Friday, May 12, 2017

Relentless Care -- Remembering a Giant

My pastor of oftentimes responds to a query of what we’re doing at South Main Baptist Church by saying “We bury giants.”  Today was such a day, one on which we bid farewell to a giant.  In the opening remarks of his memorial service, the phrase “relentless care” (thank you for that, Rev. Kev.) pricked my heart and remained with me throughout the service.

Physically, he was a man of robust stature, tall, always impeccably and appropriately attired and well groomed, with a measured, rhythmic way of speaking that surely he could never have been misunderstood.   As a member and servant of our Family of God, he was a giant of a go-to guy.  He was the man who could get things done, the man who could make things happen, and when he could not, he knew someone who could . . . or knew someone who knew someone.   However necessary, when there was a job to be done, it was done — thanks to the giant we know as Thomas J.  Williams.

When it came to taking care of our House of God, Tom was always on task, ever watchful, every vigilant to the point that not even a picture was misaligned by as much as a millimeter.   When it came to taking care of the Family, he took great care, and not just the Family of God who calls themselves “South Main Baptist Church.”   His compassion and caring were immense, spreading like water that creeps out of its banks over long, long stretches of time, until the stuff – the people – that it nourishes along the way are caught up in the web of his relentless care until firmly tucked into the folds of  Christian love.  And their lives are changed for the better.

Earlier today, following a memorial service for Tom, we gathered in the Fellowship Hall.  The crowd was thick, and the fare fitting for our dear giant.   Passing through clusters of folks as they nibbled, one could catch snatches of “Tom” stories.  And making several stops to converse with folks, some of us exchanged Tom stories and others who were relatively new to the South Main family, wanted to hear even more Tom stories.

It was difficult to leave that gathering.  That is how it is when dealing with the loss of one who was much loved and respected.  There is a tendency to cling to each other and share joy for having crossed his path, grief for having to say farewell, and joy that he no longer suffers, having breathed his last here, and his first There.  Tears and laughter can make a great combination – when mixed with relentless care.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Can You Hear the Hammer Ringing?

In a 24-hour time span, I was fully engaged in worship at three different services.   Starting at 7:00 p.m. on Maundy Thursday, there began the first Service of Shadows at South Main Baptist Church (you can view the service at  On duty as an alto in the Sanctuary Choir, we stood in the outside aisles around the chapel and sang Who is This? and Psalm 130.   At noon on Good Friday, I went with my daughter and granddaughter to the Texas Southern University athletic building, set up for worship, and for the noon service with Wheeler Avenue and Lily Grove Baptist churches.  Even as a congregant, I am an active worshiper, never a spectator.   And then, Good Friday evening, there was the second Service of Shadows at South Main Baptist during which I read passages of scripture.  

Each service in its own way, was substantively overwhelming.  There is something about commemorating the passionem.  It matters not how often the story is heard/read/told; the impact of the Christ's betrayal, trial, denial, suffering, sacrifice and death strike the core of my being.   

Do you remember the days preceding His betrayal?  He made his way down the path on a donkey.   Can you see the crowd laying down their cloaks and palm branches?   Can you hear their exclamation?  Hosanna!   They thought "their" time had come to prevail over a mortal enemy.  Indeed, their time had come for something more important.  And they missed it.   So caught up in their earthly oppression, they missed their eternal blessing.

Do you see Judas in the garden as he greets his Lord with a kiss?   How many Judases have you encountered in your life?  What does your Judas look like?   A best friend?  Your boss?   Neighbor?  Spouse?   Parent?   Child?  How did your Judas's betrayal affect you?   Demotion?  No bonus?   Job loss?   Divorce?  Relocation?   Loss of home?   Bankruptcy?  

The crowd gathered to rally for the release of a criminal.   What undeserving person has been given preference over you?   Who was given a free pass while you suffered, especially when you had done no wrong?   Who kept his/her job while you were laid off -- if though you were more competent, experienced, and diligent about your work?

Have you ever been beaten?  I have.  Beaten and thrown against a car so hard that the impact made a dent.  I still remember the owner of the car knocking on my door and demanding I pay for the damage.  Beaten physically.  Beaten financially.   Beaten professionally.   Beaten academically.  Beaten by people who claim to share my faith.   Raped by one who claimed to have been called to spread The Gospel of Christ.  Beaten in ministry by one who claimed he would never do exactly what he did.  

