That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

God’s Mysterious Ways Often Become Clear to Those who Wait

I was born in Florida and grew up in Memphis. I always took pride in the fact that I was born where my father was born, and while I am proud of the music heritage Memphis has, the town always left me disappointed in almost every other area. Racism is in the DNA, the politics and general mindset are archaic and mired in a ditch, and crime is stratospheric. Education is teetering over the abyss, and job opportunities are scarce.

There are thousands of world-class musicians and artists, but in order to be heard by the world one must leave.

As a child, my parents stressed education and diversity of interests. We had books on a wide array of subjects — geography, animals, trees, national parks — and we were given an appreciation of things like nature and solar systems and music and vocabulary and sports and writing and drawing. I wanted that for my progeny as well. The kids with whom I grew up had the most mundane desires and often ridiculed me for liking “white boy stuff” like books and chess and the like. And it was only because I had parents who were teachers and who values education and home-training that I could represent myself fairly well when speaking formally.

Once I got married and had kids, my wife and I always hoped to move to Nashville so that she could have better employment choices and so that the children would not have to go through what I went through. But I wasn’t going to move with no musical contacts and have to wind up getting a job in a factory or a call center somewhere. I wanted to be established first.

Before we moved here to Las Vegas, work was drying up like water in the Serengeti in June. I want to be this famous saxophone player and songwriter, and Memphis was showing itself to not be the place for ME. People just don’t call sax players first for jobs. We are non-essential extras. Kathy was on maternity leave and didn’t want to go back to that dead-end job, and finding a new one — even though she is a college graduate — was proving impossible. Bills were piling up with no prospects of being paid… Life was miserable. We were constantly knocking on God’s door begging for assistance with waning faith.

The best thing about Memphis for us was our church and our families.

My daughter and youngest son have eczema (it had taken a lot of Diana’s hair, and her skin was always breaking out), and my eldest son has problems with all the pollen and such in Memphis. We were also wondering about how they would develop when they started school. I’m a proud product of the public school system, but things are so different now… Homeschooling was not an option for many reasons. I wanted my kids to be broad-minded but proud of their heritage and culture, and Memphis is such a racially polarized town.

Fast forward to now:

Everyone is FLOURISHING!

I have worked in Vegas numerous times over the years, and I never was overly impressed — not being a gambler. The Strip is beautiful, but I thought once you got past that, there was nothing else to see. How wrong I was!

This is a wonderful place! Mountainous (which I always wanted) and picturesque. There is actually an attractive quality to the desert. And there are a thousand things within a few hours’ drive… The Grand Canyon, San Diego,  Hollywood, Hoover Dam, San Francisco, Yellowstone, Yosemite…

The area is incredibly diverse, so my kids won’t have to suffer life in a racist fishbowl to the degree that I did (although…). And they will have interests that extend beyond the usual — TV, video games, and a 9 to 5. They will see so many things that we wouldn’t have been able to afford to show them.

The area is spread out enough that a good neighborhood is not one block away from a bad one like back home. The architecture is interesting, and the weather is more to my liking because I HATE being cold!! And there are more work opportunities for me here if my current gig plays out. I make three times what I made back home, where saxophone players are considered “options” like heated seats in a car, or 50 inch plasma televisions, or shiny, spinning rims.

I feel exactly like a biblical figure saved by God from a famine, a flood, or a fire. He got us out of a place that — for us — was becoming desolate and depressing. He uprooted us and lined events up in so obvious a way that we had no doubt that God was orchestrating them. And then, He showed us what would have been. It is almost spooky, knowing that there is actually Someone else — who we cannot see — in the room doing stuff! God changed so much for us! We paid off our car early, got my son in a great school, got a second vehicle big enough for all of us, and we got a bigger, more comfortable home with nice amenities. Diana’s hair is thick and full, her skin is soft, and Max doesn’t have nearly the issues with allergies as back home. My kids are blossoming before our eyes like dogwoods. Kathy is exercising — even running — and is much, much happier with life than she was a year ago.  And we both have drastically changed our eating habits in order that we may be here for the kids. Little to no salt and sugar, smaller portions, no sherbet :-(, no candy, and no fatty foods.  We have both lost a lot of  lbs. in the past three months. I’m actually writing this between weightlifting sets…

All this came from my saxophone, which was another answered prayer.

But there is a problem… In order to achieve all this we had to move 1,600 miles away from every single person we love! It is incredibly difficult to juxtapose missing mothers, fathers, siblings, church members, and best friends with the advantages existent here. It is like our arms are running while our legs are walking leisurely.

We used to have Sunday dinners at my parents’ house weekly. They got to see the kids on a regular basis, something I never had with MY grandparents and always wanted for my children. Moving so far away meant that they would no longer be able to see the children grow up and develop. They would not be able to see them at the drop of a hat. That alone made this the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. While my folks are happy for us, I KNOW they’re heartbroken but won’t admit it. In order to function, I have to try to not dwell on it too much…

Before I got married, I saw my parents five or six times a week. I would come home from road gigs and go to their house in the middle of the night and sit at the foot of their bed in the dark and tell them stories about what happened and we would just laugh… Once I got married, though, I stopped all that in order to be true to the biblical mandate to “leave and cleave.” But we still had Sundays when we, my sisters, and my nephews would all get together after church. I had a weakness for Bluebell Homemade Vanilla ice cream, and Mom knew that and kept a ready supply for me in her freezer. I treasured those days and never thought about them ending.

But I think about biblical times when, if a family moved away — as so many did — it could mean they would NEVER see their loved ones again! At least we have planes now. My parents moved away from their childhood homes — my father moved almost as far away as I did. That, in part, was why I wanted my kids to have relationships with their grandparents, since I never really did.

Weighing the pros and cons, though, tipped the scales in favor of the move. There were just TOO many signs, answered prayers, and obliterated obstacles! And I couldn’t show myself to be the true head of this family if I couldn’t bear the excruciating pain of leaving “Mama” to give them a better life. I’m not naive! I KNOW this is Vegas with all its attendant pitfalls and dangers. But you should know — as I now do — that Las Vegas is waaay more than The Strip!

I feel stressed sometimes, as the Disciples and the wandering children of Israel did even in the very presence of God, but He has shown Himself  gracious and faithful. My job is precarious in the sense that I have only EVER been fired by THIS particular organization, but God is bigger than all that, and if He brought us out here which He obviously did, He did not do so as some cruel trick knowing what all is at stake… Following Him is like riding out on the wing of an airplane; frightful but exhilarating, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Advertisements

May 25, 2011 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Fear, God, God's Hand, Life, Life Lessons, Marriage, Parenthood | 7 Comments

Writer’s Block…

I have been trying for MONTHS to think of some new stuff to write about… Libya? Japan? Charlie Sheen? Life here in Vegas? Missing my family back home? The grace of God through three babies and no health insurance at the moment?  Praise-a-Thon? Anti-Christ du jour?

All of the above?

Bear with me.

March 31, 2011 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Life, Work, Writing | 1 Comment

“…Arise, take up thy bed (and thy entire LIFE) and go. TO VEGAS!”

So, I live in Las Vegas now. The last place on Earth — next to Mississippi — I expected to live.

I went –er, I mean, CAME — to train the horn section of the BB King’s Club in the Mirage casino for just a month. That was hard enough… I missed my oldest son’s fourth birthday, and my baby son was only five months old.

It was a trying ordeal that wound up being extended for an extra four weeks, but we needed the money with Kathy on maternity leave with no pay, and with financial options running out and Pharaoh’s army fast approaching…!

I will color in the details later, but the rough outline is this:

The front man is a good friend and former band mate whose arrangements I helped create, so, it was a prime opportunity for me. I put a word in on a Thursday, and I was in Vegas two days later. In an apartment with blue, pink, and orange walls with big daisies stuck to them, and an enormous ROUND bed in which to sleep! Vegas!

At the end of the first month, right when I was about to go home, the sax player quit, and they offered me the gig, which I previously vehemently refused to consider accepting. The money was too good to turn down, especially considering the bleakness of the landscape back in Memphis.

The entire story is heart wrenching and glorious, and I will be recounting it in the coming days and weeks. Suffice it to say for now that my wife and kids and all our worldly possessions are on this side of the country, and everyone we love is on the other! With NO prior warning…

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Christian Life, Family, Music, Music Business, Work | 5 Comments

Lest We Forget…

These last four or five months have been ROUGH! But happy.

Steve was born in the midst of a record cold snap, Kathy has been at home with us since December, and I’ve begun (and am almost halfway through) making my album. This past Sunday, my pastor, Bryan made a great suggestion: Write down the things God does when He does them in order that your kids will know when THEY go through — THROUGH — tough times.

Things have been all on my shoulders financially, and I welcome that, but it is hard to do on a hack musician’s pay! It is Kathy’s desire to take care of the kids and take Max to school in the mornings and be on point for all of his activities. That can’t be done in her current position.

She has what we call, only slightly facetiously, a “Slave Job.” It is decent employment if you need the money, but they treat their people like rented mules — there are a million ways to get fired, and taking off  to deal with child issues is one. They used to get bonuses and incentives before the company was bought out. There used to be programs to help ambitious employees move up. All gone. ALL the workers and lower-level management are black. Upper management — NOT black. Slave job.

 They have this unGodly points system that is blind to particular situations. My wife has come close to being terminated a number of times during rough bouts of morning sickness that had her throwing up for days on end.

They didn’t care. “Get to work!” Her Points Predicament had her going to workup until mere days before she was due.

Not too many black households are able to survive on one income. Ours is no exception. We are juggling bills so well around here that we both qualify for Barnum and Bailey status! But God is in the gaps introducing our ends to one another.

And on top of all this, we have the nerve to want to send our son to a five-figure private school!! Now, My parents are both public school teachers, and I am proud of my public education, and will stand no disparagement of it! But when we found out that Max will be learning Mandarin and violin and guitar and Spanish AND Christian principles and manhood — I was SOLD! (Or bought)

So, with cash being tight and all, this past week, I got a call for a gig on a day when I am normally off. Cool! The roof is leaking, and I can use THAT money to pay a man to patch it. I also had a session to do with a group led by a guy I work with a lot. He’s recording an album, and I am doing it for free. Or at least, for deferred fundage…

The session was at 1 o’clock, and the gig was at 4:30. I was doing only one song, so there should be no conflict. As I was getting dressed to do the session (I had  called the man with whom I was gigging to find out the dress code, but got no answer, so I figured I’d better dress up to be safe), he texted me his apologies and that the gig was cancelled!! As I was on my way out the doggone door! Thanks…

So, no money. Strangely, I wasn’t that angry. I got to the session and found that we would be doing FOUR tunes — not one!!! Seems that God knew what He was doing! Seems that He moved that gig out of the way so that I could show good faith to Scott and Marc who have done right by me.  I’m playing on CYNDI LAUPER’S FORTHCOMING CD!! Out june 22. Scott produced it, and Marc is playing on my project for not one nickel. Had I still had the gig, I would have had to break up the session.

So, we did the tunes, and I’m on my way out the door, and Scott says, “Hey, wait so I can pay you!”

WHAT?!!? Cool! I was cool doing it for nothing, but now maybe I would get enough to buy some oatmeal and bread and dishwashing detergent.

Scott paid me 2 1/2 times what I would have gotten on the cancelled gig! Jehovah suuure knows how to Jireh, don’t He?

See how God operates? He’s a show-off! That other guy could have — SHOULD have — called me days ago to let me know the job fell through. But just like in the Bible time and time again, God shows out: He Let Pharaoh and them get right up on Moses and the Israelites before He did His thing! He exposed the false prophets by having the stone altar DOUSED with water and burned rocks to ashes!

He often lets us get right to the edge of the cliff before a bridge just pops up out of nowhere, so that there will be no doubt who did it.

So, Max, Diana, Steve (and whoever may be next) fear not. God will catch you. And He’s cooler than ten James Bonds and a dozen Houdinis! Love Him like I do!

May 20, 2010 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Faith, God | 2 Comments

Kid Slaps Mother. When is the Funeral?

Okay, by now, you’ve probably either seen or heard of this… This kid slaps his MOTHER!!!

The first thing I did when I saw this was blame the mother — that’s right, the mother — for creating an environment where her kid THOUGHT that he could slap Mommy and survive. I could rant on all night about this, but perhaps I won’t…

This is another problem with the Oprahfication of America. We have to tell ourselves that the best way to raise children (whose brains don’t even function fully properly until well past puberty) is to REASON with them!! Adults reason. And even then, not always successfully!

This mother is being all nice and calm while the offspring of her body is flying apart.

I’ll tell you what — if any of my children (or anybody else’s) swing at me on camera, I’ll erase them and start drawing new ones!

There’s an analogy I heard a long time ago that I apply in rearing my kids: A man was at the circus and noticed that the elephants  — full-grown behemoths — were chained to wooden stakes that were hammered into the dirt. They could have easily pulled them up, but the slightest tension made them give in and stay put.

The visitor asked their trainer how this was possible.

“Simple,” he replied. “When the elephants are babies, we chain them to stakes that are embedded in the ground too deep for them to pull up. By the time they are strong enough, their memory of not being able to pull them up supersedes their knowledge of their abilities.”

One day my sons will be bigger and stronger than I. So I have to be invincible in their eyes in order that they don’t try me. There has to be fear until there is respect.

I thought my father would literally beat me to death if I challenged him. I thought he was crazy. (he was.) When I grew up and mentioned that to him, he laughed and told me that that was exactly the objective. I had to think that if I exceeded his boundaries, the price to pay would be final. That kept me away from drugs, theft, cutting classes, sneaking the car keys, drinking, sex… All the egregious sins, until my sense of not wanting to disappoint my parents was all I needed to basically keep me in line.

They reasoned with me only to the point that I was able to understand. I was not allowed to ask them where they were going when they left the house, or why I had to eat certain detestable foods, or “why” anything else they chose to have me do. I was allowed to voice my concerns and speak my mind, though, within certain limits.

I could not interrupt them when in conversation, and I could not join in adult tete a’ tetes. But they engaged me and respected my personhood — within limits.

Kids have a place. That is a dead notion, I know, but it is alive in my household, and never will a child of mine even bring to mind the idea of hitting ME! And my WIFE is the crazy one!!

There are worse things in the world than a butt-whupping, and this kid is going to experience a lot of them.

Raise your kids, folks! They are not born grown, and you do a disservice to them to treat them as though they are. Would you fly in a plane piloted by a person who only watched instructional films to learn how? Why, then, do you let Oprah tell you how to bring up children?

You watched that video and got mad at the boy. Well, I submit that he is only a product of his environment, and is functioning as designed.

April 13, 2010 Posted by | Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Discipline, Kids, Oprah, Oprah Winfrey, Parenthood, Parenting, Spanking | 7 Comments

In the words of the great prophet, Rodney King…

Sweet Jesus y’all, can’t we all just get along this eeenin’?!?

Whether you fall on the conservative side of the issue or the liberal, can we all agree to be at least HUMAN in expressing displeasure? Does it take spitting on people, calling people racist names, and carrying loaded guns and signs about watering trees with blood?

And when somebody gets killed, it’ll be, as we used to say, a lot folk throwing rocks and hiding their doggone hands!

There are arguments to be made on both sides of the health care issue. I for one don’t want to be forced to buy something if I can’t afford it. Car insurance is bad enough, but I understand that. But I can’t be entirely angry about people unable to be made healthy now getting a chance to walk and breathe without pain.

I have been in the position of needing to go to a doctor and not being able. As a Christian, I cannot just be all up in arms about it. And I have heard too many times that that is the Church’s job, not the government. Miss me with that!!! The Church can do a lot about a lot and still sits idly in many ways! That is just a passing of the buck.

The government had to make Americans let slaves go, and a hundred years later, let them be FREE! While many Christians fought those fights, the majority — as today —  elected to show shameful selfishness instead: “I worked hard and got what I needed! Let them do the same!” (Regardless of the innate systematic inequities.)

Now, it appears that the REAL truth is blooming like turnips. Peoples’ lives are being threatened, and epithets are being hurled in Birminghamian waves. And what worse thing can you do than to spit on a man?!!? Spit on ME and I won’t be able to take Communion! One reason will be because of the pending charges! And all this from the “Party of God.”

I haven’t read the thousands of pages in the bill, and neither have you. We listen to Rush (is he gone yet?), Beck, Olbermann, Maddow, Boehner, and Clyburn and we believe the way we are inclined to believe, and we run out and pass it along.

Forgive me if I take it a LITTLE personal when I see the black first lady compared to a chimp, and when I see the first black President called all manner of animal and devil spawn. All this talk of “Taking America back…” from whom? From WHOM?!? Who took it? You mean black folk? Surely not! I know that Evangelical, Christian, God-fearin’ folk would not resort to such thinly veiled rhetoric…

But here we are. And believe me, I live right in the middle of a nest of white American conservatism! Across the street from me lives a (purportedly traumatized) Vietnam vet who claims Christ.

When it looked like Obama was going to get elected, he came to me in a hushed voice and asked if I had enough ammo, guns and fresh water, because an economic collapse and anarchy were in his words, “a mathematical certainty” based on what he had been reading and hearing on conservative talk radio. He has hundreds of gallons of water stored in his back yard. He has been driving around town for a little over a year with a beg tin sign hanging from his back bumper all about Obama and how he is going to bring about Armageddon or something. And he put four huge hooks in his roof and put a sign up there bigger than a taxi cab ad, saying, “OBAMA IS A SOCIALIST” Now, HE is the one I’m watching! Not the liberals! I would not be surprised to see him coming out his front door with a duffel bag full of mayhem. And I got a wife and three babies to protect, so…

His next door neighbor is not much different. He’s a perpetually angry little fella with a hair-trigger temper! I see it all up and down my street.

What about God? Isn’t He our portion? Our strength and refuge?

How can those so supposedly at odds with the government so fearful at the “loss” of it? Who scares me more, my own NEIGHBORS, or a bunch of folk who want to send the poor and the sick to a DOCTOR?!!?

And don’t give me that “Isolated Incident” junk! EVERY incident is isolated unless you back up to the doggone moon to get some freekin context!! (I laughed when I wrote that…)

Words are more than just words. To educate you Word of Faithers out there who misuse the quote, THIS is what was meant when God said that “the power of life and DEATH are in the tongue”!

I yield the balance of my time…

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Christians, Conservatism, Conservatives, Democrats, Health Care, Politicians, Politics, Race, Rachel Maddow, Racism, Republicans, Rush Limbaugh | 2 Comments

“Yesterday”, Today, FOREVER!

I hope this is not a long post…

I just got through watching a Toni Braxton video, and one line of her song, “Yesterday” stuck with me: “I just don’t love you no more…”

It’s as simple as that nowadays. I just ain’t feelin’ you, so, I’m out! Just like that. You come home from work, and she”just don’t love you no more,” so get your stuff, put it in a bag, and go sleep on your boy’s couch while we divvy up all the assets.

I believe she and her husband are seperated, but that is not the main point of this post. The point is, if the only thing a marriage has holding it together is whether one spouse STILL LOVES  the other, it is doomed! I can’t sanely live as a married man from day to day, year to year, if I am depending solely on that girl in the other room back there to continue loving me with her own resources.

There has to be another driving force. I, likewise, cannot say with confidence that I will not leave her or cheat on her if I am relying on my own feelings to be the glue. Kathy knows, and I know that while — yes — we do have enourmous affection and tremendous passion, and all the other touchy-feely stuff for each other, it is the unwavering unmoving, unchanging hand of God that gives us the assurance of “till death…”

Feelings change. That’s why when I see shows like “Entertainment Tonight” talk about how much “in lovvvve” a particular couple seem, I get the stirrings of rage that make me want to take all of them by the collective collar and counsel them on the real aspects of true love. People who base marriage on how they feeeel today should put the lawyers on speed dial. Don’t marry someone because you have passion alone for them. Marry because you will be committed to loving them more than you love yourself until you die! “Love” being an act and not a feeling.

If you don’t think you can do that — don’t.

If you believe that God will sustain you when your feelings wane, jump in with both feet! It is not an absence of lust that will keep you — or her — from cheating.Muscle maintenance  will not keep her chasing you around the room. (an EX-girlfriend saw my arms in short sleeves once, and said threateningly, “don’t loooose it…” *She gone!*)

I could say a lot more, but it’s 2:25 AM, I’m tired, and the baby is crying. And I love him. GET it?

January 28, 2010 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Jesus, Love, Toni Braxton | 5 Comments

Steven Horace Williams. And the Tempest on which He Came

Now, thanks be to God, I have three children! TWO of them sons!

Steve — named for my lost cousin, and my father — came into this world Tuesday morning amidst a whirlwind of activity.

Usually, when I play gigs, all I have to do is show up and blow. However some church members recently asked the church band to play their wedding reception. And they asked if I would play the wedding, too. I wound up being the point man for the function, which meant I would have to meet with the couple, get their requests for material, negotiate the price, get the music out to the guys, and hire the sound man and players. (Most of the church guys had other gigs.) A lot of extra work.

Now, when I took the job, I didn’t put it together with the fact that it was happening FOUR DAYS AFTER MY BABY’S BIRTH, and that Kathy would be having her third c-section! I just looked at the fact that it was January, and as I had been jobbed out of my New Year’s Eve gig, the money would be cool.

We have experienced record cold temperatures the last two weeks or so. Weekends are tough for me. I usually don’t get to sleep Saturday nights until 5 AM, and I have to be at church at 7:30. We have two services, and I’m usually done at 12:30 or so. I then go home, help Kathy get the kids fed, and we usually go to my parents’ house for dinner. I try to get a nap in there somewhere, and we’re home by 8 to feed the kids again. But I don’t get to sleep until about 4 or 5.

Mondays used to be my recovery day, with the only work I had to do was raise the kids. But the club switched our night from TUESDAY and Thursday to MONDAY and Thursday.

So, with all that, I went to work Monday night, and got to bed after 5 since I was too nervous to sleep. We had to get to the hospital at 7:30 for the birth. I was dead tired, and it was 15 degrees outside! By 10 AM, Steven Horace was here! Another nine-pounder!

After a long day of visitors and everything that comes with having a child, late that night, I decided to brave the sub-twenty degree weather to go get something to eat.

There was no one on the road. The car was driving funny, and I thought it was because the engine was still cold… I pulled into the turning lane to get out and see if a nudging fear I had was legitimate, and I found a blown-out tire! I rode verrry slowly down the turn lane looking for a place with enough light to get my thoughts together, and found a church parking lot. Kneeling on the ground to get to work, the cold crept up into my bones and took residence!

