians.  Christopher writes, has a resonant tenor voice and plays piano.  Daryl is as commanding with his choral conducting and pianistic abilities as he is sitting at the organ.  When speaking of either Christopher or Daryl, I often say to those who know Daryl,  Christopher is to composition what Daryl is to pipe organ; and when speaking to those who know Christopher, Daryl is to pipe organ what Christopher is to composition.  Nothing else need be said; this seems to cut to the chase and relieve me of trying to describe how phenomenal either of these young men are.  I always end, though, with, and he has such a great spirit.  Unlike other uber talented people, they walk with both feet on the ground, are approachable, gracious, pleasant and personable.  My prayer is that even as they soar to higher dimensions of their calling, they remain as human and grounded as they are now.