See?  There is indeed, nothing new under the sun.   The same kinds of things that have happened to you, that have happened to me, happened thousands of years ago.

As bad as those occurrences were, nothing I have experienced (I'll let you decide for yourself) compares to the suffering of my Savior.  And as a I sat in that little recessed area last night, having listened to the final passage by my reading partner, Brandon, the three percussive sounds representing the hammer, rang out.  And the third strike sent a wave through me, as tangible as if a seven-inch nail was being driven -- into me, through me.

On that path to Calvary, as one preacher put it, He defeated shame at its own game.   Even today, those who have fought to defeat or bring shame on ____ (you fill in the blank), are in a quandary about their own situations.  So, as I await the rising of the sun - the Son -  on tomorrow - Resurrection Day, these thoughts are swirling around in my head -- 

  • There is none other who can die for sin.   He did it once, and once is enough.
  • We can all die in sin if we choose to stay on the wrong path (any path other than His) 
  • We can all die to sin when we choose Him -- the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6)
There is spiritual death and physical death, and for both we can die in sin.  Before that however, decide whether you want to die to sin. Fact is, we all have to go the way of physical death -- whether we live in a big house, a little house, no house, the Palace on the Idokopas Cape, or the White House.  I pray before that happens, you hear the hammer ringing.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Remembering a Good Man

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good . . .  for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. Luke 6:45 KJV

Out of the sham of a marriage the one thing that was real was the man who was supposed to be my husband introduced me to my best friend ("Harm").  Harm is married to Kurt.   But for him, I would not have met her, for he moved her here from another state and married her.   But for that scoundrel- masquerading-as-a-man visiting the church where Kurt served as pastor for a quarter century, I would not have Harm and Kurt in my life.  So, the scoundrel had some utility, some redeeming value after all.  He was a conduit for a relationship that transcended its origins.

By now, of the two men of whom I have written, one should have guessed the man who is the subject here is is Kurt -- not the other.   We lost him recently, and for the past several days I have eulogized him in my head.  The thing about some people is that you can speak of them all day and not run out of good things to say.  People like Kurt.  And so here is my eulogy.

Over the last 12 years I have had many conversations with Kurt, and from those, and his actions, I learned who and what were important to him, the stuff of which his heart was full.  And I concluded that Kurt was a real man -- intentional, upright, solid, and so much a Psalm 37:23 kind of man.   He was a professor, a protector, a peacemaker, and a provider.

A telephone call could take on Biblical proportions -- literally and figuratively.   I have one more thing I want to say and I'll let you go.   Thirty minutes later, and several one more things later, perhaps our conversation would end!  The length of our talks mattered not, as many times they were instructional, encouraging, and always substantive.  But for my anal way of logging time, I would have no idea.  I learned more about navigating the treacherous path of being an ordained minister who happens to be a Black woman, from Kurt more than from anyone else.  (Yes, there are places where people like me are unwelcome.)  He gave me wise counsel.

He was a protector of his family.   His devotion to Harm was a natural way of life -- just something that flowed -- never a show -- it just was.   There was no single thing to which one can point -- it was just his way when he spoke of her, spoke up for her, supported her activities and planned for her.  I learned recently that he also protected me, declining invitations and foregoing events that he believed would make it appear that he devalued our relationship had they attended.  I was overwhelmed by his sense of what is right and humbled by his consideration for me.

The one time there was a rift in our relationship, it was Kurt who helped Harm and me get back on track.  He reminded us both of what we meant to each other.  He bridged that gap, and we made peace.  That was in 2009, so I guess in did a pretty good job!   

And he was a provider.   Many of our talks were about what he wanted to accomplish before he left this earth, to make sure his family was taken care of.  In the next to his last day he worked out the final details.

For these 12 years, I tended to refer to Kurt as my best friend's husband.   And when I replayed the scenes of my time with Harm and Kurt, especially those middle-of-the-night phone calls (literally), I realized that he was my friend, too.  And now my saying we lost him recently hopefully makes a little more sense.  

From the abundance of Kurt's heart, this is what I learned:  He was a good man whose steps were ordered by the Lord.  He was my professor.  He was a protector and provider to his family.  The world could use some of his ilk. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why Every Day Must Count

18 June 2015
For an early riser, it is late in the day, what I normally call "mid-morning."  It is 11:22 CDST.   It was only about 2.5 hours ago when I left my bed, which normally happens around 6:00.   As difficult as it was to get up, it was even more difficult to fall asleep last night.