I was done and back on the road in about twenty minutes. But now, the thought in my mind was that tires for this car cost almost $300! And we just had a third baby in three-and-a-half years! I was juggling figures in my mind. And a snowstorm was in the forecast, so I couldn’t be driving around with a donut on the front of a front wheel drive car.

I had a rehearsal the next night at 11:30 PM, so I would have to take the car home, turn the faucets on to keep the pipes from freezing, say hello to my kids (who were being kept by Kathy’s mother Tuesday and Wednesday), get my truck, and go to the rehearsal. As I arrived at the club, the “CHECK ENGINE” light popped on!! What next?!? This could be big, or it could be small. But with single-digit temperatures and possible snow, 2 AM wasn’t the time to gamble!

After — prayer– and practice, I headed home. I had to spend the night at home because Kathy’s mom had to work and couldn’t keep Max and Diana, so I had to get them up early, dressed, and fed, and take them to my folks’ house to stay until Saturday afternoon. Soooo tired. After I did all that, I went back to the hospital for a couple of hours with Kathy and Steve before I had to leave for my Thursday gig.

I drove the truck, so after work, I went back home to check on the house, turn on the faucets, and switch back to the car since I needed it to take Kathy and the baby home in the car seat.

Now, all during the week, I’m corresponding with the groom, the sound man (who thinks he might have pneumonia!!) and the guys in the band. I had to make CD’s with the tunes on them, and e-mail others out to guys with whom I couldn’t contact. I had put together a GREAT collection of players!

Friday was even busier than the other days… After getting Kathy and the baby home, I left right out to get a tire for the car. The wedding gig was far out, and I couldn’t trust the truck to make it. After I got the tire, I came home, got the directions to the venue and headed straight back out to the wedding rehearsal! I wasn’t even home ten minutes!

And it was about 8 degrees outside. On the way home from the rehearsal, I treated Kathy and myself with Papa John’s!

So, we’re sitting at home, chillin’, after a long week, eating pizza, and I get up to go wash my hands, and the doggone water won’t come on!!! The pipes are frozen!! It’s Friday, and my troubles are just starting. Kathy: “Oh, yeah… Mama told me something about the water wasn’t running…”  Would’ve been cool to know that a whole lot earlier in the day. (in fairness to Kathy, she turned the bathroom sink on, and when it worked, she thought everything was cool. But THAT sink never froze.)

I turn up heat, turn on blow-dryers, space heaters, and the ENTIRE STOVE to try to get the water running again. My friend, Tim, came over to help, and I wound up going to Wal-Mart to buy a replacement line for the kitchen sink — which, being next to an outer wall, was the biggest trouble spot.

More running around and less rest for me. And the next day, Saturday, was the busiest day. And the bride and groom and all their visiting family didn’t care about my problems! The show must go on.

I got up very early to go and pick my kids up from my parents’ house, and would head right out to a noon set-up and soundcheck. The wedding was at 6, and the reception was right after at 7. I wouldn’t be coming back home until about 11 PM when it was all over.

Kathy called me at about 2. I thought she was calling to tell me that the faucet was running again. She was at home with three children, 3 years old and under, four days after having a baby cut from her womb, and I had booked a gig at the wrong time!

“You need to come home! You need to come home RIGHT NOW!! There is water coming down through the cabinets and all over the kitchen!! Water is gushing all outside!!!” I could hear my kids laughing and oblivious in the background.

It took me twenty minutes to get home (at 100 miles an hour!), and I couldn’t get the water turned off at the street because the valve was faulty. By the time a plumber got there, another thirty minutes had passed!

When would it end?

The plumber gave me an INCREDIBLY low price and said he would NOT have to cut through the walls! Kathy stopped crying when I told her that.

Turns out, he had to tear the cabinets out and cut through the walls. Still incredible price though!

My wonderful parents came and got Kathy and all three kids, and I went back to the gig.

The drummer got pulled over for speeding and we had to stretch two tunes for twenty-five minutes until he got there.

The gig was cool. Everybody was happy, the band got cash, and the sound man didn’t fall out. And I had to turn around and get up for church with one hour of sleep, work Monday… I still haven’t rested. And Kathy is just as tired, plus major surgery.

The thing is, though, that with all the drama and running around, I had to do… I never got frustrated. I usually would crack a LITTLE bit, but not this time. It was like God opened the valve — pun intended — a little at a time so that by the time the BIG disaster happened, I had built up enough confidence in His work to know that He would come through.

So, my second son, Steve, rode in on a tidal wave of action and turmoil and amid it all, he is the epitome of peace. I can learn a lot from him.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Action, Birth, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Drama, Family, Gigging, God, Music, Stories, Work | 8 Comments

Paper Tiger

wow. So another known figure has to admit to “transgressions.” What is new?

A. Rod, Michael Jordan, Brad Pitt and his vampire, Ali., any politician, King DAVID and Bathsheba, every rock star, Meg Ryan, the wife from the Sopranos, Ted Haggard, Madonna, Jesse Jackson, O.J., Bill Cosby, Jamal Harrison-Bryant, Anne Heche, plus billions of other people.

It is a common occurrence, and while it doesn’t anymore surprise me, it still sickens me. I proclaim that I will never cheat on my wife, that there are too many steps involved — any one of which provides me the chance to stop and think…

So, what makes it so prevalent? Aside from the fact that the urge was designed to be as strong as it is in order that multiplied billions of us are reproduced? We are all sinners! Given time and opportunity, all of us have done what we shouldn’t have at one time or another. For me, absent an all-seeing God who taps me on the shoulder constantly, I would go, too.

The confidence I have is not that I am great — or even GOOD — but that God can’t die and won’t cast me over the side (a problem those who don’t believe in the perseverance of the saints must reconcile).

My lack of shock at Tiger’s confession does not mean that I am jaded and resigned to the plummet of morality. I happen to think that a God who can see the whole future KNEW that we would do what we do when He set down the Law millennia ago! And my disappointment is not that I thought him perfect. I’m just tired of seeing brilliant people be so doggone STOOPID! I’m tired of things like this giving man-haters seeming validation for their points of view.

Yes, men cheat. They cheat with women! Women cheat. People cheat. It’s not as though there is a lost continent somewhere where all the sluts are, and that that’s where rich guys go when they tell their wives that they have a conference in Toledo.

I’m sick of press gatherings and pubic apologies and beleaguered wives and feeding frenzies.

Maybe it’s because I was never a guy who had women chasing me around the room, but I can’t see how folk can be so monumentally dumb as to leave text message trails and voice mails on the cell phone of women with the moral depravity to have sex with somebody’s husband!!!

How can you be a genius on the golf course, and a buffoon in the battle of the sexes? Why did he get mixed up with hostesses and waitresses? I’m sure there were homewreckers out there with as much to lose as he who were willing to lay up and shut up!

I do have an occupation which provides me with ample opportunity to do what I want and get away with it. I see guys doing it all the time. (And I sometimes see them get caught!) I have a wife burdened down with children, so I don’t have to worry about her popping up on me unexpectedly. I get looks occasionally, and sometimes more than just looks. But aside from love and fidelity, fear would keep me in check. Fear of the whooping God would lay on me if I did that! And fear of not raising my kids, and of having my wife hate me. Fear of public shame and ridicule. Fear of having people throw this blog in my face and calling me a hypocrite. And fear of the ramifications of the damage to my Christian efforts.

A few years ago, a  married woman slashed the tires on my sister’s car. She worked with my sister and told her that her husband was a mechanic (a big, greezy dude). She saw the car in her driveway and lost it.  My parents wanted to meet with her and her husband, and I wanted to be there, too!

The woman apologized profusely, saying that it happened at the spur of the moment. When everybody else was through talking, I said what I had to. I told her husband that if ANYthing happened to my sister, since I would go to jail for beating up a woman, I would come to HIM, and that his best move was to make sure his wife acted rationally because his wife wasn’t the only one who could go crazy!

But my main point of attack was at her assertion that it was a spur of the moment act. I told her that that was not true. She had to look out the window, see the car, get angry, go into the drawer and get a knife, unlock the door and go outside, stab one tire, and walk allll the way around to the other side and stab another one!

At any point, I told her, she could have stopped herself. She could have realized that the car would be stuck in her driveway. And that she would have to pay for the tires, not being able to lie about who did it. And that she would still have to face my sister at work. AND THAT SHE WAS THE ONE WHO TOLD MY SISTER ABOUT HER HUSBAND BEING A MECHANIC IN THE FIRST PLACE!

she agreed.

I tell this story to emphasize the fact that there are many steps to adultery. There are countless chances to let the heat of lust die down and gather the senses — and the loins. You have to meet a person, have a conversation, get a number, DIAL the number, erase the number, drive to the meet-up, get the room, and do all the rest. An affair has even more steps. One has to really be unhitched from the conscience to do all that. And that is scary!

And simply getting caught — which is what always causes the confession — doesn’t automatically switch on what was shut off.

When I go to work at the nightclub, or most other gigs, I always take my palm pilot. I spend my breaks playing Scrabble. I know the guys think I’m this dull church boy, but I don’t care. That thing keeps my mind occupied. They don’t know me the way I know me! I see the women — can’t help it — but I don’t dwell on it.

My philosophy has always been to keep myself out of tough situations. It’s easier to get out of a puddle than a pool! When I was single, all I did was think about how fine this woman or that one was, and how I could break past the shyness to win one. But even then, I tried to keep myself from getting into debauchery. I know that was God, and while I usually listened to His voice, the times when I didn’t always led to pain.

To this day, I can’t see how guys do what they do out in the open, but I can’t go around moralizing. What I do do is take the opportunities presented to me to tell them about my methods and reasoning. It’s a lot more fun to not have to feel like Tiger feels now than to roll in the sack and lie about it and get caught and get cussed out by the wife and hire a lawyer and give half a billion dollars, the houses and cars and KIDS to her for some other dude to enjoy!

 But Tiger didn’t ask me.

It’s a lot more fun to win a Scrabble game than to feel like the stuff on the bottom of the oven on the inside because you messed up again.

It feels a lot better to envision a bright future than to spend your time wishing your arms were long enough to grab and change the past…

This is why I idolize God. I know I won’t ever have to worry about TMZ coming up with photos of Jesus and some random harlot drunk frolicking in the back of a Tahoe, or a voice mail of Him asking said harlot to erase her name from her phone. Jesus won’t ever have to “release a statement.” Only a Testament.

December 2, 2009 Posted by | A. Rod, Adultery, Advice, Christ, Christian Life, Fidelity, Integrity, Tiger Woods | 9 Comments

Saying “I’m wrong,” is All Right

Until you admit you are wrong when you are wrong, everything you try to do is going to fail. You don’t get to admit error in an arrogant, falsely modest, condescending, passive-aggressive way — I’m just a peon, all of you are really better at this than I am — while still continuing  the same course of action that caused the division in the first place. Sugary words mean nothing when accompanied by harmful actions.

I am speaking of a person in particular, but the principle is universally applicable. I can’t stand to be around people who are never wrong. (And Jesus ain’t just “PEOPLE”)

The reason I can have a continuously harmonious relationship with my wife is that we choose not to play these games with each other. If I am wrong — and she convinces me of it (chuckle) — I have no problem admitting it. How is it respectful toward her to KNOW she is right, but deny it because I don’t want to lose the high ground? All this will do is embitter her.

She shows me the grace to do the same thing. There have been times when I have had an issue or another with her and thought, “Oh, Lord, help me in this! I know she’s gonna push back hard, and we’re gonna have to rassle!” But invariably she will sit there silent after I’ve laid out my case. I’m thinking, “Here we go! She’s HOT!” and she will say, “You know what? You’re right. I was wrong” Just like that.

And what that does for me is make me more secure in the relationship! I grow to love her more because I know that no one likes to be wrong in a sincerely held belief, and to change a thought process is a huge thing. That she does that for me means that she really does love me for the long run!

Friendship is the same way. We all miss the mark. We all are selfish at times. We all shade the truth from time to time. We all simply make mistakes. But YOU, Dude to Remain Nameless, are never wrong. To pretend perfection only frustrates fellowship. I have friends who USED to be that way, and I USED to be friends with people who ARE that way.

What ends up happening is that you alienate those who seek to build a relationship. The fact that it is always the next man’s fault makes the next man take a hike.

When YOU play a wrong note, or show up late, or cancel an engagement, or miss a practice unexcused, there is always a reason. When someone else does it, it is a dearth of dedication or a lack of reverence for you or your endeavor.

What your feigned infallibility says to me is that you think I am either intellectually inferior or not important enough, worthy enough, to warrant the truth. The fact that you can lie to my face about the contents of a conversation that only you and I had, says to me that you respect me less than you would a slug sliding on the ground! It says that you think of your associates as women to be manipulated and that you are a player a la Bill Bellamy, just playing mind games to show your superior smoothness. Men don’t like that. Stop doing it. Real life is not a game of cat and mouse. Or dog and cat… Don’t try to play me like I’m some woman you’re trying to hit up in a club somewhere.

It takes strength to admit wrong. The strength to swallow all that pride and just say, “My bad,” and shut up and keep moving. Not the phoney, self-aggrandizing, “my only sin is that I care too much” kind of stuff you shovel out.

Do you know how angry you make people when you do that? You have “Proverbs” smeared all over you.

And if you drag God’s name through it, you commit the sin of trying to make Him an accomplice to your crimes. Don’t say you are doing His work if you treat His people like the dirt on your shoes. That’s just another player move. “I can get more followers if I say I am doing the Father’s bidding.”

As I said, this stems from a conversation I already tried to have with a guy I know. But we all know folk like him. If you don’t — then, it is YOU!

We would all benefit by learning to admit wrong, and to forgive wrong. I think that a lot of the problem lies in the fact that we often think that if we are found to be wrong in some way, people will think less of us or love us less, or cast us aside.

So, logically, if our friends develop the confidence of knowing that they will be sincerely forgiven, harmony will result. Nameless Friend, however… In the words of Celie, “…till you do right by me…”

And, no, I’m not talking about Stephen A. Smith. Although…

September 22, 2009 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Common Sense, Food for Thought, Friendship, Marriage, Rant, Stephen A. Smith, Stuff I Hate | 2 Comments

As John Mayer said, “Keep me where the LIGHT is!”

So, let’s see… In a span of two weeks we have a congressman heckling the President in hallowed halls, Serena Williams gets all un-Jehovah’s Witness on a line judge, and Kanye interrupts a live broadcast to demand a recount.

And now everyone’s lamenting the loss of “civility.” As if it only JUST broke the surface! I was angry at Joe Wilson, ashamed at Serena, and ready to re-break Kanye’s jaw. But these latest incidents are not what we should be decrying. We lost our minds a lonnnnnng time ago! These people are just ratifying what this society has been lobbying for for years.

We wanted fewer restrictions on what was considered “normal” behavior. We wanted to be free to say whatever and hear whatever we wanted on the airwaves. (Remember when, “Frankly, my dear…” was controversial?) Now, you can see a naked butt and have it accurately described at 7 PM. No biggie. In fact, no sexual organ is off limits as to the basest description of it. I’ve heard pretty much all of them. Every few years another of those forbidden words — thirteen of them, I believe — is knocked off the list and available for my three-year-old to perfect. Yeah, I can turn the channel and turn the other cheek, but after a while there will be no channels left, and I’m out of cheeks! And I can’t disappear.

We wanted to be like France, Amsterdam, and other progressive European countries. We got it. We are in the process of being given over to our collective desires. They have legalized drug use and whorehouses set up like Macy’s (I’ve seen them). They have affairs like we have lunch in the afternoon. They have no sexual hang-ups. They have soap commercials with lathered up boobs floating on the water and no one gets uptight.

“If France jumped off a bridge, would YOU?!?”

We’re on our way, though! We have daycares in schools for all the students’ babies, we throw them baby showers rather than counsel kids on the seriousness of the problem they’ve created. Little girls dance like strippers, and every month another leader has to drag his haggard-looking wife in front of a phalanx of cameras to apologize for hooking up with a co-worker! 

 And rather than deal honestly with the growing issue, we laugh at Christians and call them sexually repressed. The deck is stacked.

 

When I was a kid, if we accidentally cursed in front of an adult somewhere, we could expect to get snatched up quicker than the Rapture! Now, kids cuss in front of me and anyone else with impunity. They know their little butts are made of gold. Thanks, Oprah! Your work here is done!

Marijuana and ordinary cigarettes have switched places. Weed is cool, but if you smoke nicotine, folk look at you like you’re fondling a kid!

You can’t tell a child in school his answer is wrong anymore. You can’t even frown at them. You surely can’t spank them! When I was a kid — we used to call them that. Kids — we didn’t have car seats. You put the baby up in the back window, the middle one in the front between Ma and Pa, and the other four or five were in the back somewhere. We could even ride in the back of pick-up trucks (I loved sitting on the hump or the toolbox!)! Now, if you have to get gas and you have more than two children and no debit card, be prepared to haul all those suckers into the Mapco! If Li’l Johnny’s nose starts to run, we rush him to the doctor. They can’t ride bikes in the street or play out of our line of sight.

My point is that we enact surface rules to seem as though we care so much more nowadays, but we poison their minds and make them weak and soft. We give them everything they think they MUST have, but we let them talk to us any way they see fit. (not MY kids!!)

We deify celebrities. They know they are unassailable. They can be on camera in a hot tub screwing around with the wife and the nanny, and it is all good! Cover of “People” magazine the next week! They can leave a heartbroken spouse, shack up with the co-star, adopt a couple of Cambodian babies and be labeled “Humanitarian Power Couple.” We are SO stupid!! They can get married and divorced like we change pants, and we rush to be just like them.

Things which used to be hands-down egregious wrongs, which were debatably errors recently, are now just fine — in fact — laudable! The only sin nowadays is to notice one. We’re eVOLving!

Don’t get me started on that! As if, just because a monkey has thumbs, we used to BE monkeys! Chairs have legs, too! Was my great-grandmama a Queen Anne?!?

The word “Stigma” has been stigmatized. We are ashamed of the word “Ashamed.” It’s wrong to say, “Wrong.” Saying “No” is a no-no.

But we want to have conferences and panel discussions because Serena cussed a heffa out in the heat of battle and denied saying what she said thirty seconds later!

Why should she edit herself (like I do!)? We gave her the license to do it. She re-invented the booty.

Why should we scold Kanye West for running up in an awards show choking a bottle of Hennessey like it was a lifeline and snatching a little girl’s moment away forever? He’s Kanye, fool! He makes the heads nod!

“Don’t judge me!” you all said. And NOW, you wanna judge what these folk did?!? On what basis do YOU judge? Your own  sense of right from wrong? Your own  standard? But don’t you remember, you’ve spent the last few decades stripping away  at that standard so you can say a$$ on teevee! Don’t start trying to make judgements now!!

These folk — and Joe, and Roger Federer,  and the town hall criers and the sexual lobbyists and the teenyboppers on stripper poles and the rest — are but acorns on a giant oak tree of iniquity that threatens to darken us all with its shadow.

Prince pushed the envelope back in the eighties, but now the IS no envelope. We got e-mail… And one heckuva virus!

September 16, 2009 Posted by | Celebrities, Celebrity, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Civility, Culture, Current Events, Glory, God, Joe Wilson, Kanye West, Rant, Serena Williams, VMA's | 3 Comments

When God’s will and mine, serenely intertwine

I have three sisters. No brothers. ALWAYS wanted one.

My father, who was raised as an only child and found out at age 35 that he was adopted, had three sisters and no brothers. One of them had died when they were in high school.

That is a long, good story that Kathy insists I write down.

I have a cousin whom I first met back in the late eighties. He and his wife, Shelene, own a martial arts training studio in Pasadena, Ca. Were he alive now, he would be in his early sixties and would look maybe 38.

He made a profound impact on me from the first. When I did a series of  gigs out west back in ’92 (during L.A. riots), he came and got me and showed me the sights and introduced me to family who treated me like a visiting dignitary. I will NEVER forget that. A few years later, he did the same thing, taking me to Venice Beach, his studio, Rose Bowl stadium, and many other places. We almost hit Kareem Abdul Jabbar when he pulled out in front of us.

He was a multiple-degreed black belt martial artist in many different disciplines, and trained with Bruce Lee. He trained English Mastiffs and Rottweilers to respond to hand signals! Very impressive! And with all of this, he was the most mild-mannered, peaceful dude you’d ever seen!

He and Shelene met Kathy soon after we were married at a family reunion that I missed because I am known for not missing gigs. (I missed out on a lot of things because of that. I’m going to change.)

They swept her up and made her like one of their own! But Kathy has a personality that will do that to you…

A couple of years ago, they said he had cancer. But when I talked to him, he said everything was fine. Never thought I would never see him again.

His death hit me harder than anything I had ever felt. I have been blessed to have all my cousins, both parents, all but one uncle, and all of my aunts still here. My mother’s father died when I was a child. I was grown when my grandmothers died, but one was in her nineties and afflicted with Alzheimer’s, and the other… long, tough story.

I could not go to the funeral. It was in L.A., and I couldn’t afford a ticket, and I had to work. But really, I just couldn’t bear to see my cousin not alive when I still had so many things to learn from him. The funeral was broadcast online, and while Kathy watched it and said how beautiful it was, I couldn’t do it. I lay in the other room — in earshot — and cried so hard my head hurt. All day. Between bouts of vomiting because Max had gotten me sick when he threw up all over me three days earlier. (And I had to go to work.)

His name was Steve Hearring.

 

I don’t think anyone in this entire world loves my daddy as much as I do. And I know he’s flawed. Who isn’t? But, as with God, my cousin, and all my heroes, I admire strength and power. That’s why leopards, bulls and rhinos are my favorite animals. And my father epitomizes strength and power.

Despite the rough time I had growing up (which is a positive story in light of the way things turned out between us) I always sought his approval and respect. I heard the stories about the things he did as a boy and as a man, and I wished I could be as tough and as calm. Indulge me one story…

Back when he was in his twenties, as a high school coach, he and his team had an Away game against a heated rival. My mother, known for her tactlessness in awkward situations, was — according to her — talking some trash in the stands.

Apparently, one of the guys behind her took offense. Someone pointed him out and whispered to my mom that he had a gun and ill intentions toward her. When the game ended (Home team won), my mother made her way to the locker room with the guy following her through the crowd. When she got to the locker room and walked in sheepishly, my pop, who was mad about the team losing and in no mood for foolishness, asked her what she was doing there. She NEVER went back there.

Out of fear for the OTHER guy(!) she refused to say. He made her tell him. Mom pointed the guy out still lurking outside the locker room.

Daddy acted out for me what he did next: Ma had an umbrella — the kind with the point on the end. He, unarmed otherwise, took it from her and went to find the dude.

The thug had his right hand in his pants pocket and Pops figured he was holding the gun. He went up to the guy, grabbed a handful of wrist and pants (He almost sprained mine acting this out. Adrenaline…) so he couldn’t get the gun out!, shoved the umbrella deep up into the soft meat under the guy’s chin and proceeded to threaten his very life with well-chosen words that I can’t repeat! He held the guy until the cops got him, and there was indeed a gun in his pocket!

It was all so unbelievably smart and strong! Even with his finger practically lifting me from the ground, I was smiling HARD! “That’s MY Daddy!” I thought! “Did I inherit any of those guts?” My daddy was like a cross between 007 and Jim Brown!

I’ve got a bunch of those stories — all true — and he won’t even tell me any more. He is so understated and modest about it all, saying that he was just crazy.

He was the biggest, the strongest, the toughest, the bravest, and the fastest, according to those who grew up with him. Yet he stressed reading and learning with my sisters and me. As did my mother. He took pride in figuring things out, he loves brain teasers and The Discovery Channel.  He got up every day and went to work, sometimes spending too much time working his players. They would have basketball practice at 5 AM before school AND after school. But he single-handedly turned them from chronic losers to winners.

He never called in sick, he taught me how to use wrenches and how to box. He taught me stuff that I don’t have the heart to do unless my life is threatened. He made me do push-ups, lift weights, run track, and fight when scared.

He hated, I’m sure, when I focused more on model cars and cartoons and being in the band than trying out for teams, but he loves it now. He was hard! Hard as steel.  Scared me to DEATH!! But he changed.

He learned and I learned. And from the first time I knew what it meant, I always said that I wanted to name my son not after ME, but after him! His name is Horace.

My wife had a very bad time as a child with her father. She says he wasn’t really one at all. From the moment she met my parents, she loved them to death. She raves about how great her in-laws are. But she loves my daddy to the point that I sometimes feel that I have not a wife, but a fourth sister as it relates to him. She sees him as HER father, and is not ashamed to tell it.

 

I love Diana more than my life. But when Kathy got pregnant this current time, I prayed hard for it to be a son. I never had that brother I longed for, and I wanted Max to have someone with whom to stand back-to-back in this sickening world. I wanted him to have that thing that brotherhood means.

I wanted Diana to have two boys to keep the fools at bay! I wanted to be a little bit like Jacob with all those sons.

And I wanted to give my father that legacy. I wanted his name to continue.  Since he was adopted, he was the only Williams. And until I got married and had Max, it was looking pretty bleak for the team! But God apparently said otherwise…

Now we can be sure that there will be more Williamses.

My sisters all named their kids after their maternal grandfather — which is cool! But what about my daddy?

And Kathy, having loved Steve so much for the same reasons I did, saw this as an opportunity to honor what she described as two honorable and strong men. She has already said that the new baby has the pressure of keeping that great name clean!

Two weeks ago, in a dark room, God granted our sweated prayers! We are having a boy. And it means so much more than just having somebody to throw to and wrestle with and teach about girls and smoothness and heartbreak and fidelity (although it is all of that, too!). It means that God actually DOES know me, and LIKE me, and that He does actually act in my life. He is faithful and true!

And if this minor thing is real, I shudder at the thought that He DID create the universe and that He meant — means — all that stuff in the Bible! He is not an illusion or a figment. He is my friend. In every profound way. I am undone.

With that, we await the healthy arrival of Steven Horace Williams!

I’ve got so much to tell him!

August 31, 2009 Posted by | Babies, Baby Names, Birth, Childhood, Children, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Faith, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, God, Heroes, Jesus, Kids, Parenthood, Parents | 2 Comments

God… One Egg. Three Yolks.

The past few months saw God step into my life and circumstances in tangible ways which amazed and humbled me. I have written about some of it… my horn situation comes immediately to mind.

He has provided me with gigs just when I needed them, He worked me through that nasty KWEST (jazz band) thing, He has counseled me in marital situations (more people oughta try this!), and He gave me another SON(!!!!) — about which I will post separately.

All of that set the stage for what happened to my family and me Tuesday.

Generally speaking, everybody loves their kids. No need to go on about who I’d kill and what fast-moving vehicles I would jump in front of about mine.

Max has this thing about coughing and throwing up. He gets it from his mother. He has a hair-trigger uvula. Mopping up his meals has become routine for ME. Kathy won’t do it, or else the house’ll turn into the theater scene from “The Goonies!” But he does not have any asthma or any other diagnosed health problem. He just can’t overeat. And sinus drainage sets him off after time.

Monday night/Tuesday morning I couldn’t sleep. (God) I usually turn in at about 4 AM. I was awake to hear that familiar sound coming from Max’s room. I could tell he was in the launch sequence.

I went in to get him, and as soon as I got him to the bathroom, he let loose.

It tears me up to see him like that and be so helpless. I just pray.

I put him back in the bed and he was fine.

Later that day, Kathy — who didn’t go to work because SHE was sick from being pregnant — was sitting on the couch with him and noticed him wheezing. And the space at the bottom of his throat was sinking in with each breath. (I have two nephews with asthma, so I knew the signs)

She sent him to me to have a look, and what I feared was coming to pass.

Normally, Kathy would have been dozing, but since she was off, she was rested. Usually, Max would have been taking a nap, but for some reason (GOD) I put Diana down and left Max awake. We would never have known!

I would have been gone to work by the time he woke up, but God orchestrated it all so that we would see what was happening.

Let me tell you… when I saw my little boy… wheezing and still smiling… out of breath but playing… I was like cornbread with no eggs in it!! Kathy was tearing up as I made the arrangements for us to take him to a doctor. I had to lie to Max while I got him dressed and while Kathy got Diana together. My son. So little, and such an overwhelmingly big part of my whole world. My son. My SON. Understand?

I had to push all the horrible possibilities out of my mind. No luxury to marinate in what-could-be.

I just prayed. And I told Kathy what I wrote earlier — that all His tangible blessings in the past weeks put Faith in our accounts for withdrawal now. We had seen Him be so true to us, so hands-on, so REAL! And NOW, in the midst of terror, we had to tell Him — and ourselves — that He was the same Person. That He would not operate so clearly in the verses and disappear in the hook!

The end of it is that Max is fine. He has one more day of taking medicines to return his little bronchial tubes and lungs to normal.

MY_boy!

We suspect that he picked up something from a child at church (which irritates me to NO END!!! Don’t take your sick kids to church! They can miss a Sunday!), or else dust or some other allergen in the house set him off.

God is going to HAVE to drive this vehicle for us! As hard as we try to protect our little people from life, we simply can’t. And we cannot live every day in fear of what MIGHT happen to them.

He is faithful!

August 28, 2009 Posted by | Babies, Children, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Faith, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, God, Kids, Love, Parenthood, Parenting | 1 Comment

Yes, God is my Father, but He’s also my Big Brother

Back in May, I bought a new horn, remember? I posted a picture of it…

It came with some problems that I shoved to the back of my mind — not wanting to disappoint my wife, and not wanting to think that all the waiting was in vain.

It was made in Taiwan, which until recently had been known for making substandard quality saxophones. I did over a year of research on this particular brand and came to the conclusion that Taiwan was the new Japan in the sense that where they once had a bad reputation, they now were becoming leaders in the industry with brands such as P. Mauriat competing favorably with the big brands, Selmer, Keilwerth, Yamaha, and Yanagisawa — the BIG 4.

So, I contacted the “owner,” the guy who’s name is stamped on the bell of the horn, and placed an order. The main selling points were that these horns were of pro quality but two or three  thousand dollars less than what a comparable one would cost, and that I would have one-on-one contact and consultation with the main guy. You can’t expect that from Selmer!

The one I ordered was their newest model, a copper horn which was about a thousand dollars more than the ones I had been researching. It was way more than I had prepared to spend, but it was so unique… There was something about having something that no one else has.

I received an e-mail from the owner’s “partner” confirming my order. He told me that the demand for this new model was more than expected, and that I would have to wait at least a month. I ended up waiting almost four.

In May I finally got it! When I opened it, there were some problems… It had been damaged in shipping, and one of the key guards was bent. There was a lot of room for the horn to move inside the case, and it had obviously been bumped around.

I guess there was a look on my face, because as soon as I opened the box, Kathy asked me with anticipation, “So, you LIKE it?!?”

“Yeah,” I said, but there was something in the back of my mind…

The brace that holds the body of the horn to the bow was bent as well, and off track. I assumed this was all due to the shipping.

I got out my tuner to see if the horn played in tune, and it did from the lowest note until I got up to the palm keys (I realize that I am speaking in esoteric terms, but you’ll get the gist), where the Eb and E were waaaay sharp! This was disconcerting, but I attributed it to my not having a new tenor in eighteen years.

And there was a problem with the way the left-hand palm keys fit my hand. One key was too high, and another too low, making it hard for me to move with speed.

I got the horn set up by a technician who called it, “a beautiful lookin‘ little horn” disdainfully. I sneered at him and just wrote his opinion off to not recognizing the name. He fixed most of the damage and lightened up some of the springs, quickening the action a bit. But the ergonomics were basically unalterable.

Long story less long, I contacted the “owner” and his “partner” about the problems (and some others I haven’t mentioned here), and was told basically to keep them appraised. Not the first-hand customer service I expected, but I wasn’t eager to have to box up and ship the horn back and wait months more for it to return.

So I played the horn — which sounds a lot better than my well-run old Selmer — in good spirits ignoring that fading ringing in the back of my mind.

I had been steadily checking the internet for reviews of this horn by other players, when after work one night, I was reading and discovered that the two guys from whom I bought the horn had split!!! The owner was continuing to sell horns out of his home as usual, but under different names. The partner was now in the saxophone business on his own.

Not only that, but I found out that the split was over the very model horn I have!

It turns out that the horn was NOT made in Taiwan, but in CHINA! They are known industry-wide for making junk horns in pink and blue and red and orange that play way out of tune and are basically thrown together.

I did NOT spend all my money for a Chinese saxophone! Shoot, I had JUST grown accustomed to the idea of a Taiwanese one! All those nagging fears had been justified.

I e-mailed the owner in New York, and went to tell my wife what had happened. It was after 4 AM Wednesday.

The next morning, he called me. Now, this guy is not a shill. He has almost thirty years in the business making mouthpieces for well known heavyweights.

What he told me shocked me. He said that I did not buy the horn from HIM! That I bought it from the other guy, and that I should contact him if I wanted my money back, but good luck, “cause he still owes ME money!”

I was groggy from sleep, and did not say the things I would have said had I been fully coherent.

I e-mailed the other guy (I don’t really want to name names based on how this all played out) in Austin Texas(!) and asked what the process was for getting a refund since the horn was basically misrepresented.

HE responded that two months was too long for a refund, but that he would be willing to pay for any repairs. He vouched for the quality of the horn.

Now fully awake, I called New York and got into an only somewhat heated back-and-forth. I told him first how sorry I was that his reputation was being damaged and that this must be awful for him, but that to ME this was world-shaking because it was all the money I had, and that I make my living with my horn.

 He seemed to wash his hands of the matter, telling me repeatedly — as though ANYONE would see it — that I did NOT buy the horn from HIM, that I bought it from the other guy!! I threw every logical point at him: “YOUR name is on the horn! I ordered it from YOUR website with YOUR name on it! YOU advertised that these were YOUR products, and YOU stood behind them. I contacted YOU about buying a horn! He was YOUR partner (He was not my partner! He was just my distributor!) He worked on YOUR behalf…!”

He deflected every argument. “So, I’m basically screwed, hunh? I gave you guys my hard earned money for one thing, I got another, and I’m just screwed?”

“No, no, you’re not screwed. I’m gonna make it right for ya.” in his New York brogue. “All ya gotta do is contact the Attorney General of your state, blahblahblah, blast ‘im on the internet, blahblahblah and when I get proof that you’ve done everything you could, then I’ll see what I can do. Butcha didn’ buy the horn from ME, blahblah…”

I was a ball of stress! I felt awful. But through the whole thing, there was a calmness in me. As angry and stressed as I was, I said to God, “YOU gotta work this out for me, ‘cuz I can’t!” And I didn’t fly off the handle and start cussing folks out like many thought I should.

I had to play it cool withthese guys because they had my money and they were spread out all over the country. I had NO leverage. One wrong word from me, and they could just hang up the phone and act as though I never existed. I couldn’t make unreasonable threats and demands because I — as my father says — had my arm in a lion’s mouth!

I posted the bones of the case on a popular saxophone forum. Nothing slanderous and derogatory. By that night, I got a note from the ex-partner (the owner HAD publically called him that) suggesting that we try to come to a reasonable conclusion… maybe I could swap this horn with one of the ACTUAL Taiwanese models (which cost LESS money).

We talked on the phone, the ex-partner and I, for over twenty minutes the next day. He told me what he had in stock, the properties of the horn, and about all the controversy. He gave me a different perspective, of couse, from the one of the owner. Both of them were angry at each other, and I just happened to be the dude that bought th first horn in this new batch and got entangled on this mess.

He was extremely helpful, attentive, and apologetic. This was the kind of customer service I expected from the owner and NEVER got. It was Thursday.

By MONDAY I had the other horn. IMG_2089

It was GREAT! Undamaged, and in a cool case that allowed for no movement. And it played almost by itself! Big, booming sound, perfect ergonomics, and in tune all the way up. Just a great horn!

This was what I wanted all along.

All that was left was to work out the amount of money for the other horn. There was about a $700 difference in price, and the thought of that last pending battle gave me just the slightest anxiety. “God, work it out.”

Two days ago, I sent an e-mail to Texas, saying compactly, “I LOVE this horn! What is the next move from here?”

This was his reply:

I have been trying to think about what would be appropriate and fair to you regarding the situation you got caught up in.  

 I continue to believe the MAC 20 is also a great horn.  It is different but still a terrific horn.  I know you have had your MAC 20 adjusted and that you have it setup for you etc.

Derrick, I think in view of all you were put through that you should just keep both horns. The MAC 8 is my gift to you.  All I ask is that you be fair with your assessment with both horns on any reviews you may wish to write.  I am not asking that you say anything you don’t believe in your heart and if you really feel the MAC 20 is not a good horn you should simply state your reasons.  I respect whatever your opinion is good or bad.  

Blown away was I!! He went from “No refund,” to “just keep both horns!!!”

I never thought it would work out this well. At best , I thought I would have to make an even swap. At worst, I thought I would just have to come to love a horn I only liked. My wife would have felt forever that we got beat.

I can’t express the emotion that I felt as I read that e-mail. Not that I get to keep these two pretty things, these material items — but that through seemingly insurmountable circumstances, God pushed me out of my way and fought the unseen bully into submission.

He made me keep my cool, showed me the moves to make — the perfect balance of firmness and compassion — and he worked it all out.

Some may say that the guy in Texas only made a smart business move. I agree it was smart to treat a customer right.

Some may say that he only let me keep the horn because he wouldn’t be able to get rid of it. But I say that were that the case, why send me another one? The horn is in better shape now than when it was new, and he could have sold it as new, or taken a few dollars off it and gotten a LOT more than the difference in price between it and the one he sent me. But he let me have both.

GOD did this. And there is no remaining doubt in my mind that He really does fight for me. He really is concerned about the ins and outs of my daily life. He really does intercede.

I never had a brother. I had to fight my battles and learn all the hard knocks myself. But in God, I HAVE that Brother. In fact, He has ALWAYS been there… Like the time when that gang of boys surrounded me at the bus stop and had a three inch long pin a millimeter from my eyeball. I had to smooth talk my way out of that close call, and the LORD was in my ear telling me what to say.

He has always told me when to fight, and when to get out of the way and fight the bullies who were too big to engage.

Closer than a brother.

August 7, 2009 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, God, Jesus, Music, Music Business, Near Misses, Saxophone, The Nature of God, Work, Writing | 2 Comments

Who’s God IS God? (or do they work by committee?)

A couple of days ago, on facebook (of all places), I became involved in a discussion on a hypothetical scenario:  If a Non-Christian saves 3 children from a burning building and dies…And a Christian saves 3 children from a burning building and dies…Who has the most favor from God the Christian or Non-Christian??

I was greatly distressed — but not surprised (is this possible?) — by the responses.

I don’t expect most people to be Christians. But it is sobering to see how unsaved so many of us are. And how unconcerned they seem to be at the fact.

These were black folk, and most of them seemed to filter their views through the screen of their race. That is, their pro-blackness seemed to take precedence over who God may or may not be.

The responses were relativistic and pluralistic. And, of course, the Christian POV was lambasted. We were called arrogant and short-sighted.

There were a couple who told the hard truth — No Jesus, no Heaven — but most of them put the emphasis on the goodness of the deed and judged that they BOTH should go to Heaven.

I said:

“I’m glad God is not like us, judging on personal merit, or else no matter HOW many good deeds I did, the stuff I did wrong would overwhelmingly condemn me!”
I naively thought that that was a debate-ending argument. I leaned back with pride and read and RE-read what I wrote. I usually try to formulate those kinds, but I constantly forget that most people don’t debate by the Marquis of Queensbury rules!
They went on, saying things like, “Who’s to say that Christians have a monopoly on what is the right way? I believe in Jesus, but who am I to be so arrogant to think that my belief is the only way to ‘The Creator’? Religion is what separates us and causes problems. I’m not bashing Christians– I grew up in the Baptist church — (So! If I grew up in a can would that make me sardines?!?), but who wrote that book? Was Jesus a Christian? There are people who have no religion at all who are more Christian that most Christians I know?”
 
I said: One thing I can’t STAND is arrogance! So that’s not me. But in matters like this, I try to say what GOD says, so when He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” I say, “Okay,” and get on board! If a dude can lay His life down and pick it up again, I tend to believe what He says.
God may not label us as WE label ourselves,
but He has this book called “The Lamb’s Book of Life” in which HIS are written. He sent His Son to save us, and if we reject Him, we get to spend eternity just as in life — separated from Him — according to our OWN will.
The end of it all for me is this: We all leave our fates in the hands of an Infinitely fair Judge! He will deal squarely with us all… even those in the remotest corners of the Earth (whom we seem to mention only during debates like these). I trust that He will judge us based on the degree of light and revelation we have through Him. All of us on FACEBOOK have heard the name “Jesus” and know what Salvation means.
 
I thought that was pretty good. But they just totally ignored what I said and continued with the idea that good deeds should be the measure of eternal life.
 
I guess I knew that that would be the way it would go, but I just wanted to leave no one with the idea that they had never heard the Gospel.
 
The guy who brought up the whole subject basically told me that I was narrow-minded and had my nose stuck in a book somebody wrote and corrupted, and that I pretty much bought whatever the preacher said on Sundays. He thanked me for being reasonable and told me that I needed to get out more and think more critically.
 
This was, to me, an hiLARious mischaracterization of who I am! No one scrutinizes what preachers say more than I! But as I told them:
Thanks, man! It is ALWAYS good to be reasonable! (I DO look at more than just what I hear on Sundays. Christianity is waaaay more than just a Sunday worldview! Plus, I have to try to understand where others are coming from and not be myopic. But at some point, a person has to reach a conclusion. Based on study and information. Nothing wrong with that.)
I don’t know… This kind of thing bothers me. It is the main reason why I write this blog. I hate to see people NOT GET IT!!! What seems so obvious to me is foolishness to those who are perishing, and I  just want them to see the logic and seamlessness of God’s methods as it relates to soteriology.
And I rail against racism largely because young, progressive black folk take the hypocrisy,evils, and mistreatment of our national history — and present — and cast Christianity out with the dirty bathwater. They assume — erroneously — that the White Man’s God (born in Africa!) must be bad because His messenger is bad.
We got work to do!

August 6, 2009 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Evangelism, Faith, God, Jesus, Race, Racism, Religion, Salvation | 6 Comments

What Groom Would want His Bride Insecure?

I’ve been having a discussion with a friend who was wondering about how we can know God will not spurn us. Or HAS not.

It is a feeling I have struggled with before myself, and as I was praying, the thought came to me: What kind of God would establish marriage as an unbreakable covenant and yet be so quick — according to many Pentecostals and so many others — to throw us (His BRIDE) over if we transgress against Him?

Throughout my time as a Christian, I have heard and read that the Body is the Bride of Christ. The analogy is clear and unmistakable. And while there are so many legalistic (possibly well-meaning) Christians who claim to believe that divorce is a sin that God hates, they would characterize Him as being so capricious as to divorce Himself from those he has grafted into a marriage of sorts.

This is really irritating to me! I have heard it so often said by these people that if you commit (not exhibit a lifestyle of) a certain BIG sin, “you GOTS to go to Hell!!!”

I mean, God is the author of LOGIC, and that is what I am applying here, according to the things He has shown in His Word.

He even made a prophet go out and marry, and not divorce, a harlot — a whore — a FREAK, to use the current vernacular, to mirror His relationship with Abraham’s seed. Basically us. What He was saying was, in essence, “You will repeatedly cheat on me (sin), but I will not leave you because I will not have it said that I break promises!”

 And Salvation is a PROMISE that is effective at that MOMENT, not once you die! 

Now, a Christian will not live a life that is characterized by sin, simply because a real Christian is a fruit-bearing entity. But the fruit will, from time to time, be infested with worms. Real Christians are being tended — watered — by God, and will therefore grow.

And just as I will not leave my wife, God will not leave those He has saved.

I used to wonder if she really loved me. I wondered about the possibility of her birthing children with me and then eventually taking them. The thought made me shudder. I don’t anymore. But just because I have her trust and assurance doesn’t mean that I treat her shabbily, or cheat on her, or neglect to esteem and value her! No license to sin!

And God, so much more perfect at relationships than we, would not have His bride walking around the house scared and trembling at the possibility that He might come home one day and say, for WHATEVER reason, “It’s over.”

This I say with confidence.

July 7, 2009 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Eternal Security, Faith, False Doctrine, False Teachers, God, Good Works, Legalism, Marriage, Relationships, Religion | 5 Comments

“Oh, How I Love Jesus…”

“…because He first loved me?”

Well, that’s how the song goes, but I was asking myself why I love Him, and I don’t think that that was why.

I’ve never seen Him face to face. I’ve never heard His voice.