Yesterday was a normal Wednesday -- activity off and on until going to the campus of South Main Baptist Church for food, fellowship, prayer, Bible study and choir rehearsal.   I had the pleasure of sharing my table with four of our youths, and a youth imposter, a middle-school-looking young lady who turned out to be "Mary" -- one of our ministry interns who is on a college summer break.   They enjoyed a fantastic "taco" meal from our kitchen --- flour and corn tortillas, chicken, beef, sauteed onions, bell peppers & other stuff, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, refried beans (like I've never had before!) and all the other "fixings" that make a fantastic DIY TexMex plate.  And, of course, way-too-decadent desserts.   It was great to converse with folks young enough to be my "grands" and watch them eat with gusto the stuff that I've had to give up.   (I settled for a meatless, tortilla-less, cheeseless, dessert-less meal.  It was good, but there was no chocolate in that mix.)   I noticed when they left, the table was a clean as before they sat to feast.  [Our kids rock.  :)]

Bible study was a look at two obscure characters who were raised from the dead by Peter and Paul, Tabitha (Dorcas) and Eutychus, respectively.  Though the end result was the same for both -- they came to life -- there were different perspectives for the two situations.   (And I am reminded how no matter how often the Bible is read, there is always something new to find.)

Toward the end of choir rehearsal, one of our members read to us her sentiments following the loss of her brother.  We were reminded of how, whether we are aware are not, we leave our prints on the lives of others.

Then, on the way home, I had a nagging compulsion to cancel this morning's 8:30 a.m. meeting.  There was no clear explanation, but I sat in my car and composed a text setting out my reasons (which in hindsight, make absolute sense), and sending it.   When I came inside I sat at my desk, and copied and pasted the text of the message in an email and sent that as well.  (I am, after all, a belt-and-suspenders kind of woman.)  I was overwhelmed, and had no explanation until I turned on the news, and there IT was -- the story of a shooting inside a church not long ago.

I poured myself into bed, could not sleep, watched episode after episode of Stargate 1, Season 3, eventually just passing out.   When I "came to" this morning I had no inclination to move.  Like many others, my mind was a whirling mess of who/what/why/how, and there were no answers.  Then the why bother "ism" set in, followed by paralysis.  I simply did not move.

Today is your birthday?   How can you celebrate?

How can I NOT?   I am still here!

But what about those people?

I grieve for those people, and their families, and for people of whom I know nothing --- the ones who did not awake this morning, the ones who breathed their last before midnight, the ones who . . . who . . . heck, everyone.  

So, just skip the day.   Stay in bed.  Wait until tomorrow.   You need a break.

Then, the light came on.

No!   I don't get to skip a day.   I don't get to wait until tomorrow.  Even if I need a break, I have to make this day count for something, and that means I must move!  I've got to get moving.  There is something for me to do TODAY.   Something productive.  Something meaningful.  Something beneficial for someone.  I've got to print myself on this day, some how, some way.   

It would be different if I could not get out of bed.  There have been lots and lots of days like that.  This is not one of them.  And I am thankful.  So, while, I can do something with this day, I must make this day count.

How this day will count I have yet to know; I may never know.  But this day is gift to be cherished by living it, not by hiding in bed with videos streamed form Amazon Prime.   I suppose it is fitting that on this day, marking another year of life, when as I told my Brer that there have been several times when I thought I was being fitted for my wings (or horns, depending on whether my soul will soar or plummet), it should be shared with joy and thanksgiving.

This is why every day must count for something.  My prayer is that the something will be positive --- opportunities to share, care, show love/grace/mercy, encourage, be gracious and kind, spread joy, be salt and light to the world, making a print, even on just one.

If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,
If I can show somebody, that he's travelling wrong,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

If I can do my duty, as a good Christian ought,
If I can bring back beauty, to a world filled with wrought,
If I can spread love's message, as the Master taught,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Day 13 of Sarcoidosis Awareness Month: An Invitation to Spend a Day in My Shoes

NOTE:  this post was started on the morning of 13 September, however because of the events of the day it was not completed until 14 April. 

She awoke at 4:30; feeling it was early, she refused to look at her phone (the ‘clock’), opting to keep her eyes closed and lie still.   It was clear she was in trouble.  This is a classic Sarcoid day, she thought.  She could feel the dead weight of her body, especially her legs.  It was as if a herd of imps had ascended from hell, each poking a straw in her to suck out her life.   When the 0545 alarm came on, she ‘set’ herself to arise at 0630.  Surely I can get up by then.