Why do we love anyone? Because of how they look? For their personality? Are they cute or fine, strong or confident, vulnerable or expressive, smart or cool?

I think I loved my parents for the same reasons my kids love me: because I am there to provide them the attention and care and affection and provision and correction and comfort they need. I am there every day, unchanging, no matter what. My parents did the hard things without giving up, and would still readily die for me. Check one for Jesus!

I loved my wife because I saw her heart and her coolness, and I wanted to just be around her all the time. Check two.

I loved my children because they share my particular nature. Check three for the Lord.

I loved my uncles because they were so cool! They knew the right things to say at the right times. They were capable and competent and had muscles. Girls liked them. Check four! (Look at how many women there are in the church…)

I loved my friends — the REAL few — because they were down for me. No matter what I did, they would not abandon me. They put up with my immaturity and selfishness, and corrected it. Check five.

I became a Michael Jordan fan because he was flawless at what he did. He was singularly focused and mastered his occupation. Likewise, my admiration for certain musicians and public figures usually stems from the same root. Six.

I love my family because, to them, I am special. To them, I am who I think I am, that person the world ignores. They listen to me, they ask my advice, and they let me flourish. That’s a round, complete seven for Jesus.

Jesus is all of that and more.  I don’t care about how cute He is. He provides for me — even though I selfishly take the credit, He is never too busy to listen to me vent, and He died — DIED — for me!

Who cannot, upon seeing the heart of Jesus, come to love Him? He is selfless, giving, and attentive.

He was completely God, but completely man as well. He is in me, and I am in Him.

You can say what you want, but there is no Rat Packer, Bruce Lee, or Nat King Cole cooler than Jesus! Never rattled, quick-witted, and never at a loss for word or action. When His enemies tried to corner Him with sly words, He wriggled out with Truth. When they tried to stone Him, He simply slipped away. When Lazarus was dying, He did not panic or even skip a beat. And though He sweated, He didn’t let ’em see it. I just want to hang around Him.

He is a true friend, telling us when we’re wrong, but telling us how to fix it. He doesn’t water down a Truth to spare our feelings, but He will go through a wall for us. He gives loyalty and expects it.

He came to Earth for a singular reason. He had the hardest job in existence and finished it with NO help from any of us! The whole plan was executed with more synchronicity than all the 007, Indiana Jones and Danny Ocean plots put together and exponentially multiplied. Every contingency was accounted for with not a single hitch! SMOOTH!

We are the crown jewel of God’s work, and are worth — to Him —  all the pain and torment of a task such as this, yet it was done without hesitation before we even came to be. And awaiting us on the other side of this vaporous life is an eternity in which we will blossom to full gloriousness forever.

Who cannot love someONE who embodies every positive attribute such as this?

THAT’S why I love Jesus.

May 18, 2009 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, God, Jesus, Love | 12 Comments

Speak now, AND Forever Hold Your Peace!

I really don’t care about beauty pageants. I used to care about the swimsuit portion, but I’m somebody’s husband now. I know that they integral to the lives of many, but I don’t care about them any more than beauty pageant lovers care about the current NBA playoffs.

I DO, however, care about issues of religious freedom and theological accuracy.

And this past weekend crystallized the problem I have with the — existent — gay lobby. A judge in the Miss USA pageant, Perez Hilton, openly gay, asked the contestant from California a loaded political/religious question about her view of gay marriage, and she responded gingerly in the negative.

All involved say that her answer cost her the crown since she was in the lead at the time. Since that moment, she has been the pig at the luau. The judge — whom I never knew till now — went on-line and excoriated her, calling her a dumb bit&h, as well as, I’m sure, other spicy epithets.

How dare she?!? he exclaimed. This was a non-political show, and she should have just given a non-political answer! (Ignoring the fact that HE WAS THE ONE WHO ASKED THE DOGGONE QUESTION IN THE FIRST PLACE!!)

 I know that some who read this will write me off as hating gay people and being pervertedly concerned with what people do in their bedrooms (and in nightclub bathrooms and airport stalls and at rest-stops and in Overton Park here at home), but I insist that I cannot be a Christian and hate ANYbody!

I am concerned that my faith is being challenged and attacked in attempts to change it as people change. I am concerned that I am not forced to sell God out and endorse any behavior that He forbids. God invented marriage. HE invented the parameters, and regardless of the concrete fact that heterosexuals make a mockery of it, I — and Miss California — should not be forced to give approval to people like the militant Hilton.

You can do what you want to do, but you can’t make me like it. Any more than I can make YOU like the Christian faith practiced in full strength. Why do you even care if some Christian doesn’t think that you doing that stuff is proper? You will still do it, won’t you? I have friends who do drugs, and they know that I think drugs are stupid, but they don’t ask my opinion. I’ve got friends who have babies out of wedlock, who have one-night stands, who drink and drive, and who talk like women. They don’t ask my opinion or permission. So, don’t you, Hilton, Rosie, and the rest of you militants, ask me whether I think it is cool that you do what you do. Just do it!

I don’t look at a gay person any differently than I look at anyone else in terms of behavior. Sin is sin, and it is sin. You sin, I sin, all God’s chillun got sin!

But this is what they do… they call people “bigots” — a joke— and call them gay-bashers, and phobes for simply disagreeing, which is a basic. human. right.

If gays are so much more caring than other people, as a group, why is it that the gay powers that be move so swiftly to destroy those who disagree with them? Just let a straight actor or musician say that homosexuality is sin! Watch what happens! You’ll find their careers next to Amelia Earhart’s luggage!

Why are they who shout “tolerance”ironically so INtolerant? What they mean is, “approval!” What is that word for those who would force one to think the way THEY think…?

We Christians are expected to not waffle on tough matters. We should not be mean or harsh or disrespectful, but steady and firm. We can be caring and sensitive to those in alternative lifestyles of whatever type without okaying the behavior.

We have been — historically — burned, eaten, and relentlessly assaulted for taking strong positions, and God didn’t relax His Standard. Miss California did just that.

No, God doesn’t NEED me to defend Him, He EXPECTS me to!

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Culture, Current Events, Gay Rights, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, In The News, Marriage, Miss USA, Perez Hilton | 9 Comments

… He’s in the band.

My favorite athlete of all — aside from my father —  is going into the hall of fame!

Michael Jordan is finally making that inevitable step into sports eternity. And he is apparently not too happy about it. He feels that it is the final indicator that he will never, absolutely NEVER dress up and play again. I am sad for him (there is, here, an Ecclesiastical lesson about the insufficiency of wealth and fame), and I understand. The only thing my knees will let me see of my favorite sport anymore is to stand still and shoot free throws.

I am reminded of a time  and an occasion that cemented my love for what I do…

My father was a football player, a basketball player, and a track athlete. And ALL his friends expected his first-born and only son to be the same.

He set me on the path to athletic accomplishment very early! There are home movies of me at the age of three doing heel raises and push-ups. I could do fifty push-ups at four. I lifted weights on a regular basis before I was ten. I ran track in the Junior Olympics every summer. I would, as a pre-teen, finish off a tough weightlifting session with a three mile run. I used to have to run up and down our forty-yard-long back yard carrying one of my sisters on my back. I HAD to do all of this. And I hated it! I was given no chance to express a desire or aptitude for this stuff. I just came into the world doing squats and “side straddle hops.”

My pop and I had a really tough time. But he was only doing what he knew to do. No hard feelings, finally.

Although I loved actually playing the games, and was pretty good at them  — basketball and football and racing and baseball — I hated the thought of all that rigorous practicing! I was ruined.

And I was a runt growing up! My pop was 6’1 1/2” and about 250. He benched 450 and squatted over 700. I’ve got pictures! I, on the other hand, was shorter than my 5′ 4″ mother until the ninth grade. And I was about 5′ 10″, 155 at sixteen.

My father would always look at me, shake his head, and say, “You’re gonna be small…” with all the sorrow of lost dreams.

By the time I entered the military at twenty — between college stints — I was 6′ 3″, 218. I was a typical late bloomer! But it was too late for me to try out for teams and stuff…

It was only after my first girlfriend dumped me and cheated on me (with a guy who recently requested to be my facebook friend(!!!!) ) that I began lifting weights in earnest. On my own. I’m still trying to catch Daddy.

All my extra-curricular activities were music related. I was in the band. In school, you have the athletes, the smart kids, the dope heads and slackers… and the band kids.

My pop LOVES music!! He would play a song he liked over and over throughout the house for whole afternoons! He was always singing and beating on tables and pumping the car brakes to the beat of some song on the radio. But what he didn’t think, apparently, was that being in the band was in any way related to the music on the eight-track tapes he used to be known for making for people.

And when one of his friends or co-workers would meet me and shake my hand and ask, “So, you playin’ football like ya daddy?” he would interject, “No,” shamefully. And my mother, defiantly, defensively, would quickly retort, “He’s in THE BAND!” Proudly. Every time. And I would always ask her not to do that, saying that it was okay, and that her defense of me only made me look even softer than they already thought I was. But she never stopped.

When I was about to be drummed out of the junior-high band for overcrowding, it was my mother who went into some level of debt and bought me a horn so I could stay in. I still have that beat up horn. I played my first pro gigs with it. Where would I be now…

So, the denouement came with a conversation with a friend at a coffee shop years later.

I played there at Precious Cargo coffee shop on a regular basis. It was the place where I first learned to sing, lead a band, and talk to an audience. It was there that I learned that I was not the Charlie Brown I thought I was. The girls LOVED me! And no one was more shocked than I to find that out! I was just doing my thing, and I looked up and found out that I had FANS!

And one night, sitting at the bar, one of the friends I had made playing there pulled up next to me and shared with me an item that I will never forget.

“Man, you know you can play that horn! I’m just sittin’ here watchin’. Y’all got a lot of people comin’ here to hear y’all play, and this place ain’t even been open that long.” His voice turned melancholy.

“I really admire what you doin’. When I was in school, I was this big time football player. I was cool, and I thought I was the man! I used to dog folks who played in the band, man. I gave ’em a hard time. But now, I can’t do that no more. I can’t play football no more, but YOU can STILL do what you used to do.

I was absolutely undone! I had never looked at it like that. I can play my horn the rest of my life. On a high level. But Michael Jordan will never suit up again.

And my father is in competition with my mother to be my biggest fan…

April 10, 2009 Posted by | Basketball, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Current Events, Fathers and Sons, Hall of Fame, Life, Michael Jordan, Mortality, Sports | 5 Comments

“Love thy like-skinned neighbor.”

You know that look you have when somebody ticks you off? That look that says, “I can’t stand you! Please get out of my FACE!”

I get that look all the time. From my neighbors.

See, we’re the only black folk on the street. And they don’t like it. Two days ago, I was leaving home to go to a sound check for a gig that was really stressing me out. I had a lot on my mind, and I was praying that God would bring it all together because the people who hired me to play are people for whom I care deeply. The last thing I needed was what I got…

So, I’m trying to make a left at the stop sign at the end of my street, which lets out into a high-traffic thoroughfare, and one of my “neighbors” who lives three houses up, was waiting for cars to pass in order to turn. As she made HER left onto our street, we made eye contact, and I waved.

I knew what was about to happen because it happens so often.

She glared at me as she passed me and neglected to return the neighborly gesture. Her eyes said it all, “I can’t stand you! Get out of my neighborhood! Why do you want to live here? Go live with your own kind!” I’m absolutely SURE she thought, and said, worse.

Later that day, as I was on the way to the actual gig, the same thing happened, except this time it was Kendall’s wife, who lives next door to the house directly across the street. I’m waiting to make a left, she turns in, I wave, she glares. Happens all the time. Right here smack dab in the middle of this “post-racial society.”

And these people have NO call to be snooty! This is a three-bedroom, one-thousand-square-foot-house area. Kendall’s yard is a perpetual dust-bowl, they leave their dumpster out at the curb year-round, they park in the yard, and they’re just generally dirty. And rather than park his car in front of his own house or the one directly across from his, he routinely parks in front of mine. Once, he left his old, broken-down truck in front of my place for two weeks. Luckily, I didn’t have to cut the yard in that time.

My family and I are quiet, neat, and clean. You wouldn’t even know we’s heah, boss. My pop gave me Jerry Baker DVDs with tips on making grass green and such when we moved in almost four years ago, and we have what my two NICE neighbors called “the best yard on the street!” I take my dumpster to the curb Monday night, and bring it back Tuesday afternoon. Our visiting friends are not rowdy, and I — being a night owl — keep a look out all through the night for anything out of order. I am a great neighbor. I have a thing about peace where I live, and *durned* if I’m going to let selfishness ruin someone else’s quality of life!

Recently, my neighbor, Keith — a good guy, informed me that he was purchasing a house and moving. It turns out he was renting! I never would have known! He treated that house like a sick baby! He kept the yard up, and when I left town for gigs, he would look out for me.

As all conscientious people do, I wondered what kind of folk would replace him.

Well… Some more white folk moved in. A woman who appears to be a mechanic, with two sons who appear to be either high school age or just a bit older. These boys are shiftless with shiftless friends.

These things ALWAYS happen to me! As soon as these folks moved in, the place turned into a *durn* Jiffy Lube! A tow truck brought an old Delta 88 there within a week, and they have a Suburban that was parked — not running — in front of my house for almost a month. At any given time there are five vehicles all over the place in various stages of repair. They just woke up my wife and babies from a nap this past Saturday, gunning truck motors and blowing horns.

The boys and their friends smoke weed and feel up little school girls in the back yard among other suspicious activities on a regular basis — day and night. (I get in late from gigs, and I always see shadows outside under the carport at two and three in the morning.)  They are a mess! And summer hasn’t even gotten here yet!

I just find it “funny” that while the people who live on this street glare at us in disgust, mostly refusing to even nod the head, while they lamented our moving in, thinking we would destroy their peaceful, white way of life, these white folks moved in right next door to me and began to do all the stuff they say blacks do! How about THAT for a twist?!?

So why do they hate US? What did I, my wife, and my two little babies do to them? Did we rob them? Do we blare loud music? Did I threaten the women folk? Do I let weeds overrun the lawn?

Or do I just breathe the same air they do? Do I just exist?

And I say all this in light of the fact that this is not indicative of all white people. The man who hired me, and paid me well, to do his newlywed daughter’s party, Eddie, GAVE me his truck! Just gave it to me. Not because I’m destitute, but because I always complimented him on it. And it is a great blessing! Bill and Karen Wells, who read this blog all the time, are some of the best and most sincere people in the world. They offer to keep our kids because they know that I get no sleep. And they MEAN it. We just can’t bring ourselves to impose… A character flaw on our part, indeed. They, as well as Eddie and Becky, have had us in their home often. (As have Hamp and Nancy Holcumb, and Sydney and Paula Payne) These people are incredibly affluent, and have a lot more reason to be snobbish and stand-offish than the dull-minded cretins on MY street, yet you would never know it. They are as regular as old jeans. They have helped us and others when in need.

(There are guys like my friend and fellow musician, Marc, who is one of the real friends I have in life, guys I knew in the military, Kathy’s old boss, Kerry, and dozens of others who don’t look at life through a racial prism.)

 And they have shown me and my family enough love to salve all the hatred that we receive from our “neighbors.”

March 24, 2009 Posted by | Christian Life, Race, Racial Reconciliation, Racism, Rant | 6 Comments

New Adage

Life is just a bad neighborhood I have to go through to get home.

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, God, Jesus, Wisdom, Words, Words of Wisdom | 9 Comments

I Need to Get the Baby Language Filter

“What you watchin’, Max?”

“Bunbah Beh-pan, Daddy!”

“What? ‘Bumbah Bed Pan?’ ”

“Nooo! ‘Bunbah Beh-pan!!’ “

“Ohhh. “Sponge Bob Square Pants’!!”

“Yeah!” (can’t you speak English?!?)

I can speak English, but I’m still working on Baby.

February 12, 2009 Posted by | Baby Talk, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Humor, Life, Max, Parenthood | 4 Comments

“Mythologetics”

Mythologetics (mi thol e jeh dixn.    The vigorous defense of indefensible theological positions:

God wants you rich, and if you are poor, you are out of His will. God wants you healthy, and if you are sick, your faith is lacking. Jesus didn’t come here as God. God is subject to the will of man.

Jesus is NOT God. The Holy Spirit is only God’s “active force.” There is no Hell, one just ceases to exist. Our bible only has necessary changes, they were not made to support our particular positions.

There is no “Trinity.” (that word is not even IN the Bible) Those who believe that believe in three gods.

God was once a man, and man will be a God. Jesus and Lucifer are brothers in the spirit.

God is whatever we believe him to be, male, female, tree, bird, river. He IS all, and is IN all. There are millions of paths to what we call “god.”

Jesus was a great man. No less, but no more. Another in a long line from Moses to Muhammad.

Mary was divine, and different saints should be prayed to for certain needs. Forgiveness of sin requires that we, in part, do atoning work.

There IS no God! Evolution is the engine of creation. No further questions need be asked. The Bible is a well-written work of fiction.

If our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, we go to Heaven. It’s kind of like a cosmic football game. And God knows my heart. I’m basically a good person. Sin is only that of which I personally disapprove. There is no Truth other than what I personally believe.

Everybody goes to Heaven… racists, adulterers, thieves, fornicators, homosexuals, liars… everybody.

God only asks that we be “spiritual,” that we be “spiritually grounded.” Whatever way we are born to be is the way He made us, and to try to change would be violating His perfect will for our lives.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Atheism, Benny Hinn, Carlton Pearson, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Creflo Dollar, Faith, False Prophets, False Teachers, Hell, Hermeneutics, Homosexuality, Jehovah's Witnesses, Juanita Bynum, Kenneth Copeland, Morality, Oprah Winfrey, Pantheism, Paula White, Religion, Satire, Semantics, Sin, T.D. Jakes, TBN, Truth, Word of Faith | Leave a comment

More Time, and Righteousness, Credited to My Account

I’m not supposed to be here.

I’m not supposed to be typing, and double-checking, and breathing right now.

Saturday night, Kathy went to the store to get us something to eat. The line being too long, she left without it. Sam’s Club has these really big oranges in this really big bag for a really low price, and I had to have some, so I jumped in the car to go get them.

I am a lead-footed driver, and I like D’angelo. I was indulging in both. The expressway is about a half mile from our house, and I was on it quickly and and moving swiftly, about eighty or ninety, weaving past those without 265 horsepower at their disposal. The music was blasting and I was feeling pretty good, having spent a whole week with my wife and my babies. Being a husband and a father with so much now to lose, I don’t drive like I used to, but this was such a short trip…

I was in and out of the store in ten minutes. The off ramp where I get off does not merge for those — like me — going left. There is a two-lane stop. As I approached, I saw that an suv, a Tahoe, as in the left lane, and that the right lane was empty. I took the right lane so that when the light turned green, I could jump out quickly and beat the Tahoe on my left. I was racing the whole world and winning.

The music enveloped me — “…she’s alwayyys in my hair, my haiiiiir!” — and I was focused on that red light like a drag racer, ready to launch!

The light turned green! Ready… Set…

For some reason now, I didn’t hit the gas. There was no voice that spoke.

I couldn’t see around the hulking Tahoe from my Maxima, but I noticed that the Tahoe didn’t move either. I’m talking about a span of about one second.

Whoooooosh!! From the left, an eighteen wheeler, carrying death and dismemberment, barrelled through the intersection doing about sixty miles an hour!

Everything changed right then. I sat there at that light in the night at the tail end of a short meaningless trip and shook my head soaking in all that that momentary hesitation meant.

I pulled off slowly, and made my left turn, loing to the Tahoe, and like the aftermath of throwing a giant stone into a pond, the water of my whole life flooded in on me and overwhelmed me.

I thought about Kathy, who waited confidently for me to get back home not ever thinking that I was a pureed mass being poured into a body bag a half mile — and an eternity — away. I thought of how torn to pieces she would be for who knows how long.

I thought about Max, who loves me so absolutely right now, who calls ME every day when he awakes, who yells for ME at night when he has a nightmare, who needs ME to teach him all this stuff I can’t wait to teach him.

I thought about Diana, who smiles so wide at me when the cobwebs clear from her eyes at three o’clock every AM when I feed her, making sure she gets that extra meal she slept through earlier. I though about how she stops crying when I pick her up. I thought about telling her about boys and God.

I thought about how many times I have fed them and changed them and comforted them and taught them and loved them and watched them love me back. And I thought about the fact that no matter how much they love me, one small push on the gas pedal a few SECONDS ago would mean that They would only see me through pictures.

Max would ask, “Where’s Daddy? When’s Daddy coming back?” for days, weeks, and maybe even months, but with each passing second he and his sister would forget me a little bit more until in a short while they would remember me no more. Not at all. All the lessons and laughs would go unfulfilled.

I thought about my parents. I am the oldest and the only son. Gone. With just the slightest release of the brake pedal. I know how much they have loved me.

I thought about my three sisters.

And my few close friends. My church family who would have to hear the news on Sunday morning. I thought about all my musician friends…

My life didn’t flash before me. An alternate future played before me like a dvd on 3x. I saw my body crushed amid broken glass, twisted steel and torn rubber on the street while everyone I loved went on obliviously until the phone rang. I thanked God so much and so many times in that half mile ride.

I am supposed to be dead right now. That is not an overstatement. I am supposed to be as dead as someone mauled by a bear, or crashed in a plane. Based on the way I was driving and jamming — I’ve done it many times before — I was supposed to press that pedal, and no one but God stopped me. I should be sloshing around in a bag in a drawer. But I am not.

I walked into the house, put the oranges down, sat in a chair in front of my family, and cried. Hard.

Tears of  joy and sorrow. Boiling water and ice cubes in the same glass.

Shortly after I began to process everything, I thought about the biggest point of all:

As graphic a picture as the Lord had stapled in my brain, as close a call as I had, as surely as He had saved my life, He did MUCH more than that on a hill, far away!

The picture of eternity in hell is infinitely more horrible than a broken body and crying loved ones. Yes, He surely saved me — and my whole network of family and friends — from an excruciating circumstance, but it all becomes translucent in the face of that from which He ultimately saved me.

And everything I do from here out should be in light of that fact. I have the picture. I have the time. What will I do with it?

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Advice, Children, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Death, Driving, Irony, Near Misses, Salvation, Second Chances | 16 Comments

Ann Coulter: Darth Vader with a Pope Hat on

Ann Coulter is a worse representative of Christianity than the Grand Wizard! Will somebody pleeeze tell her to stop invoking God in her tomes? She is a poorer example of a Christian than Mick Jagger is of health and vitalicky! (Popeye) A clanging cymbal indeed! But is she an accurate portrait of a Conservative?

She could simply read from the Book of John, and would make Christianity wither like tomatoes on a vine in the desert. Regardless if she stumbles upon a valid point every now and then, the arsenic dripping from her tongue poisons any possibility of wooing anyone to her position. Those drawn to her point of view/methods are the same carrion-eaters who have subsisted on the flesh of the weak from the beginning.

Is SHE the true face of conservatism? Is her “cookie crumbs in the bed” personality the attitude of true evangelical thought? I hope not, but those like she and Hannity and Limbaugh and the rest of the talk radio consortium seem to be the arrowheads of the movement.

When I learned the definition of a harridan, her face shot up in my mind.

My CHRISTIAN views are pretty to-the-book conservative, but I part ways when it comes to how political conservatives often treat people different than they.

 

There go the rest of my readers, I guess…

January 16, 2009 Posted by | Ann Coulter, Bible, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Conservatism, Conservatives, Current Events, Evangelicals, FOX News, Humor, Liberals, Life | 6 Comments

How I Learned the Bible

“How you gone just sit there and let all them people in front of you? I got somewhere to be! D&%n Good Samaritan! If you ain’t gone drive it, park it!” exclaimed my father, stuck in traffic behind a courteous slow driver.

“Ohhh.” I thought, putting two and two together… “A ‘good Samaritan’ is someone who helps someone else for no apparent reason.” My parents used to use that one a lot.

“G@d! Je$us! Man, PASS the ball! Quit being so d&%n selfish!!” Shouted my father at Andrew Toney, who played for the Sixers back in the day.

“Ohhh!” I realized, “Jesus is God in the flesh, and He committed the most unselfish act of all. I get it now.”

“If I come in this house and these dishes ain’t washed, It’s gone be Armageddon up in here when I get back!” Said my mother upon reaching the end of the rope.

“Ohhh! Armageddon is the battle that occurs at the end of the world!” I discovered after a few times of failing to meet a deadline due to procrastination…

“I don’t know why you askin’ ME for no money! I’m poor as Job’s turkey!”

“Ohhh!” I gathered. “Job was a man, like Daddy, who had had a lot of kids, and was incredibly poor at some point. And if HE didn’t have nothing, you KNOW his turkey was broke! Sorry for asking, Dad.”

Great teachers I had.

(How I learned Civics) “Bring less than a ‘B’ in here if you want to! It’s gone take a act of Congress to pull me off you!!”

(How I learned what color rice was)“Boy! If you don’t turn off that TV and do your homework, I’mma be on you like white on rice!!”

January 14, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Childhood, Children, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, God, Humor, Life, Life Lessons, Parenthood, Parenting | 2 Comments

45 Years and Counting…

Happy Anniversary, guys! Thank you for sticking it out when so many don’t. When marriage is seen as something to do, or not do, you have persevered.

Thank you for thinking enough of us to insulate us and to give us two parents who think more of us than of periodic pain. Thank you for being mature and true to your vows to God.

My kids will know that love is more than hugging and kissing — that love is staying and working — and hugging and kissing. They will know because I know because YOU knew. Your children love you, and their children love you.

 

23 Dec 63

23 Dec 63

 about-twelve-years-in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

seventies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ma-and-aunt-odessa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

her-favorite-picture

seventh-grade-easter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

coarch

 

ma-and-john-ford5e5e

 

ma-at-patterson5e

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

family-portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Now...

And Now...

December 25, 2008 Posted by | Anniversary, Children, Christian Life, Fatherhood, Life, Life Lessons, Marriage, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting | 7 Comments

Are We Who WE Say We Are, or Who GOD Says We Are?

I’m just saying…

This is not to be insensitive to those who are gay, but can a Christian pleeeeze be allowed by you to rightly, sincerely practice his faith?!? Would you, who strive so ardently to exercise your rights, seek to deprive someone like me from expressing mine?

I was just watching Rachel Maddow — an openly lesbian show host — lambasting, or just basting — Obama for daring to align himself, however tenuously, with “controversial, immoderate, Falwellian” pastor, Rick Warren. “He believes in a LITERAL interpretation of the Bible! He believes in Creationism!! He’s an extremist bigot! (just like all the rest of those Christians!)”

Warren has done such abominable things as uphold the Christian sanctity of marriage and compare abortion to the Holocaust!!! What horror. How dare a Christian PASTOR, allied to the word of God, actually uphold what that Author prescribed and proscribed!

They have (gay organizations) been up in arms since election day about Proposition 8, and have been angry with black folk for voting against it. In essence:

“We voted for your thing (Obama), so we expected you to quid us pro quo on our thing (the right to change the God-invented definition of marriage from one that can actually PRODUCE MORE HUMAN BEINGS to one that makes us feel good on the inside).”

Hmmm… Funny how they are cool with that exchange, but on fire about Blagojevich…

The left have been just as angry at Obama in the last few weeks as the right. Maybe he IS going to shake it up.

He says he is a Christian, the President-elect, and as such shouldn’t he be allowed to practice his faith? I mean, regardless of his job, a man can not — and by law MUST not — cast his faith out the door, be it Christianity, Hedonism, Islam, or Atheism! And the bottom line is that any plain, honest, and un-convoluted understanding of Christianity says that certain behaviors are wrong.

And gays, being the sensitive and caring people that they are would not, I KNOW, ask someone to change the way he thinks in his own mind and heart just to have him say “I am of the opinion that whatever you do is fine, and I will assent that opinion with my vote.” I know that the warm and loving gay community would not force a man to — in that man’s mind — sin willfully, stage a mutiny, against the Captain of his very soul just so they can engage in sexual intercourse in whatever way they are lead.

I am not insensitive to the desires of the human heart. I know those words will not lessen the anger of any gay person who will read them, but I mean them. Of course I know people who are gay, and who are in agony. I have family members who feel sexually attracted to the same sex. And I love them. I am not, by that same Christian edict, permitted to cast a soul into loveless oblivion because I disagree with their way of life. But my arm will not be twisted to make me say that what I, I, believe to be wrong is now right. I think I am, doggone it, mature enough to disagree with a behavior and still like a person! Goodness!

Just as I know that you, gay community, do not dare suggest that you HATE those with whom YOU disagree. “Hate.” Ever throw that word around? Can we just stop tossing gasoline on a fire and quit using such an extreme word for a difference of durn opinion?!? You guys have the whole nation punked! Scared poopless. It is almost admirable!

Obama claims to believe the Bible. As such, he will be allowed by the gay community — I KNOW — to believe that way in his heart. “Thought Police?” Ever used that term, Maddow?

In my opinion, you can do whatever you do. You can drink till you pickle yourself, take every drug known to man, hook up with prostitutes, lay up with men or women, wear long dresses or short skirts, dreads or braids, or smoke Camels — you can pinch my nose, tie my arms and feet and pour the Kool-Aid down my throat — but you can’t make me like it!

Man ain’t even got a toothbrush in the White House yet, and he’s gettin’ killed on every side!

This is, though, the other side of the coin of this momentous election: While it is great that this country has taken so great a step, certain groups of people were dancing in the streets because they thought — or knew — that the lid was off that girl’s box and anything is about to go!

December 19, 2008 Posted by | Abortion, Barack Obama, Christian Life, Christianity, Civil Rights, Culture, Current Events, Evangelicals, Faith, Gay Rights, Morality, Obama, Political Correctness, Politics, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Prop 8, Rachel Maddow, Religion, Rick Warren | 8 Comments

Work and Family: All I Do

Max, Diana, and Ryan   Max       Diana  Work

Sundays @ Neil's  Gotta Be Somebody's Baby!

  I'll Kill a Brick!

                 On the Job

 

KWEST   I've got a better son than my parents have!

Rich, Ryan, DJ, Allissa, Max, and Diana  

Election night. 

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Babies, Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Daughters, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons, Home Life, Kids, Life, Marriage, Music, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 6 Comments

Ingreat?

I want to be great.

I struggle with this. I know that God says that He will give His glory to no man. I ask myself constantly if the reason I have not yet achieved my goals is that I want to be glorified in some way. Maybe God knows (I want to say, “Maybe God THINKS,” but I know He doesn’t wonder) that I would not be as humble as I need to be if He allows me to do the same things as those as whom I know I am at least as good. (prepositions! whew!)

Or maybe I simply have not worked hard enough.

I play music and I write words. I often think, when I see humorists and columnists and hear certain saxophone players, “I KNOW I can do this! I’m at LEAST that good! Why can’t I get a break?” I know I’m kind of good, but I want to be great. And not obscure. And I begin again to wonder if what is blocking me is simply my thought process.

Maybe my thinking has to change… Maybe I have to think more about what greatness will mean for God than what it will do for me.

From day one I have been Charlie Brown. I was the insignificant kid, the ridiculed kid, the unremembered kid. I was the one who the girls looked at from the edges of their eyes. I was the one who either ate alone at lunch or went and found others with whom to eat.

I was never at the center of the action, always at the outer ring. Never the life of the party.

When I started to play music, it wasn’t to get girls or to be cool. I just wanted to learn how to play an instrument — something no one in my neighborhood did. All through school, the fact that I could hear a tune and reproduce it and improvise a little bit did nothing to initiate me into that cool musical circle.

When I grew up and began doing it for a living, my mother, who worked at my high school, would ask me to come back and play for assemblies. My own band director (with whom I rode to school EVERY DAY for three years!!!) was shocked when he heard me, remarking to my mother, “I had no idea Derrick could play like that! When did this happen?”

He had not bothered to notice or nurture my talent. He never pushed me. While the cool kids were taking theory classes and playing in the jazz band, I was at home picking out Grover Washington and Spyro Gyra solos. Teaching myself.

When I was in the eighth grade and on the verge of academic mediocrity as a student in the first Optional School class in Memphis, my English teacher brought a knarry tree stump into the classroom and asked us to write a story based on what we saw. I, thinking myself a failure at English, got the highest grade in the class. In me was born the love for words I now have. I changed at that moment. And a lot of the arrogant kids in the class looked at me differently — although being good at English doesn’t make you cool.

Writing didn’t become cool for me until I began getting paid to write love letters for guys — something I was scared to do for myself for a long time.

This very blog is all about me trying to be great. It is more than a geek with a computer corrupting journalism. It is me trying to not just rant, but to make literature. I want to leave my children with something that shows them that their father did not just consume resources, but that he THOUGHT. I want to not get to God’s throne and have Him disappointed because I left unused some gift He gave to me.

I want to MATTER — to be necessary. I want to be great in His eyes AND send my kids to college. Can’t you do both? There is the rub… That which makes ascent uncertain…

Being so consistently rejected bred in me this thing, this need, to prove them all wrong. To prove to — whomever — that I was worthy of note. Not of exaltation, but just valuable enough to be heard, to be listened to. It is the same drive, I think, that led Michael Jordan to prove wrong the coach who cut him when he was a kid. The same drive that made my father put cement and a pole into buckets to make his own barbells back in the fifties when kids laughed at him and called him scrawny.

I hate being treated as “less-than.” HATE it! I am the first one to esteem my neighbor as greater than myself, as long as my neighbor doesn’t presume to assume that position! I’ll get in the back seat as long as you don’t insist that I belong there. It is for this reason that arrogance is one of the things I hate most in the world.

 I want to show all those who belittled me and dismissed my contributions that they are what is wrong with the world. (But it doesn’t consume me as much as it may sound)

Maybe in a twisted way, though, that is revenge… I don’t know. I mean, I don’t have a desire to hurt anyone, or to repay in like fashion, so maybe it’s not vengeance. But maybe my thinking is wrong. Maybe I need to focus more on how GOD would be proved worthy of note if these things happened for me the way I want them to… I know I am not arrogant — I am PROUD of how humble I am! I make way too many mistakes to have an exaggerated idea of myself.

God, however, sees things in a different way than do I. Maybe my thinking is out of synch with His. Maybe if I can figure out how greatness and fame intersect, that last door will open.

Or maybe it is just not time yet.

I know He has not closed the door though, because I have continually been able to support myself, and because step by agonizing step, I have done a little bit better. I have worked with some pretty big acts and have played as though I belonged there.

We all live and eat by having people give us money to do something we are good at doing. Our gifts make our way for us. That is all I want. No Bentley, no floor length mink, no gaudy jewels. No breathless fans or VIP status.

Just ample recompense for art rendered. Commensurate compensation.

Lord, I don’t want Your spot or your shine. And if I don’t speak up enough, it is of shyness, not of usurpation. Create in me that right way of thinking, and even closer fellowship with You.

I’m not so haughty, reader, as to think that my life is so compelling that you just HAVE to know about it. I just hope the words are interesting enough to keep you reading them.

November 26, 2008 Posted by | Arrogance, Artistry, Christian Life, Christianity, Fame, Food for Thought, Glory, God, Greatness, Humility, Life, Music, Saxophone, Words, Work, Writing | 9 Comments

What’s Been on My Mind

I haven’t written anything here in a couple of weeks for a few reasons. (I thank you kind people for continuing to stop by in the meantime)

Some of the things I have posted in the past have had a slightly negative financial impact on me. No sweat. Christians are made of rubber, and rubber bounces rather than breaks.

The last few posts were getting kind of serious in light of the pending election, and I kind of had to breathe a little bit. There is a lot at stake here, and history is on the verge of happening, one way or the other. Some people hold tightly to their old ways of being.

At the risk of being mis-labeled, I wanted to talk about other tings than race for a minute, but all I saw in the news and around me — this crazy (or drunk, or both) white dude outside of Kroger said to me, “Ni@@er! F**K you, man!!”  I got kids to raise, so rather than kill this defenseless bigot, I called my wife, who told me to just go on into the store. — so I had nothing to write. Someone I know has already called this “An Angry Black Man Blog.” Yes, I am sometimes angry, and ALWAYS black, but I don’t fit the criteria for that tag. So I backed off for a moment.

Also, we went through a series at my church in which the pastors (we have three) took a poll of our most pressing issues and boiled them down to the “Big Ten.” Some of the topics were, God and politics, marriage, the end-times (I diverge on this one in a non-essential sense), and the top two, homosexuality and predestination.

I have my views on the whole Gay Rights issue which I have rarely expressed not wanting to be written off as a hater. I do think they (as an organization) play on this feeling and thereby further empower themselves and shut down debate. I am dead set against gay marriage, and I do not think one is born gay.

But I do not hate them. After the sermon on the subject, I began to think about how my “No Wiggle-Room” stance on gayness looked from the outside, and how I could be effective standing for capital “T” Truth while displaying appropriate compassion without seeming to give the “thumbs up” to the lifestyle. Complicated.

Christians — Evangelicals in particular — have lately been more apt to point the finger than to lend a hand. We are quick to point out errors in doctrine and separate ourselves from “The World” believing it to be a place not to be reached but to be repelled.

We, in our self-righteousness devoid of compassion, have given the non-Christian every reason to keep doing what he is doing while claiming to desire to make more Christians.

We picket and protest and put out warning notices for certain movies with unwholesome content. We keep our children from the slightest chance of interacting with “those” kids. We show not the least measure of the Godly love we claim emanates from Him. Why would a gay person want to come to us for advice on changing?

This blog has been a way for me to shout through what I see as maddening, increasing Godlessness in our society. I have been able to state my position unwaveringly and back it up with Scripture and common sense, the two being not mutually exclusive.

I have railed against crooked preachers, racists, lenient parents, atheists, black miscreants (more to come. Pacman Jones, grab your playbook and come to the office.), rappers, and stupid drivers. But I don’t want to come across as just another fundamentalist Christian close-minded fool. Unjustifiably. Truth without love is a bunch of baking pans falling out of a helicopter onto your driveway at 5 AM.

I have love, and don’t want that to be lost in all my diatribes. I think righteous anger and love can co-exist. Ask my boy, Max. The main reason I do this is that I hate to see people deceived. From withIN or withOUT.

But pastor Loritts’ sermon on how Christians deal with the gay issue — along with conversations with my friend and fellow church member, Kirk Whalum — made me think about how to be truthful yet winsome. It is easy to do face-to-face, harder to do on a computer.

I went to vote Thursday. At a white Church with nothing but pictures of stiff looking white folks on the walls. Not diverse in the least. I stood in line for exactly two-and-a-half hours! And I later found out that that was peanuts compared to other places.

What struck me was that the hundreds of people in that serpentine collective were engaged in dozens of conversations. The area was largely white and overwhelmingly conservative, but there were all races of Americans there. I’m sure assumptions were made as to who was voting for whom, but there was an air of joviality there. People who, moments before, had never seen each other were all of a sudden laughing and sharing life together in the midst of the most potentially explosive event in any of our lives. Events which could potentially put us all at poles even further apart than before. And there was civility, kindness, and even affinity.

Old white ladies who first voted in the fifties were engaged with black men who probably only ever voted once. There were, in those hours, no conservatives or liberals, but Americans. While the principals and their surrogates fought on like stray dogs over a bag of garbage.

I’m not a “flag pinon the lapel” guy. You won’t see a flag waving on my house. I don’t tear up during the National Anthem. Unless the singer is really great, or really bad (Carl Lewis). But as I wound my way through that maze, I was proud of that group of people. I was proud to be American. NotthatI’veneverbeenproudbefore!!!

American people can get along in spite of deeply held differences. I saw that. And, as a Christian, I try to show on this weblog that while I disagree with a whole lot of what I see and hear, I can do so without being hateful. I can state my case or cast my vote and still love my neighbor.

So, yeah, I’ll still rant, and still shout, “WOLF!” when I see one. I’ll still state my position on issues like race and abortion and Affirmative Action and crime and the rest.

But if I don’t love you, I’m wasting my time, and time is like buffalo nickels: There ain’t no more!

November 3, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Christ, Christian Life, Elections, Evangelism, False Teachers, Food for Thought, Gay Rights, God, John McCain, McCain, Obama, Politics, Voting | 5 Comments

PROnunciation: Nunciating for money.

I was on the road this past weekend working with a different band, and my friend, Curtis, and I got into a conversation about how unsatisfied and unhappy I was in the group in which I normally play.

“I’m a disgruntled employee,” I said. I paused, “Hey, man, what’s up with that word? You ever thought about it? Every time somebody shoots up a post office, or a place of business, they are always called, ‘disgruntled’.” He laughed.

“I mean, have you ever heard somebody use the word, ‘gruntled‘? ‘I was disgruntled yesterday, but I got my check in the mail, an’ I’m pretty gruntled today!’ “ We both fell out laughing.

“Yeah,” Curtis said, “DIS- is a prefix, and you would think that the root word would stand alone. But I’ve never heard that word, ‘gruntled’ before. Man, you’re crazy! You think about some weird stuff!” Laughing.

“Naw, man, I’m serious! I been thinking about that for years! I think about that kind of stuff a lot. Like look at the word ‘unscathed’. When was the last time you heard about somebody being in a car wreck on the news, and the reporter said, ‘Yeah, the victim got scathed up pretty good. He was so scathed that he is in critical condition.’ And what is ‘critical condition’ anyway? Is that when you are hurt up so bad that you get two thumbs down? Or does it mean that the doctors all crowd around you and criticize you, like, ‘Wow! That’s terrible! Awful! Look at how his leg is bent! He shoulda known better than trying to ride that motorcycle drunk!’?”

We laughed non-stop for about five minutes.

I love words!

DISgruntled, UNscathed, DISpensed (Has anybody ever “pensed” you?)

What are some others?

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Humor, Language, Life, Things That Make You Go Hmmm, Words, Work | 7 Comments

If I ever get caught in a hurricane, my name is Freddie A.I.G. Mac! Bail me OUT!

  

“Are you poor, helpless or destitute? Are you of  dubious descent? Are you in trouble as a result of bad choices or fate? Bail yourself out. The government is not for that kind of thing.”

 

“We are for small government. Help yourself. Get a job, quit being so lazy! If you are sick and can’t pay, TOO BAD!! Only the Strong (read: Privileged) survive. It is not our job to help you and throw hard earned taxpayers’ money at you.

“But, as sure as Freddie is a Mack, Fanny may! If you have lobbied to have less government oversight and subsequently taken advantage of the ignorance of the weak… If you have thereby caused the biggest financial crisis in eighty years…  If you have bet the farm and lost billions for investors while enriching yourselves… Well, have we got a DEEEEAL for YOU!!! 

 “Are you in the wonderfully crooked Insurance Industry, taking the monthly payments of millions, STILL charging them unattainable deductibles and raising the rates, and trying every dirty trick imaginable to get out of paying up? Here’s what we’ll do for YOU and ONLY you: We will get seven hundred, yes, seven HUNDRED billion with a “B” dollars and BAIL YOU OUT!!

“Hold on… China is on the other line…”

  

   

OHHHH. Now, I get it. I was wondering which “government programs” were cool. Yeah, it is vital that we save the valuable companies. Were they to fail, we would face untold calamity.

But we can let poor, lazy, inherently violent, drug addicted, ghetto minorities go under. We can just build more jails and cemeteries (separate ones!) and house them rather than improve public education, even though that is far cheaper and more Christian. We can let them all kill each other in their own communities. That won’t affect us. We bail out companies, but those rotting in flood waters have to bail themSELVES out. With rusty buckets.

We just should not have to have our taxes go to helping people we don’t even like. NO. Let’s take a TRILLION DOLLARS(!) and help our own kind. God Bless America.

Pay now, or pay later, but we ALL pay. 
 What follows is what is increasingly becoming one of the VALUES by which I vote: 

Matthew 25:31 “When32 the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 25:32 All33 the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 25:33 He34 will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 25:34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 25:36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 25:37 Then the righteous will answer him,35 ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 25:38 When36 did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? 25:39 When37 did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 25:40 And the king will answer them,38 ‘I tell you the truth,39 just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters40 of mine, you did it for me.’

25:41 “Then he will say41 to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! 25:42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. 25:43 I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 25:44 Then they too will answer,42 ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?’ 25:45 Then he will answer them,43 ‘I tell you the truth,44 just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’ 25:46 And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Strong stuff!

September 24, 2008 Posted by | AIG, Bailouts, Bible, Christian Life, Christianity, Conservatism, Conservatives, Fanny Mae, Freddie Mac, Hurricane Katrina, Hypocrisy, Mortgage Crisis | 19 Comments

Man of Steal

Kenneth Copeland,

Creflo Dollar,

Mike Murdock,

Benny Hinn:

Used to be that thieves wore masks and did their dirt in the dark. Nowadays, they do it in shiny suits, and on satellite teevee before God and millions!