The morning news/gossip/opinion/slander program came on, allowing her to relive the horror stories of the day before:

  • A 73-year-old reserve cop shoots and kills an unarmed man.  At some point she opened her eyes in time to see a knee pressing on the man’s head as he lay on the ground.  Then there was a voice:  f—k your breath.
  • A young woman is raped by several men on a beach while people are all around her, and rather than render aide, they record the incident.  A Panama City police official calls the perpetrators animals.  Her immediate thought was why insult the animals?
  • Hillary Clinton announced she is running for POTUS.  While this may not be a horror story, she thought of the already egregiously nasty political climate and uncivilized behavior that has reached epidemic proportions.  Add to that being inundated by the idiots who would compel me to vote for Hillary because she’s a woman is just too much, she thought to herself.  Rationalizing that thought, she said aloud, pointing her right index finger (a habit when she’s making a point):  It’s not that voting for Hillary is in itself idiocy, it is voting for her because she’s a woman.

Time zipped by.  It was 0730 before she arose, plodding along at a snail’s pace, trying to remember her last productive day.  It is Monday, and she had to think back to the Wednesday prior for a day during which she did some solid, productive, billable work.   Breakfast was a simple smoothie – a concoction of strawberries, an orange, flax seeds and a scoop of Perfect Food (that’s the nastiest stuff she’s ever had, but it’s supposed to be nutritional).  Sitting at her desk, she tried to get a handle on her day, remembering a 10:00 doctor’s appointment.  Suddenly, she felt the rumbling of a volcano, inside her, and rushed to the contain the eruption.  She wasn’t quite fast enough . . . almost, but not quite.  After cleaning up the mess, and herself, she left for her appointment.

She stumbled into the office of XYZ Nephrology.  An older woman was at the receptionist’s desk.  The woman looked at her, and told the receptionist You should take her first.  Thank you, she said, but I’m okay.  And I’m new, so I probably have to complete lots of forms.   The two women sat back-to-back; they engaged in conversation while the younger completed her forms.  At some point, the older woman, reached behind and laid her hand on the shoulder of the other.   The comforting touch communicated to the other you are not alone.  

After spending about five minutes with the specialist (and wondering what he would bill for that precious time), she left the office.  Walking down the busiest corridor of this building, the one that accesses the crosswalk to the parking garage, she was near collapse when a man and two women just grabbed her, easing her down tot he floor.  Someone called paramedics.  Security personnel came.  Upon arrival, the lead paramedic determined they could not examine her in the hall, so he walked through the nearest door, the reception area for a cosmetic surgeon.  Skipping over the gory details, about an hour and a half later she was allowed to leave if she called a taxi to take her home.   Her day was over and it was only 1:00 p.m.

This occurrence is not new, nor is it uncommon.

There is an old saying, that you cannot judge a book by its cover. This is so true when people look at anyone and decide their intellect, character, education, credentials, or value. This is also true when people look at a Sarcoid patient and say well you look alright.  She I looked alright this morning. And despite that she felt the life draining out of her body.

She still remembers vividly, at a hearing years ago in an administrative court about the appeal of her application for Social Security disability, which had been denied. The representatives for the Social Security Administration and the administrative judge both thought she presented myself too well to be sick.  She was asked how did she get dressed, to which she replied my daughter helped me.  She was then asked who combed her hair, again to which she answered my daughter helped me.   She had been warned that she should not present herself at a hearing looking "normal.” It was suggested to her that she dress like someone who was so poor and/or homeless that she did not have proper clothing or access to grooming and toileting facilities.  To this day that is one of the most offensive conversations she has ever had. And also to this day she has never collected a dime of the Social Security disability for which she qualified, having been certified by three physicians, independent of each other, benefits for which she worked.

Every time she received a payroll check, there was indicated  gross income and net income, and the difference between those two numbers comprised various taxes and deductions for medical insurance and Social Security.  For 19 years, she has managed to more or less sustain myself. It has not been easy. In fact there have been many times when her body was pushed well beyond it's limits, just to finish a project. There have also been times when she needed medical care but did not have insurance and could not afford to see a doctor.  Had I been granted the Social Security disability she would have had a Medicare card 17 years ago.  As flawed as Medicare is, she would have been better able to access the healthcare she needed when she needed it, rather than having to wait and save and miss appointments and sometimes tests and procedures.  With the Affordable Care Act, she has been able to get insurance that she can afford and have access to health care when she needs it.  And the idea that there are people in this country who would rather her not have that kind of access is galling.