I had tears of laughter in my left eye, and tears of sadness in my right watching this clip…

“Seeds” are not dollars, folks. “Seeds” are DEEDS. Don’t try to buy God.

Don’t let these guys with their “Aw, shucks,” cracker barrel twang, or their Philly cream cheese voices lie to you AND steal from you! You may not be able to stop one, but you can certainly stop them from doing both!

Steve Munsey:

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Benny Hinn, Charlatans, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Creflo Dollar, False Doctrine, False Prophets, False Teachers, God, Jesus, Kenneth Copeland, Mike Murdock, Pulpit Pimps, Religion, Steve Munsey, TBN, Televangelists, Word of Faith | 8 Comments

I’ll Just Stay on the Couch.

My pop called me yesterday and told me that NBC (msnbc) had demoted Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann for, I guess, inordinately biased commentary during coverage of the Republican National Convention. They did this at the urging of the GOP. Wow.

So, Republican officials are so bothered by partisan coverage that they go to the trouble to (and have the power to) have the two top msnbc anchors publically embarrassed in this fashion?

I don’t deny that they are, in many cases over there, in the tank for the Democrats — and Obama in particular. The aforementioned, as well as Rachel Maddow, David Gregory, and many of the guest pundits, don’t hide their leanings.

But my point is this:

FOX News does the same thing! Hannity, O’Reilly, Brit Hume, FOX and Friends, and practically all their guests don’t just lean TO  the right, they lean ON it. Heavily. In fact, Hannity has basically said that it was his job to make sure McCain gets elected. In order to get a real picture of how the race is really going, you have to do your own homework and look at all of it.

I have a point of view. YOU have one, too. Being on teevee doesn’t excuse one from being human, it seems.

For me to join a party — either one — means that I have to swallow a lot of stuff I wouldn’t eat at gunpoint. To call myself a Democrat, I would have to be cool with folk like Maddow and Maher ridiculing me for my hard and fast stances on Creationism, God, gay marriage, and abortion. I would have to deny the very existence of “sin” and play ball on a team populated by atheists, anarchists, feminists, and folk who have no moral compass whatsoever.

To call myself a Republican, I would have to be at ease riding on a bandwagon alongside people like this. And with people who live on my very own street who drive by me while I work in my own yard and stare at me as though I am made of the stuff I am spreading on the grass! To call myself a Republican, I would have to align myself with many people who would claim to serve God while harboring hatred in their hearts for anyone of a culture or ethnicity different than theirs. I would, generally speaking, have to be like the Jesse Lee Petersons, Ken Hamblins, and Larry Elders of the world and act as though racism is either non-existent, or entirely black folks’ fault. I would have to look the other way when they do things to people that I find heartless and un-Jesuslike.

 Yesterday’s move crystallizes the problem I have with those in power on the Right. They spent months decrying Obama’s lack of experience, and in a purely — transparently — political move, selected a very nice lady with five children and conservative views who had presidential qualifications slightly better than my high school guidance counselor! And just as they tried to make me think that stuff running down my back was rain (Iraq being part of the search for 9/11 justice), they tried — with astonishing, dismaying success — to tell us that Mrs. Palin was the absolute best choice to very possibly be President. I like her. I really do. But I like my mama, too, and she ain’t qualified to run this country!

The thing is, when black folk down the line have been up for high-profile positions, the first and last thing brought into question was their qualification. We have had to jump through a million hoops (even to the point of having to take tests in order to vote!), to become coaches, general managers, business owners, college students, and doctors.

You can say whatever you want about whether Obama has the right political positions as far as taxes, abortion, homeland security, or health care, but you can’t argue (convincingly) that the man isn’t qualified through his education and public service history to be President.

No one was talking about “Executive Experience” until Palin got selected.  Republicans say it so much that they forget that McCain himself  has none. By that reasoning, Palin should be running for the head job!

Another thing: I am 6′ 3″ tall, and over 240 lbs. All my adult life, I have had to play the role of “Mr. Nice Guy” in order to put white folks at ease. Black folk are generally not intimidated by size. When I go into a store, or into a business situation, unless I am in a hostile environment, I make an effort, mostly unconsciously, to not be mean-looking. I don’t want to perpetuate any stereotypes.

Obama has had to run as well as he has without resorting to the same tactics Hillary and McCain used against him. He has the added burden of being tagged with the “Angry Man” label. Michelle, his wife, has likewise been hit with the “Sassy Black Woman” tag. While both sides use ads that exaggerate the position of the other, there has been that extra little bit of spice in the GOP spots.

And the convention was filled with the kind of divisive rhetoric that makes a lot of people like me not really feel welcome at the party. I know this was just fine with some on the convention floor…

I’m sorry. When I close my eyes and think, “Republican,” (not “conservative”) I see “Sean Hannity” with his “Great Americans” and his leading questions designed only to corner and squash his opponent. I see Karl Rove — who should be in jail — Ollie North — who should be in jail — and that racist Mark Fuhrman — who shou — you know what I mean. How do they always end up as guests on FOX?

The Democrats had their share of ad hominem stuff, too, but as objectively as I tried to be, it seemed that the Republicans shoved the knife in deeper. I want people to deal with the issues, not see who can make the snidest, cleverest remark. Especially when one side cries “foul” and has people on the other side fired for trying to play by the same crooked rules! And they call the Democrat thin-skinned.

The extreme jingoism, masked as patriotism, was unsettling to me. “DRILL, BABY, DRILL!!!!” “USA! USA! USA” “GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!” (and NOplace else) They claimed Obama had a Messiah complex, but it suuure looked like there was some flag-worship/monument-idolatry going on in Minnesota. And what was up with the 9/11 video in the background?  Would a Democrat have been able to use that footage as a badge of honor in that fashion? Rhetorical. Don’t answer.

It was all “win at any cost.”Why else would the party of traditionalists and evangelicals who think that a woman’s place is best in the home raising her kids choose a woman with a whole slew of young-uns and the busiest job in her state? For the first time in history? When the other side had millions of angry, disenfranchised women with nowhere to go? That was a brilliant, slick move. And it is working. I don’t fault you for supporting her. But if Obama had a degree in journalism and mayored a town of five thousand, he wouldn’t have made it past Iowa! Can you say “flip-flop?”  Maybe if he pronounced his name, “O-Bamma” like Alabama…

It is as though there are two separate countries at war with one another to decide who will get to exercise power. It really saddens me.

Yes, Olbermann makes me cringe. But Hannity makes me want to fight!

The point is that to get into bed with either party means compromising certain of my “Essential Issues.”

So, rather than do that, I’ll just stay on the couch.

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Abortion, Barack Obama, Christian Life, Christianity, Conservatives, Democrats, FOX News, Hillary Clinton, Hypocrisy, Jesse Lee Peterson, John McCain, Larry Elder, Liberals, McCain, Obama, Politicians, Politics, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Race, Racism, Rant, Religion, Republican Convention, Republicans, RNC, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity | 5 Comments

Forgive Us Our Trusspasses…

Kathy had to sing at a wedding this past weekend.

At the rehearsal Friday, the bride-to-be informed her that the woman who was to sing The Lord’s Prayer ghosted her, and she — right then — begged Kathy to sing it.

Having grown up COGIC, she said that they never “sang” the song, that they only recited it in prose form (Amelodically, if you will). She came home and told me this, and my heart went out to her. I HATE doing weddings! I have played a bunch of them, and have seen my share of calamitous mishaps.

Like the time I did a wedding with my best friend, Kevin, who sings

The building had three walls of brick and a fourth one of glass. Thirty feet high and probably a hundred feet long. Of course the wedding party would make use of that wonderful view of nature as a backdrop. They were all set up in front of the window.

Everything went smoothly right up until the preacher began doing the vows.

There were, on this late spring day, trees right outside full of birds chirping and singing. Something must have startled them.

In one synchronous move — you know how birds do — they all took flight. It was at a very quiet and solemn point in the service (maybe somebody was praying…).

At the very moment when they would have slammed into the window, all the birds veered right.

All but one.

Now, Kevin and I should have been deep in prayer, I’m sure, but we weren’t.

One near-sighted bird missed his turn and hit that window like an open hand —SPLAPPA! — and, just like a cartoon, slid down about twenty feet to the ground. It was very quiet in there.

My boy and I were THROUGH! He sniggled and tried to catch it but didn’t. I think some snot came out a little bit. I held my breath and started praying myself like somebody had sprinkled some anthrax in the room. People started looking at us. Glaring at us. “Silly musicians.”

In order to play it off, at times like these I always start fiddling with my mouthpiece, or my reed, or something to distract me from all the laughter that is dammed up inside my mouth. It was cool in there, but I was sweating and thinking that if I closed my eyes no one could see me.

There was another time where this arrogant lady singer who thought she knew it all and didn’t bother to show up for the wedding rehearsal, and she waved off any pre-ceremony run-through with the piano player. As a matter of fact, she said haughtily that she would be doing the tune a capello. When it all got going, she got lost, and with her hand at her side, waved for the piano player to start playing. He flipped through the wedding program, and acted like he didn’t even see her!
When she got through dropping that stinkbomb, you could have heard folks thinking up in there it was so quiet!

So, back to Kathy…

I had a gig and couldn’t be there as intended, but I couldn’t stand the thought of my girl up there laying eggs and getting laughed at. So we spent hours trying to get that melody ingrained in her head. I found some clips of people on YouTube singing it. Some were good, some were… not. But we found two that were good enough to give her the gist.

She sang it, and sang it, and sang it. And Max started to pick it up, too. Kathy kept running through it after I left for my Friday night gig, but by the time I got home at about 2 AM, she groggily told me that the melody just didn’t sink in. I sang it with her, and she did fine, but when left on her own, she was sort of all over the place.

I was feeling bad, but I told her that since I had prayed for her, she would do fine. The Lord didn’t want her to be up there messing up the song He wrote!

I had an idea! I would write the words on paper, and put lines above each syllable to indicate whether to go up or down, or to stay on the same note as the one before. Like such:

We tried that for a while, but as she doesn’t read music, and the lines above the words didn’t tell her what notes to sing, it didn’t work. And she was now falling asleep.

I had one final epiphany: I went into the living room and got my old micro-cassette recorder (which I still use to write horn lines), re-wound the tape to the beginning, and sang the song in a key in which I thought she would be comfortable. I went and woke her up and gave her my plan knowing she wouldn’t go for it. It was too risky.

The wedding started. Kathy was in the back left side of the room by the DJ table. When her turn to sing came, she took her ipod earphones, stuck one in her left ear under her hair, away from the crowd (She could do this because their backs were turned until she got going.), she ran the cord down the side of her dress somehow, and plugged it into the mini recorder which she held behind her back, looking all formal and stuff! She pushed play.

“Baby! We sang that song!!” she told me on the phone afterward.

“We? Who else sang it wit you?”

“YOU!! I said ‘we’! I hit that button, and we rocked it! You got a little ahead o’ me at one part, but I just waited till you paused, and I caught up wit ya!”

She was so happy. And so was I. I couldn’t let my baby fall.

Yeah, she cheated. WE cheated, but I can’t help but think that the Lord was leaning on the windowsill chuckling at His kids.

September 3, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Embarrassing Situations, God, Humor, Life, Marriage, Music, Singing, The Lord's Prayer, Wedding Songs, Weddings, YouTube | , , , , | 6 Comments

This’ll Be Funny in a Few Years

I’ve been quite busy since Diana got here. (When she starts doing stuff, I’ll be writing about it. She’s just lying there being cute right now.) I haven’t had the freedom to write a frequently as before.

I want to tell you about what has been going on musically lately. Aside from the fact that I have NO movement on my record and starting my band.

I’ve been playing in a band called KW’EST, headed by bassist, Charles Johnson, which plays jazz (fusion) with a Christian focus. This is a different group than the one I gripe about.

We played a gig this past Sunday night that we do at the same place on the third Sunday of every month. The last date was interesting because of everything that went on surrounding it.

When Diana was born, I pretty much did all the nighttime stuff (and much of the daytime stuff, too) because Kathy was recovering from a c-section. Being a night owl made it a little bit easier until the weekends came and I had to work. Most of my work starts on Fridays, but occasionally there is work during the week, too. Plus, there are always some rehearsals and sessions that come up… Sunday mornings were especially rough because I play in the band there, and we have to be there at 8 AM and play both services. We are usually through at about 12:30. I got NO sleep on Saturday nights (not one minute!) because Diana required a lot through the night. She was not happy with being out of the womb! And the foreclosure crisis and astronomical gas prices had her so upset that she could not sleep.

I dealt with this arrangement knowing it would be only a few months before she began to sleep through the night. So on Sundays, I would usually get three or four hours when we all went to my parents’ house for dinner.

When Kathy was set to return to work, however, her shift was changed (this is one of the many dastardly aspects to her job!) yet again. Now, she has to get up at 4:45 AM(!), and so she has to go to bed soon after we really get rolling with family stuff at the house. Our agreement with taking care of Max was that she would do the nighttime stuff, and I would do all the daytime stuff.

Being a person who has always — since childhood — stayed up past two or three in the morning, I had to try to adjust. I have failed. I routinely stay up till past 4 AM against my own will. Obviously, though, my work schedule makes it logical that I watch Max during the day.

“What does this all have to do with music?” you ask. Bear with me.

I quietly made the decision that I would put Max to bed when the time came (he sleeps later than the norm so that I can.), and that I would care for Diana too so that Kathy could get some sleep. She routinely gets about four or five hours.

So, that being the case, I get two or three hours a night on average.

About four months ago, Kw’est booked a recurring gig, and I received three or four cd’s full of music, 95% of which I had to lead. Max won’t let me practice. He tries to climb into my lap every time I pull my horn out, and he pushes and pulls on the keys (and scrunches me in the scrotum, dads) to the point that I can’t get anything done. So when can I learn this catalog of tunes that I have never heard before?

So, to the present. Last weekend ( August 15-16) my family had a reunion in Nashville three hours away.

When my folks — and wife — asked me about going, I said that I would go if I didn’t have a gig. I don’t miss work. I got that from my parents. The band, A-440, in which I regularly (seldomly, lately) play usually has a lot of weddings and private functions this time of the year, and I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t miss one.

As time passed, though, I thought about all the family functions I had missed over the years, and how many of my beloved relatives I had not seen in so many years, and I decided that we would go. I wanted them all to meet my kids, too. I would just have to miss whatever gig came up. So I thought…

Actually, what happened was that three weeks ago someone called me about doing a job, and I said, “I don’t know. I heard we are workin’ that night. Let me call you back in an hour to see if we are.”

I found out that I couldn’t reach the boss because he was on vacation with his family.

When Kathy heard THAT, she flew off the tracks while she was chopping onions; “Awww, so HE gits to go on a vacation with HIS family while his band is sittin’ at the house, huh?!? Y’all ain’t hardly worked all summer, and he’s been constantly workin’ wit everybody! (that was true) You sittin’ around here talkin’ about you not gonna go see your family that you ain’t seen in years, and you gittin’ ready to turn down some work bein’ laid in yo’ lap cause you got integrity! ‘Cause you tryin’ to keep yo’ word!”

“Well, I jus…”

“You betta call him back and tell him you’ll do that gig!!” And that was that on that!

My bandleader is what we black folk call, “triflin’ ” when it comes to handling the business. A-440, I mean. We would routinely not find out about a gig until the day before. And that was if WE called to inquire! Not to mention allll the other stuff that frustrates the “goodness” out of me.

So I decided then to go to Nashville on Friday and return Sunday, the 17th, to make church. I knew I would be tired, but by now, I was used to it. I could get a couple of hours Sunday afternoon before my Sunday night gig with Kw’est. Or so I thought…

Thursday, Kathy and I realized that due to some “financial mishaps” we were waaay short on some bills that were due to be removed from our account on Friday, the 15th.

“I can’t go to the reunion, ” I told Kathy. She refused to go without me. Okay, so now, we aren’t going. I would not get to see cousins I played with as a child. I would not get to see the uncles and aunts who love me so much and whom I love so much in return. This was my knee jerk reaction. After a couple of minutes of thinking, I called the bandleader. Now, by this time I had already told him that I would not be able to do the Saturday night date.

“Hey, John, this is Derrick. You find anybody to sub for me Saturday yet?” I asked.

“Naw. I got some possibilities, but they ain’t called me back yet.”

“Well, call ’em back. I can’t afford to miss Saturday, so I ain’t goin’ to the reunion.” Now, here, I expected a sympathetic reaction something like, “You ain’t goin?!? Aw, man, I hate to hear that. Thass my bad! I know we ain’t been workin’ that much, but I’m gonna do better…”

What I got was: “Aw. Thass cool! I had called Alan, but he didn’t answer the phone. I’ll call him back and tell him ‘thass okay’.” No regret at all in his voice.

“What time does it start,” I asked.

“8:30 at the Germantown Country Club.”

“Cool. I’ll see you then.” I hung up.

When I told Kathy how the conversation went, she made the “Sister Mouth” and said, “Um” skeptically in the back of her throat and left it at that. (Ask your black friend.)

Upon further thought, and council with the Holy Spirit, I decided we would go to the reunion and just leave at about 4:30 in the afternoon. Which was right when everything was getting going good, it turns out.

I made arrangements to get some money till the weekend was over.

So, I was up all night Thursday night to make sure Diana got fed at about four, which I do every night, and Kathy went to work Friday morning. I got about two or three hours of sleep before Max woke up, and when Kathy got home, we packed and left.

I drove through the rain (I got sleepy about thirty minutes in), and we arrived at about ten. We fellowshipped with family, checked into the hotel, and I got to sleep sometime after 1 AM. I thought I would finally get eight hours of sleep. I thought…

Diana, used to that 4 or so AM feeding woke up angrily at five griping about all the negative campaign ads airing on TV. She, being so dependent on outside help, is a Democrat right now.

So after getting four hours of sleep, I wasn’t able to fall back.

I felt like I was going to have a breakdown. We went to the picnic, and as I said, right when everyone was getting settled in for a day (and night) of fun, I packed up my dejected wife and crying son and drove the three hours back to Memphis to do a gig at a place I hate with a band I don’t enjoy for some money which I shouldn’t need but do.

The gig was over at 12:30 Sunday morning, and I had to go buy diapers afterward because both kids were out of them. I got home at about 1:30, and had to at least listen to the material for church Sunday morning and the gig Sunday night, practically every song of which I had to lead. When did I have time to learn these songs? When did I get to sleep? Well, at least I would get a couple of hours after church, right?

On the way home, I got a text message from Charles, the Kw’est bandleader, stating that since the band wasn’t able to rehearse Saturday (I was excused from that one), we would have to rehearse at 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon! No excuses.

Okay. At least I would be able to come back home and get something to eat and maybe lie down for an hour. So I thought.

The saxophone is the quietest instrument in the band, relying on the vibration of a three inch reed to produce the sound. Everything else is amplified electrically except the drums, which are loud enough by themselves. So, in order to be heard in a group setting, I need a microphone!

When we got to the rehearsal, which was at the venue at which we were playing, there was no sound man, so while everyone else had their own amps, I had to resort to simply blowing harder in order to be heard. The drummer asked me to turn and face him because he still couldn’t hear me.

One keyboard player — we have two in the band — neglected to show up till over two hours later. (When I called him at 3:40 to see whee he was, he was at home asleep!) Two problems; HE was the one who needed the most work, AND the rehearsal was supposed to only last for two freekin’ hours!!! Rehearsing during soundcheck is a professional no-no.

We ended up having to run over everything we had already done when he got there, and it ended up being a four hour rehearsal for a three hour gig!

And I didn’t get to go back home. No food. No sleep. And I haven’t slept for almost five months. And I have already played two church services, and a four hour rehearsal with no microphone. My mouth is SHOT! (imagine squatting for four straight ours…) And I have to be up front entertaining people, playing unfamiliar material confidently and alertly. But “The show must go on.” No excuses.

Oh, yeah, and the person after whom I have patterned my entire professional life is going to be there. And my tank is empty. Here is my chance to have Kirk see me in the environment I claim to be born for, and I have been sapped of all my mental and physical strength. And HE is the one I remember saying that to get that big shot is to be prepared at all times. I wasn’t hoping that he would sign me or anything like that. I just wanted him to know that I was ready. And I wasn’t. And no excuse was sufficient. People spent their money on a product, and they don’t want to hear, “Oh, the food isn’t as good because the cook is sick.”

I couldn’t even remember the horn line to, “What You Won’t Do For Love,” which I’ve been playing for fifteen years! My brain was fried. I felt that I had let myself and the band and the audience down. And the sound man was taping the show! I kept thinking that I surely didn’t want to hear that monstrosity.

Kirk (Whalum) sat in with us and played the paint off the walls! He was great. My parents, sisters, and church members were there in force, and they loved everything. I remember praying to God during one song that He get me through this night because I couldn’t hold myself up. I think He carried me.

The one thing about playing music is that when the audience is caught up in the moment, they can sometimes see the colors but can miss the lines that separate them. Ask Simon Cowell. Listening to a recording can often tell a different story.

The sound man forgot to tape the show! Look at God!

There is no overarching moral here. I just wanted to write about my weekend. But I DO know that God lets adversity occur in order to tone up the muscles. And I don’t mind that. I’m getting pretty strong in my soul bone lately!

August 21, 2008 Posted by | Children, Christian Life, Christianity, God, Humor, Life, Music, Parenthood, Playing Music, Work, Writing | 6 Comments

Why Ya Think They Call ‘Em “Happy Meals?”

Max bows his head sorrowfully, as if about to pray, “Daddy?” soft as a whisper.
“What?!” I answer, sharply.
“Paw Paw… Richie-Ryan… Chic-kan nug-gets,” referring to my father and two young nephews and a food he likes.
I cover my face so he can’t see me smile.
 
Okay, imagine John Edwards saying to his wife: “Hey, Honey, did you lose weight or do something to your hair? You look GREAT!!”


Or Senator Craig saying to the arresting officer: “Wow, they sure keep these airport bathrooms spotless!”

 

Max, two years old now, has just gotten caught doing one of his list of a thousand daily things he knows not to do, and is trying to soften up the wrath.
“Paw Paw… Richie-Ryan… Chic-kan nug-gets.” I hear it twenty times a day.
But what can ya do?
 

August 14, 2008 Posted by | Boys, Children, Christian Life, Discipline, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Home Life, Humor, John Edwards, Kids, Larry Craig, Life, Max, Parenthood, Parenting | 6 Comments

Another Malaprop

Kathy, on this post-partum diet, said to me yesterday, “I’m thinkin’ about becomin’ a veterinarian.”

“Fine, ” I shot back, “You can doctor on aaall the animals you want to, as long as you still cook ’em up for me!”

August 13, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Diet, Dieting, Food, Food for Thought, Home Life, Humor, Malaprops, Vegetarians | 2 Comments

Welcome to the Club(bed Foot)

CRASH!! STUB!!

“Oww! Sunnava…!!”

Okay. I’m officially a daddy now, kicking one of the kids’ toys — a heavy one! — in the dark in the middle of the night while making my rounds.

August 10, 2008 Posted by | Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Humor, Life | 2 Comments

O’Reilly and Darwin — of Like Mind*

The conservative ideal of self-reliance is, oddly, out of line with the Christian idea of helping those less fortunate and IN line with the evolutionary tenet of the survival of the fittest!

Bill O’Reilly himself said, with derision, that being a liberal means using government programs to “level the playing field.” WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT?!?  Who doesn’t want a level playing field? And why not?

This is the definition of a paradox.

God said for us to cast our cares on HIM. He said that HE would make straight that which was crooked.

The Israelites out of Egypt received the ultimate affirmative action! They were allowed to pillage the government and take whatever they wanted! For 400 years of oppression and horror they got more than a level playing field. God Himself was their constant defense and provision. He had to MAKE Pharaoh do what he had consistently shown he would never do on his own.

How about this; Jesus, the King of Kings, (Isaiah, 9:6) embodied affirmative action for us all! We who were lost at the starting gate (Adam), and losing the race from that day till Zero A.D. were allowed to catch up because of a Supernatural quota system that took a “Chosen People” and moved them to the front of the line of eternity.

We elect, who are just as wretched as anyone else, will be separated from those who have ephemerally reveled in the wealth of excess and given that which we did not toil to get. All based on the recognition that without a Hand UP  we could never, ever get what we should have had because sin would never of its own will give up its advantage.

This is the thing that makes me part ways with the conservative movement. The other stuff is cool, but a person who claims to be “Evangelical” yet ignores the obvious fact that some people have had the path swept clear for them while other people don’t even have a butter knife to clear the jungle obscuring theirs leaves me skeptical.

Hey, I’m just saying… Since the Religious Right, Evangelicals, seem to be in a three-legged race with the Republican Party… It looks like there is a whole half of the Christian message that has been overlooked.

And don’t blast me with a bunch of racist stuff! I just noticed the fact because I saw it in the actual BIBLE!

 

*No, I am not a liberal.

July 28, 2008 Posted by | Affirmative Action, Bill O'Reilly, Christian Life, Christianity, Civil Rights, Conservatives, God, Hypocrisy, Jesus, Justification, Racism, Republicans, Sean Hannity | 17 Comments

Kidspeak

“Daddy, Daddy!”

I’m looking at a movie. Max is crawling all over my back looking through the window behind me into the sunroom.

“Daddy, Daddy! Ma Targit!” he pleads, tapping me on the shoulder. I’m watching a movie.

“What did you say?” I asked.

He is two inches from my face, and I’m backing up, and he’s moving in: “Ma targit, ma targit!” As though his life was at stake.

“Your what?”

“Ma targit. Ma targit!” He is pointing into the sunroom, which stays locked to keep him out.

“Pleeease?”

“Okay. Show me whatcha talking ’bout.”

We get up, and he pulls me into the back room and runs to get the object of his urgency.

The instrument he has been playing with ever since it was iven to him a couple of months ago: His targuit. His GUITAR! He switched the syllables! It was so funny that while he was still playing with it, I had to write it down before I forgot.

Is there such a thing as “verbal dyslexia?” Welll, the Bible does say that “the last shall be first.” He’s just doing God’s will.

July 23, 2008 Posted by | Baby Talk, Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Humor, Kids, Max | 2 Comments

Family

Max just turned two. We took him to his first movie theater movie, and he had this big party that his mother put together.

Diana is getting bigger, prettier… and quieter! I can’t believe this is my life now. Here they are.

July 22, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Life, Marriage, Pictures | 2 Comments

Home Trainin’

“Hey, Max!”

“What, Daddy?” Smiling.

“Max, don’t say ‘what’ when I call you, okay? Say, ‘Yes, Daddy?’.”

“Okay, Daddy.”

He walks away. Five seconds later…

“Hey, Max?”

“What, Daddy?”

This is gonna take some time.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Home Training, Humor, Kids, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting | 5 Comments

Ruth for the Ruth Less

We’ve been going thru the book of Ruth at church (http://fellowshipmemphis.org/index.htm). One character is named ”Orpah,” and I believe that she is the namesake of our teevee icon Guru Oprah.

While listening to the sermon, I was struck by another parallel:
In the opening chapter, Orpah and Ruth, being recently widowed, propose to leave their pagan homeland and go to Judah with their likewise widowed mother-in-law, Naomi. Shortly into their journey, Naomi stopped and insisted that the two younger women go back to their own familiar land and let Naomi proceed to Judah and suffer alone. It was rough for unmarried women back then. Really rough.

You know the story: Ruth refused to abandon her while Orpah decided to do what was prudent in her own eyes and return to her native land of Moab. Orpah went “back to her people and her gods.” (Ruth 1:15) Who knows to what Godless debauchery she returned.

It seems that Oprah Winfrey has done the same thing as her near-namesake. Rather than proceed down that Singular, hazard-laden path of righteousness, she has appealed to her own intellect and sense of what is proper and led an opulent pagan life where god is all and in all. She appeared to walk the trail for part of the way, but when pressed, she turned back. She has, through what seems logical to her, concluded that there are many ways to get to “what YOU call god.” Oprah has, I’m sure, at some point heard the Gospel. But she instead chose to live a lifestyle that on the outside appears beautiful, with the cocker spaniels, the flower-print throw pillows, the country estates, and the flourishing business. “Surely all this must be of God, right?” (The devil’s distractions shine like diamonds! How else would he ensnare so many?)

Oprah has simultaneously demonstrated that it is, to her, more prudent to shack rather than marry. And to admonish others to do so as well. She has advocated single motherhood. She props up whatever guru-du-jour — Eckhart Tolle, Rhonda Byrne, Gary Zukav, etc. — to advance her own intellectual idea that anyone who claims to be god is God and that Truth is the individual possession of whoever sincerely believes something. Lately she has amped up her efforts in this area in her “Course in Miracles.”

 And any God who says it is wrong is the only God who is not God!

I know it may sound like I don’t like Oprah ( I think she has damaged men, though), I actually do. But as the point of our Ruth series is “Hope for the Hopeless,” there is for Oprah and anyone swayed by her teachings hope yet.

I just thought the parallel was interesting…

July 16, 2008 Posted by | A Course in Miracles, Christian Life, Christianity, Eckhart Tolle, False Teachers, Marriage, Monotheism, Oprah, Oprah Winfrey, Pantheism, Ruth, Salvation, The Secret | Leave a comment

In Fidelity

You can’t fix an old car by driving another one.

Work on your own.

July 16, 2008 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Cheating, Christian Life, Christianity, Fidelity, Marriage | 1 Comment

Babee Tawk

“Jlknsphote giso dnb tjiom rhsdder!” Max said to me, dead serious.

“What?!?” I thought.

So, I repeated what he said, word for word: “Jlknsphote giso dnb tjiom rhsdder?”

He frowned and looked at me out the side of his eye as if to say, “Man, what’s da mattah witchou? Speak Englitch!”

Then he said, “No, Dah! Sefcka tehpmfn hse SOAVEX!”

“Oh. Okay. MY bad.”

It was so funny! What he said to me — he always has these extended conversations with us — made perfect sense to him on the inside of his head. Everything makes sense in there! Including putting cell phones and dead leaves in his mouth, using a sharpie on my desk and the washing machine, and pushing and pulling the keys on my horn while I’m playing it. Oh… and getting his big head stuck under the couch!

Whatever he said, it sure wasn’t what I said. What I said was just gibberish, I guess.

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Babies, Baby Talk, Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Humor, Kids, Life, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting | 2 Comments

Look at You, America!

Medgar Evers. Shot dead in the back in his driveway in front of his family. Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman. Civil rights workers, murdered. Four little black girls. Blown up in a church, for goodness sake. King. Shot in the face. Black women and men, sprayed by fire hoses, chewed by german shepherds, beaten with sticks, spat upon, hanged, burned, castrated, terrorized, cheated, miseducated. All these atrocities and countless more in attempts, mainly, to keep black people from that one central symbol of human, American freedom: The Vote.

The crux of the Civil Rights Movement was the right for black people to vote. Voting was the most direct route to economic fairness, education, and basic human rights, and both sides knew it! That was probably why there were so many trumped-up rules and restrictions. That was why so many black folk, and sympathetic white folk, died premature deaths. Voting is more “America” than that fabled Apple Pie.

I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. And I am not a “Bill O’Reilly Independent,” either. I have true non-negotiable differences with both parties.

I don’t support a woman’s “right” to have an abortion any more than I would be expected to have the “right” to kill my two-month-old daughter sitting next to me. But I also think that there are life-and-death repercussions for systematically leaving whole segments of the population to perpetually, generationally fester and prey on each other. Spiritually speaking, I think there are souls being lost in poverty, gang and drug-infested areas of America, and frankly, God says that loss of the soul is more serious than loss of the body to death.

You think white girls are not getting pregnant, too? Look at the “Girls Gone Wild” phenomenon. Look at Ft. Lauderdale and Cancun during spring break. Come with me to an Ole Miss frat party! I submit that if their conservative daddies were not paying for so many abortions, the white out-of-wedlock-birthrate would look like the black one.

I just don’t think that either party is the “Party of Christ.” Were that so, eight years of George Bush would’ve done something to curb — not advance — gay rights and abortion. Twenty years out of the last twenty-eight of Republican presidency would have decreased some of the moral ills that plague us. Practically speaking, Republicans don’t appear to love God any more than do Democrats…

This is not about for whom I am voting or endorsing. Don’t dismiss me as just another Brother voting for a Brother because he is a Brother. I don’t do that. Besides, we black folk have been voting for white guys for years! We don’t tend to discriminate like that. We get or surgeries from white doctors, we get our teeth pulled by white dentists, we get our loans — when we can — from white bankers, we buy our homes — or rent them — from white realtors, we fly planes piloted by white pilots, and on and on…

We even worship a white Jesus! And we don’t care! (melody: I Dreeeam of Genie…) “I wor- ship Je-sus – with the light – brown – hair…!”

But there is a reason why so may blacks were Brooklyn Dodgers fans. There is a reason why so many black folk moved to Detroit to work in the auto industry back in the day. They gave us a chance. That is the reason why so many blacks vote with the Democrats.

But never did I really think that even democratic white voters, West Virginia notwithstanding, would en masse vote in favor of a black dude with an African name for the highest office in the most powerful nation! I am nonplussed! My wife cried her eyes out as she listened to his ostensible acceptance speech. This was US up there! Our dead sharecropper, housekeeper grandparents. Our lynched great-uncles and stepped-on progenitors.

I am so proud! Michelle Obama was skewered for daring to hint that her American experience was anything but idyllic. But as someone who was — and occasionally is — persecuted for my pigment, I totally understand her perspective. I have never been ashamed to be an American. In fact, when I was in the military and overseas, I was almost overconfident in my Americanness! But black folk see the country from under the stairs. I am overjoyed that America has come this far in this struggle to take an unknown black guy and rocket him past a woman who started this race five feet from the finish line.

I really feel like an American now, like I have a chance, however remote… And if you ave a problem with me just now saying that, I am not bothered. 

I never once thought I could tell my son that he could grow up to one day be President. Now, I can. My folks told me that if I applied myself, I could be a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer. They never told me I could be the President, though. If they did, it rang hollow like knocking on a pressboard dinner table with an aluminum spoon. That ceiling was plaster and concrete! They never thought this day would come. In a way, the nomination is more significant than the general election would be. It speaks of possibilities, of what might be, of living on stars.

When he first got into the race, I was totally dismissive, not believing that this country would ever let a Negro run the show. And then he won the Iowa caucus… I never thought I would see it.

The Republican machine can be treacherous though. Sean Hannity, et al, will not go gently into that good night to be sure!

This nomination definitely does not kill all racism, not even most of it, but it shows that the ship is actually turning.

Hank Hanegraaff, a theologian whom I admire greatly, and from whom I have learned a countless amount, often is known to have said that “the Bible says nothing about race except to run the race.” The problem that I have with what appears to be only lip service to the realities of racial disharmony is that he does not address the fact that we still have to live. We still have to “do life” in this country. How does his statement make those people feel who have had to start from a mile behind the starting line? How does that statement play out in this current predatory lending crisis? How does it work when I have to read racist jokes written by co-workers in a black magazine? What does it do when a racist neighbor confronts my wife?

It is fine to say that when you get to come and go as you please, and play golf at whatever country club you please without stigma, but it does me little good when I have police walk up on me with their hands on their guns because my tags were out.

And the Bible certainly does deal with race! Moses’ own sister was struck with leprosy when she rebuked her brother for marrying a Cushite — a black woman. And Peter, Jesus’ own disciple, was reprimanded by Paul for showing racial prejudice towards non-Jews. So, while Hanegraaff is a kind of mentor to me, his seeming dismissal of racial issues hurts those like me who expect a prominent “evangelical” to echo the heart of God on the practical application of Christians on everyday racial issues.

It makes it look as though “evangelicals” don’t mind us serving the same God as long as we do it from our own neighborhoods, our own churches, and with our own women. Surely this is not the case!

But regardless of the political ramifications, regardless of how this affects potential Supreme Court demographics, how doggone cool is it that people of all hues can truly look past exterior differences and cultural unfamiliarity to nominate someone unlike themselves? THAT is America! That is a glimpse of what this country can truly be! Irrespective of how you see the role of government, how great is it that the most historically oppressed group of people in this country can be finally equal enough to win the nomination of a major party in a cycle when the OTHER major party has so alienated people that it is highly likely that the latter will likely lose power?!?

No, Obama is not someone to whom I would look for Spiritual guidance, but neither was Reagan or Nixon or Clinton or Carter or Bush. Maybe Huckabee, but definitely not Romney or Gore. But we are not electing pastors. We are trying to find someone to competently run this nation’s business. To govern and legislate justly in the best interest of every American, not just the rich, the Spiritual, the privileged.

Race doesn’t determine my politics. But I refuse to be angry that someone who lives life through the same prism that I do has a chance to sit in the Top Chair.

I am exceedingly proud to finally, really, be able to tear up my Three-Fifths of a Man card and step into this full surrogate American humanity.

This is like Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling. Jesse Owens versus Hitler. They run, they fight, for themselves, but for the rest of us, too.

So, gimme five, America! On tha black-hand side! You got soul!

June 4, 2008 Posted by | Abortion, Barack Obama, Christian Life, Christianity, Civil Rights, Conservatives, Democrats, Elections, George Bush, God, Hillary Clinton, Humor, Martin Luther King, Obama, Politics, Pro-Life, Race, Racial Reconciliation, Racism, Religious Right, Republicans, Sean Hannity, Vote | , | 8 Comments

Son, Don’t Point it Till You’re Ready to Shoot!

We can leave Max alone to watch educational television on the Sprout, or Noggin networks, but we cannot leave him alone for a second on his potty.

We’re training him to go on his own, and it is proving to be the hardest thing yet about child-rearing! Kathy and I have dealt with colic, wildfires of diaper rash, mounds of “butt mustard”, gallons of re-gurj, waterfallian sinus infections, cuts, all-night feedings, soap tasting and ant eating, penny sucking, picky eating, and nap refusing, but this potty training is kickin’ us in da collective butt!

Put him on the pot and go right down the hall, “Son, don’t move!” and the next thing you know, Max is spraying the bath mats like he’s a hose-fed weed killer and they’re crabgrass, or he’s triumphantly swirling his hands around in you-ryne like he’s filming a Palmolive commercial! “You’re soaking in it!”

 Now, I have to watch out for shiny spots on the floor when I go back in to get him, or I’ll have a disgusting slip-and-fall incident. 

He’s 100% boy, and I just LOVE it! Every exasperating moment! My son!

Kathy’s gonna deevorce me for this!

 

May 29, 2008 Posted by | Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Humor, Kids, Life, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Pictures | 7 Comments

Niagra Without that First “A”

I was a nigra Saturday night. A good ol’ fashioned, 1932 model, down home, Jim Crow, Miss’sippi nigra. If that offends you, imagine how it offended ME to not just READ it, but to LIVE it.

I play a lot of wedding receptions in the “Band I Don’t Want to Be In.” I hate playing them. The music is cheesy, the clothes are uncomfortable, the stigma itches, and we usually are treated coldly.

Most of the functions we do are white (as a way of denotation…) because for some unknown reason, black folk usually don’t have enough money, generally speaking, to pay a fair wage. We are ALWAYS hired by white folk.

The bandleader books most of our gigs through an agency. There is, on their website, a long list (photos included) of acts available to do any type of function requiring entertainment. Prospective clients can choose who they want.

The gig in question was at a country club. Yes, I hate playing at country clubs, too. The pictures on the walls NEVER have any black faces, as all of the members over decades have always been white. (A young debutante named Cybil Shepard was in one of them) It makes one of my particular hue wonder why we are viewed as we are… The wait staff is ALWAYS all black. Always. Not good enough to join, but good enough to cook and clean. Still. Thank God that God values service over status! I know we’ll fit in in Heaven.

Here’s where the rub is: As soon as we began to play, the bandleader stopped us, “Hey, hey, hey, y’all! When we git through playing, don’t nobody go eat none of the weddin’ food! We been told they got a room for us around in the back, an’ they gone bring us some samwitches to eat. So when we git through playin’, less jus gone to the back.” It may not have been as Stepin Fetchit as that, but it was real close!

I have played hundreds of these things over the years, and when this happens, it is clear what is going on! It is usually offensive enough to me that we are totally ignored until we play some “Motown” or the dreaded “Mustang-doggone-Sally”! (Who made that song the Beethoven’s Fifth of this era!?!?) We don’t even exist. But even then, most folk have had the decency, the courtesy, to let the band partake of the buffet! It is almost understood.

I must tell you that in my younger days, I was what would be — and was — considered militant. Militant not in a racist sense, but in the sense that I didn’t overlook acts of injustice, racial or otherwise. I never disliked white people, but I disliked CERTAIN white people! I was always Christian.

I would be the victim of some mistreatment or another and would try to rally friends to rail out with me and I would only get the chirping of crickets… and a cough from somewhere in the back of the room.

So, now I was hot. I was already frustrated at having to be here, but now I was in Medgar Evers mode. (Keeping in mind that I was to work as though for the Lord, and that this was somebody’s wedding day)

“So they want us to play music for them,” I thought, “They want us to display our natural gifts of rhtyhm and daincin’, but we can’t eat their food, or even remain in their regal presences once we finish?!” I was sure it would have been better for them had we simply vanished through the bottom of the floor rather than walk through the crowd to our quarters!

I’ve done gigs with this band where we were told to eat in the kitchen! (You better believe I didn’t eat in nobody’s doggone kitchen!) And I have done country club gigs where Amos and Andy tapes were stacked on a tv on the stage behind the curtain. This stuff is more the norm than most would care to admit.

So I walked, fuming, past a wasteful embarrassment of victualage to a room around in the back of the building to water, cokes, and– fifteen minutes into our break– cold-cut sammitches a pickle spear, and some random ruffles in styrophoam containers.

That was the black eye. This was the dirty word: After all that, after all the specific warnings not to mingle or eat, while we were performing the second set, a waitress was sent to the stage to tell the band, “to be sure not to eat any of the cake” when they cut it!!

Didn’t we already know this? Weren’t we capable of taking a hint in the form of a brick to the head? Did we not see the disdain with which we were held? The upturned noses? The downturned mouths? Why did they even hire us? Why not hire some white guys to do all these black songs and not have to worry about us ogling the young girls? “Don’t eat the cake!” I knew where I wanted them to put the cake. Prob’ly wouldn’ta fit though… But I only thought it. This Christian bit in my mouth…

Here is what made it worse for me: I am no stranger to this kind of treatment. But there were at least two members of my church in attendance. The church I rave about. This is no indictment of the church or the people. I know that any human organization will have to get the oil changed or the head gaskets replaced from time to time.

I met one member who was very nice. I didn’t even recognize him since we are growing. He thanked me, and complimented the band.

But there was another guy whom I knew by name. I see him and his wife at church all the time. He works with the the kids sometimes and is crazy about Max. When he passed in front of the stage, I thought, “Hey, I know him!” and tried to make eye contact. He “didn’t see me.” And he kept right on not seeing me the rest of the night. Even though — aside from the newlyweds– we were the focal point of the whole deal. I am the tallest guy in the band, maybe in the room, but he didn’t notice me. Or seemed not to… I just wanted to wave.

Now as the night played out, I thought: this is the world he REALLY lives in. Not the one where races are forced to live out the Gospel. Not the one where issues are lain on the table, splayed open for autopsy.

In this world, the only faces that matter are the paler ones, unless tanned to brownness from a trip to Cabo or Greece. He would probably not have recognized the waiter serving him who manicured his grass either. In this world we don’t exist unless we are on the news or approaching down a dark street or booming bass in the adjacent Crown Vic at the red light.

Maybe now I know how God feels… to not be there until and unless there is a problem…

Whether my church member ignored me or not, the problem was that he was, by appearances, friends with these people. Or a business associate. But he was in lockstep with the behavior that had us in the band — including my friend Marc who is white– feeling so less-than. This may sound unfair, but it seems that lately people are being held accountable for their associations, so… 

So here is where my activism kicked in. On the second set, we played “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” and during my solo, I shoved my horn way up into the mic and played boldly, “Weee Shaaall Overco-o-ome”! Dadgummit! On somebody’s wedding day. Guys in the band were howling! “He crazy, man!” The bandleader wasn’t laughing, though… Only a tight nervous slash of a grin/grimace. Even if I swing and only hit air, at least I swung.

On the second break, I noticed that the guys were huddled together outside, and when I approached them to see what “revolution they were cookin’ up,” I found that they were only telling a dirty joke about… well… a dirty joke.

Once again in the face of injustice, we were content to just let it slide. Once again when presented with the opportunity to strike a blow against racism, we found stuff to laugh about instead.