She has seen people come to the United States from other countries and get benefits that were not available to her.  She has seen companies and individuals get tax breaks and pay little to no taxes.  She has seen bloodsuckers (also known as politicians) line their pockets with ill-gotten gains from selling themselves and the welfare of their constituents and prostituting their own morals for their own benefit.

By the way, the Houston Chronicle, years later, published a story about that administrative judge, who had a history of rendering biased rulings against certain groups of people, of which she is one.   She filed a complaint and nothing ever came of it.  She has been scoffed at an ridiculed for using accessible parking places because people look at her and determine her need for the space.  The only thing she has to say to them is spend a day in my shoes and then let's talk.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


And it’s Resurrection Day!  Alright, many refer to it as Easter.  I’m a Resurrection Day kind of woman.  And what a glorious day it has been, spending the morning on the campus of my church for worship, Sunday School and fellowship. It is a day on which I was reminded in song, scripture, sermon and quiet, that my faith is what keeps me going.

Life is not what I thought it would be as a tread closer to 61.  After all, 35 years ago I projected 2015 would be my retirement year.  When you lose almost two decades of productivity that's more than a stretch.  Ha!   Still, life is good, because God is good.  And even in my infirmities He sustains me and gives me peace.

The Glenn Edward Burleigh adapted a hymn of which I am reminded.   This is what he added:

He gently speaks to me; in my quiet time alone with Him I find the love I need.  
He gently speaks to me; in my quiet time alone with Him I find the joy I need.  
He gently speaks to me; in my quiet time alone with Him I find the peace I need.  

The refrain of that hymn says:

Blessed quietness holy quietness
What assurance in my soul
On the stormy sea He speaks peace to me
And the billows cease to roll

Glenn then continued:

When he speaks to me, I get peace that passeth understanding
When he speaks peace to me, the power of God takes control 
When he speaks peace to me, I get joy, unspeakable joy in my soul
And the billows cease to roll.

Yep, there are storms.  Some of us call them by the names of unloving spouses, unruly children, insufferable supervisors, or bills that sit at table every meal and refuse to ever leave.  And some call them tumor, lymphoma, cancer, MS, ALS or Sarcoidosis.  Whatever the storm, He is the shelter.  Whatever the problem, He is the solution.  Whatever the question, He is in the answer.  That is not to say the storm will disappear; it is to say that He will see you through it.  After all, life here, no matter how meaningful, or successful, or how much we enjoy it, is only a way station until we go home.  And as long as we're here, if we are Resurrection Day kind of folks, we aren't home . . . yet.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


It is also Maunday Thursday, and when I looked outside and saw it is overcast and the sun is up there, but hidden, I thought it about par for what folks who share my faith will commemorate today. It is a day of shadows and darkness.

For many Sarcoid sufferers, most days are filled with shadows and darkness. Because the disease is so misunderstood and in most cases unknown, it is not uncommon for Sarcoid patients to feel isolated and suffer tremendous bouts of depression. Because the disease often goes misdiagnosed, people are often told things like "You're just lazy. You'd feel better if you got up and exercised." A woman's doctor said that to her. She went improperly diagnosed for more than ten years. The problem is, most have difficult just getting up!

In my "pre-Sarcoid" years I weighed about 140 pounds and walked several times a week, generally about 15 miles. There was a weight bench in my bedroom, and I could bench press 175 pounds. Indeed, that's all history. I have learned not to dwell on what "I used to do" and be grateful for what I can do. Sometimes, however, those pesky imps rear their ugly heads and try to plant all kinds of ugly stuff in my mind. Get thee behind me!!!!!

As you can see from the picture, I am wearing all black, the uniform of the day for our sanctuary choir members serving in this evening's "Service of Shadows." [I confess the last time I wore this suit it was not so snugfrown emoticon I really have to toe the line because I don't get much exercise, and I have all but left the line.] I'm not much on smiling, but considering the overcast sky and the Christian theme of the day, I tried to do a little contrast. And there are lots of things for which to smile and be thankful, including that I got up this morning.

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 cities were not as widespread in Houston, 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 bad outweighed the good? 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 showed I had about a quarter of a tank 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 the right entrance, and 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 looked at the building, taking note of this 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 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 lives 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.