That, I think, is what has lead to the mistaken assumption that black folk aren’t hurt by things like being slaves or being poor and uneducated. “They are so resilient,” they say, letting themselves off the hook, “Look. After a whole day of whippins and work, they jus’ huddle under the sycamo tree an’ sing Spirituals. See, they’re po as dirt, but they still tell jokes and jus’ laffff! They don’t care what you do to ’em, they jus’ shake it off! Our nigras are happy.”

Maybe I should just let it go, too. But I rock these kinds of boats.

 I told them that I had to do something. So when we went back for the third set, we were told by the coordinator to announce the departure of the bride and groom. As they were leaving, I got on the mic and said, “Save me some cake! Is it okay to git some chicken fangers now? Can I have a couple of wings?” No reply. A small gesture to be sure, but they heard me, and they were exposed. I know it was a little bit unprofessional, but I had to let it be known, as I always say. It was kind of like dealing with a roomful of hecklers. Sometimes real life gets in the way of the minstrelry.

The bandleader was not happy that I did that, but the guys were.

As was said by Marc, the bandleader could have put a stop to that kind of thing a long time ago. All he had to do was tell the booking agents that if those kinds of requests were made, book another band. I don’t need your money. I don’t need the kind of money that comes with cork smeared all over it.

Yeah, I was a nigra Saturday night. According to them. I can live with what they think. But can they live with their secret shame knowing God, and now we, know?

 

May 19, 2008 Posted by | Arrogance, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Music, Race, Racial Reconciliation, Racism, Weddings, Work | 8 Comments

Max’s Mother’s Day Sentiment

This is the card Max “wrote”* to Kathy yesterday:

This is Max

*Actually I wrote it (he dictated…) with my off hand. It took almost an HOUR! My hand is still hurting! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Humor, Kids, Life, Mother's Day, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 2 Comments

Be Married Every Day. Every Day.

Marriage ain’t got a motor! You gotta push it for it to work.

Marriage is like a plant. An indoor plant that needs water every day. You can miss one day, and it’ll be fine. You can miss two days. But if you go a week, the leaves will start to brown around the edges. Before you know it, it’s dead, leaves like corn flakes all over the floor to be divided up by judges and lawyers.

I push my wife. Lovingly. Sometimes it irritates her, I’m sure, but I have seen relationships slowly turn into bland cardboard facsimilies, and I am bound to not let that happen to me! I don’t want to wake up one day and have my wife look at me (or not) like a stranger on an elevator. I tell her how I feel probably hourly. If I don’t say it, I show it. She doesn’t always feel like talking about where we are and what needs to be repaired. Why the Lord would give me someone who is not excessively expressive I don’t know… But I refuse to let her take a day off from being married to me. I won’t let her coast through our relationship.

Some people might call this too much. But I have witnessed too many relationships — of all kind — fizzle and falter because someone thought they were in a comfortable place.

Before I got married I NEVER turned down a gig! Never. That was a commonly-known thing about me. I was single for a long time, but when I got married, Kathy showed me how I needed to take time to do things with her now and then which made me have to miss work. Even though we couldn’t afford it. I realized that little things like going to a movie, or going out of town to visit her family kept the marriage-ball rolling.

I ask her often to tell me how she feels about me, not out of insecurity, but partly to help us both stay aware of who we are to each other. I tell her that we should have periodic, “State of the Marriage” meetings so that we don’t let the moss of discontent build up over time. I have seen what a miserable wife looks like. And I have too many friends and co-workers who think they have it made at the house while their wives are mentally already gone. If mine leaves me, it durn sho* won’t be because I didn’t let her know how I felt. Or that I cheated on her on my gig and somehow rationalized that that was different than being in a relationship!

You can’t fix your leaky roof by shingling somebody else’s!

Over time, the list of wrongs committed can grow long and bitter. At some point we have to just stop.

And start from scratch. Wipe the slate clean and forget about pointed fingers and “you did this, so I did that,” and “you stopped doing this, so I went somewhere else and got that.” We have to go back to square one, forget the hurt and remember the love and the pledge, and just listen.

Pain is a circle with no beginning. There is always a reason for why who did what to whom. The Devil does actually do his job. He wants discord. Those things don’t matter. What matters is restoring a bent and broken relationship. Stop trying to win. The only way you win is to both reach the finish line together.

When I feel a need to bring up something uncomfortable, even though I know it may cause trouble, I do it. I can’t help it. My mother gave me that. I refuse to let a minor irritant grow into poison ivy.

The beauty of this all is that she lets me do this where others have chastised me. Sometimes you have to be the right person to find the right person…

These are things that most of us know. I’m no guru. Far be it from me to give advice with all MY flaws! But even though I make mistakes, I at least know what the answers are.

We know these things, but we just choose not to do them. We’d rather not pick the lock on a closed door than walk through an open one.

 

 *Certainly

April 30, 2008 Posted by | Advice, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Marriage | , | 4 Comments

A Porpoise-Driven Life

Are you like me? Do you sometimes find that you live your life like a dolphin, holding your breath the overwhelming percentage of the time waiting for trouble to come?

I have to constantly tell myself that my Faith is the engine that drives me, and that God will see me through whatever disaster awaits me at the surface. I often am not able to enjoy even long periods of peace for holding my breath dreading the next calamity.

“Max might get sick.” “Diana might get bitten by the giant Great Dane that lives next door.” “My parents might die soon.” “Kathy or I may get fired.”

Things could happen. Things will happen. Bad things will happen. The point is that they will happen whether we shy away or stand there.

I am telling myself and you that it is okay to live in the face of the wind. God is able to transport us through what travails may come, and if we spend our time flinching from a blow that may or may not be on the way, we will miss the joys of life; watching kids grow and become independent, seeing parents become grandparents, relying on the Lord for sustenance when men cut you loose. “Fight back,” my daddy used to say, “They gone hit you anyway, whether you flinch or not!”  You might as well get some licks in.

Life is so much more good than bad, even for the most unfortunate of us, when we have an Eternal Point of View that sees through pain and around obstacles. Life is so much more Florida than Seattle.

All is not lost for the Christian even at the point of death. But you only die once. You live forever. Trust God. He is hurt when you don’t. I have to tell myself this from time to time, so I figured I’d tell you, too.

Come up for air.

April 24, 2008 Posted by | Advice, Christian Life, Christianity, Death, Depression, Faith, Family, Fatherhood, Fear, God, Life | 3 Comments

No, No, No Ya Don’t…

I had to change the words to that familiar children’s song, ’cause every time I turned around, Max was getting into something else he shouldn’t have.

Like just today, he pulled ALL the clothes out of Kathy’s bottom drawer, threw them onto the floor, and put his toy remote control in it. And when he was supposed to be taking a nap, he instead threw all the blankets out of the bed, and was sitting upright with the liner from his dirty clothes hamper on his head. Smiling at me.

Last night, he came into the living room with the vaseline jar on his hand like a glove, and a jar full of vaseline in his hair. He has broken tusks from elephant statues at my folks’ house, phones, and computer keypads, and he has eaten a Christmas light. He tried to climb up into the automatic swing that Diana was sleeping in. He mistimed it, fell, and the swing began mindlessly hitting him until he could get up and out of the way.

Monday, when he was supposed to be taking a nap, I heard him in his room talking. (He knows not to do that) When I burst into his room, I saw him sitting, still as a mailbox with his blanket over his body. “Max! Lie down and go to sleep!” No movement. I walked closer: “Max! YOU know you’re not supposed ta be in here talking! Lie down!” No movement. I pulled the blanket off of him, ready to chastise him for not doing what I told him to do. He was just smiling up at me , all sixteen teeth showing.

In a hurry, I put the blanket up to my face so he couldn’t see me laughing. I laid him back down. See, HE thought that, even though he was sitting up, I couldn’t see him sitting up! His little child’s mind told him that to be very still under that blanket made it impossible for him to be seen. It was sooo funny! That’s my boy!

My mother and sister bought him one of those motorized trucks that you can sit in and drive for Christmas. Now, he is only one year old, and I tried to tell them not to do it, but it was no use. He can’t even associate pressing the gas pedal with making the truck go yet. Well, the other day, I brought it home from my folks’ house (it was too big to fit in the car, I thought…), and when I took it out, Max jumped in it and proceeded to slam it into the car repeatedly. “No, no, no, Max! Stop! Wait! Don’t…!” We just laughed

So in that spirit, and for that reason, I have changed the words and the meaning to that singalong:

No, no, no ya don’t

Don’t you mess with that.

Don’t put that upon your head,

A shoe is not a hat!

No, no, no ya don’t

Don’t you eat the keys.

When Daddy has to go to work,

He’ll be needing these.

No, no, no ya don’t

Poke your sister’s eye.

She needs that to watch for you

You’re a dang’rous guy.

And so on…

April 3, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fathers and Sons, Humor, Kids, Nursery Rhymes, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Uncategorized, Writing | 2 Comments

The Rest of the Story

I said that when I got more time, I would write more on what happened when Diana was born. Seeing how things have been this last week, I know now that I’ll NEVER have any more time!

Kathy began having real contractions Wednesday night. By Thursday, they were coming steadily enough so that our friend, Megan who is trained as a labor and delivery nurse, took basically her whole day — Excuse me. Both babies just woke up yelling and crying from different rooms at the SAME time!!!— to walk Kathy through a nearby park in order to bring on the true labor Kathy wanted. (Our last birth was a c-section, and Kathy really wanted to have a conventional birth!) Megan homeschools her kids, one of whom was sick, and she forsook that all to spend hours helping my wife!

Thursday night/Friday morning at around three, She started to have strong contractions at from six or seven minutes apart to four or five. Even though I’m a night owl, going to sleep at around three or four every morning, I was really sleepy. Kathy was taking one of thee thousands of showers she had been taking all day to soothe her pain when I finally fell off to sleep. As soon as I did, she came into the room and said that she was ready to go. Wishful thinking made me stay in the bed.

“When I get dressed, I’m goin’ to tha hospital, whether you’re ready or not!” she said, rummaging through her drawers. It took her forty minutes to put some clothes on. It takes longer when you have to stop and pray to Jeessussss every four minutes…

“Oh,” I croaked, “You were serious?”

“Yeah! This is IT! The contractions have been four minutes apart for an hour.”

We got to the hospital at 4:45 AM. Megan, the angel, had met us at the house and followed us. My parents, who were going to keep Max for us, were waiting for us when we got there. They took him home with them shortly after Kathy was admitted.

Kathy was scheduled to have a c-section on Saturday, but she and her doctor wanted her to try to have her “the regular way.” Max was a c-section baby, and weighed in at nine pounds, six ounces! She was more than a week past the due date and the baby was only getting bigger. We felt now that the Lord had answered Kathy’s fervent prayer in the affirmative with all these labor pains and stuff.

Kathy’s friends, Heather, and Lisa, who took all those pictures, arrived at between 6 and 8 am. They both have families, and left them to stay with Kathy. Her mother came to town to stay with us for a week, and got to the hospital at around 9 am. We all thought that, at this rate, she would be having the baby by no later than twelve noon or one at the latest. HA!

I had a gig that night which Kathy had no problem with me making, and since it started at 10:30 that night, we both knew I would make it ok. HA!

Her contractions were coming steadily (every two or four minutes) for hours, and she took them like a champ until around 10 am or so when she asked for an epidural. This involves injecting an anesthetic through a catheter inserted into a canal in the doggone spine! And how is this better, I wonder…?

To make a long story long, Kathy endured the process of physical and mental stress (which was probably worse) until 7:30 pm. The doctors and she were trying to wait for her cervix to dilate to the point where Diana could pass naturally. “I don’t want to be gutted like a fish!” Kathy would repeatedly say, only partly in jest.

Just as with Max, it would never happen.

Through all of this, Heather and Lisa stayed! Hour upon hour of stress, tedium, pain, and varying opinions on what to do and they just called husbands, arranged for kids to be picked up, and stayed right there with her. Never had we experienced such friendship and dedication. Even after I left to work, (musicians don’t have workman’s compensation! No play, no pay! Kathy’s maternity pay is a little bit less than her regular pay, so I had to go get it!) Megan returned, and Lisa and Heather stayed into Saturday morning until I told Kathy to have them go home!

I am so blessed (Kathy, too…) to have people who love my wife so much. She is not from Memphis, and used to fret about not having ties here. This is an answer to that prayer, because she has friends now from all strata who love her like family!

Yes, they attend that church I rave about. (And Heather wants me to tell you that in spite of the name, she IS black! 🙂 )

It was obvious after all these hours that Diana was not going to push her way out. There was a lot of back and forth about what should happen, so the nurse — at Kathy’s request — cleared the room. Kathy, now crying,  called me back, and while I had a whole line prepared — excuse me, Diana just started to wail again — about how God knows better than we do what is best, and that this is His will, and that we have to get in line with that will… But she wasn’t crying about having to have another c-section. Suffice it to say that she was worried that her friends’ feelings would be hurt through all of this.

So, after much travail, much of which would be politically and socially improper for me to tell, Diana was pulled into this world at exactly eight o’clock looking just like her brother did, and suspiciously like a little Eskimo lady. (Kathy spent four years living in Alaska…) Actually, my grandfather had a white father and a Cherokee mother, so that is why they come out looking so U.N.

I spent an hour or so with them and left for my gig with my wife’s blessing. They started late waiting for me.

For the next two weeks in what is apparently a tradition in many churches (NOT the one I attended!), we will be receiving meals cooked by different women in the church. When this happened with Max, we were blown away! It is a wonderful thing to see the Body of Christ work in such fluid and effective fashion.

And just as we cannot do anything to warrant God’s Sacrifice and favor, we have not done anything to deserve being loved in so great a way by so many!

April 1, 2008 Posted by | Birth, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Church Life, Family, Fatherhood, Kids, Life, Love, Marriage, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Pregnancy | 4 Comments

For Unto US (Kathy and Me) a Child is Born

Diana, our new daughter, was born on Good Friday! She weighed nine pounds and one ounce, and was 21 1/2 inches long. Even though she was in pickle juice for nine months, she is beautiful. (She looks like the little “Ice Age” baby) Kathy was basically in labor from Wednesday on, and we went to the hospital at 4:45 AM. Diana was born by c-section at eight PM!

Many beautiful things happened, but as I am just getting home and getting adjusted to the exponential increase in work and DEcrease in sleep, I will have to write about it all in detail in a day or so.

You can see pictures of the process at  http://kiralisa.wordpress.com/2008/03/22/a-precious-baby-is-born/where my friend and churchmember, the great photographer Lisa Thomas, has chronicled our experience.

March 24, 2008 Posted by | Birth, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Kids, Life, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 16 Comments

It Takes a Village to SPOIL a Child!

“Max just put a battery in the toilet upstairs,” young Demetrius calmly said to the adults who were downstairs watching the game and having adult conversation.

Exasperated, Kathy looked at me and sighed, “Go up there and get it out.”

“There’re some yellow gloves under the sink you can put on to get it out,” Daddy said, laughing.

As I made my way through the kitchen to the stairs — about eight boys were having a sleepover/party for my nephew, Ryan, who just turned ten — I heard a yell from up in the gameroom, “THASS OKAAAY. MAX GOT IT OUUUT!”

What? As if THAT’S better! So I get upstairs just in time to snatch the wet battery from the soaked hands (and arms) of my boy an inch before he put it in his mouth! I couldn’t be angry at him. I had to shake my head and laugh. He’s incredibly curious, and I know this curiosity will pay off for him in the future.

We were at my folks’ house tonight since I didn’t have to work.

My parents were the most no nonsense parents in the world when they were raising my sisters and me. I said “WERE.” I get most of my parenting techniques from them — with a few modifications. They did not stand for spoiled behavior in us. They spanked WAY more than we do. We didn’t drink Kool-Aid with meals — only water. We did as we were told with no backtalk, no “whys” and no stomping off into another room. We toed the line, no exceptions.

Now, as grandparents, they are doggone marshmallows! You know what I mean…

At home, and in stores, and at church, etc., we have Max pretty much locked down, behavior-wise. He does as he is generally told the very first time. If I say, “Max don’t go in that room,” he turns right around with no whining. We don’t have to get after him that much.

On most Sundays, our family gathers at my folks’ house for dinner, and as soon as we get there, Max, somehow sensing the change in the rules, does what HE wants to do.

Tonight, as every time we visit, he wanted to go upstairs and play with the teen-agers, who were playing video games, pool, and wrestling. Kathy — rightly — felt that those boys shouldn’t have the responsibility of watching a nineteen-month-old Super Ball bounce from one new discovery to the next! It was their time to play and have fun, so we, to the great chagrin of the former wicked witch (NOT in an evil way!!!) of MY childhood and the current jellyfish of my adulthood (Ma) declined to let him go upstairs. He whined and cried all night. To the guests who had never seen him, I’m sure he looked like a brat.

Max is a LOT of work at my parents’ house. There is so much more room, so many more things to get into. Rather than acquiesce to our commands, he chooses to pout, and we — to our fault — sometimes give in to the peer-pressure and the possibility of being seen as mean parents and don’t cut the bad behavior off quickly like we do at home.

My parents have spoiled that boy and he knows it and they won’t admit it. If I did to Max what they did to us, they would probably cut me out of the will like a cancerous tumor!

So, Kathy and I went to the store, and asked Ma to watch Max for us. “Yeah,” I said resigned, “You can go ahead and let him go upstairs, but I’m gonna make him come back down when I get back.”

That’s how he ended up being up there. Kathy and I were only proven right. And as further confirmation, there’s this:

After I took off his shirt and washed all tha HEPATITIS off his hands and arms(!), Ma took him with her into her bathroom while she put up some towels. “Come on, Max! You can stay with me!”  As soon as I got back to the adult conversation and to my four years pregnant wife (that’s why I was doing everything… She can’t MOVE!), I heard Ma in the back; “No Max! No. NO! When I got back there to to see what cat as trophy he had wrought, I saw my mother laughing and wringing water out of the silk-lined shower cap that she hangs on the faucet of her jacuzzi which just happens to be just the right height for a nineteen-month-old baby to reach!

All the adults in the living room, even Daddy, chuckled and agreed: “Thass what she GIT!”

March 15, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Grandparents, Humor, Kids, Life, Life Lessons, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 2 Comments

Two Bears and a Cub

The Parents were both sleeping soundly when out of the silence, a horrified — and horrifying — cry shot like lightning through the dying darkness. The Mother immediately leapt into action, while the Father lay there not moving, thinking he was dreaming and praying it was not the Baby.

The Mother returned to the bed with the Baby in her arms. The Baby, wide awake now, and smiling, was unconcerned with the fact that the Father had only just two hours ago gone to sleep, and had to get right back up in two more small hours.

The Baby was talking to the Mother in a cute, nineteen-month-old kind of way and the Mother, unaware that the Father could hear it all, whispered back to him in an effort to soothe and drowse him.

“O-Mommee!” he said, as though he just realized she was there.

“Go to sleep, Baby.”

“Ohh Kayyy,” he whispered, resigned. This went on for minutes, as it does when he has a nightmare and the Parents go get him to put him back to sleep.

The Father was desperately trying to hold on to the greasy rope of sleep that slid, ever more rapidly through the fingers of his mind. His head was facing away from the Action and towards the clock, whose ten-foot-tall numbers screeched in neon, “5:38 am.”

“Well,” said the Father to himself, “Almost two hours… That’s a LOT of time left to sleep.” As though he would drop to sleep that very moment. The thing about sleep, though, is that you don’t get to experience all that good time when you are asleep. You go to sleep, and the next second, the alarm goes off. It doesn’t FEEL like eight or ten hours just went by.

In the waning darkness, the Baby realized that the Father was right there. “O-Daddee!” he said, elated.

Something that felt like a little Baby arm smacked the Father on the back of the neck.

“Don’t hit the Daddy, Baby. He has to get up in a little while.” It was a little Baby arm, then.

“Ohh Kayyy.”

They went back to their back-and-forth.

“5:47 AM!”

“I know, “ the Father retorted sharply, on the inside.

Something that felt like little Baby fingers began to wrestle through the tangle that is Sleeping Black Father Hair. “Aaa Da-Dee!”

“Leave your daddy alone, Baby,” said the Mother in a vain effort to forestall the inevitable. “You suuure love your daddy, don’t you?” she whispered rhetorically, as much to the air as to the Baby. The Father heard this and thanked God for giving him stewardship of a son who thought absolutely the world of someone so unworthy as he.

The Father, like the rolling of a tidal wave, at the rising of some leviathan, gave up on sleep and turned over and took in his arms this thirty-five pound wriggling onesie full of all that the Parents hold dear. “Come on, Baby. Time to go to sleep.”

Ohh Kayy!” smiling.

The Father began what was known as “The Kansas City Shake” which no baby could resist.

“Go to sleeping, Baby,” he said, in a lilting,  nonspecific, somewhat French, somewhat German accent.

His eyes soon began to slide closed. The Baby’s eyes did, as well.

In the bluing light of the morning, something like a little Baby arm reached up and lay on the Father’s neck. The Father looked and noticed that it was, in fact, a little Baby arm. And the Baby was asleep.

“6:24 AM!”

“Da-Dee…”
 

March 3, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, God, Kids, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 10 Comments

A Link, But Not a Chain

My friend, Treyka, has tagged me to write seven things about myself that may not be widely known. I don’t do chains, but I felt compelled to do it, so here we go…

Dogs like me. More than I like them.

Every time the weather turns cold, I get a little depressed.

Reruns of “Columbo” are better than most of what is on TV these days.

Revelation, the last book of the Bible, became beautiful to me once I began to understand it!

Irony is one of my favorite literary devices.

Candy is my main vice.

Keilwerth Shadow. That’s what I want! Google it. Beautiful.

Derrick.

February 10, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Writing | Leave a comment

A Mighty Rushing Wind Saved My Ceiling

This is about God, not the people involved.

There is a line from one of my favorite movies, “The Count of Monte Cristo”, that often pops into my head when I think of how the Lord always looks after me: “Once again, God sees you out the corner of His eye!”

We’ve had some crazy weather these last couple weeks. One day, it’ll be sunny and warm, and the next day will be sub-freezing. About a week and a half ago, the wind was blowing high, breaking branches, causing accidents, and blowing down a large portion of the six-foot wooden fence in my back yard.

I didn’t even know it until my neighbor, Keith, told Kathy when she was coming in from work three days ago. I haven’t been back there much since Max got here, and it is quite a bit more neglected than is the front yard.

I asked my friend and church member, Tim (who, by the way, is the reason I blog at all) to come and look at it when he got the chance. He is in the process of putting up a fence of his own at his house, and I figured he would know how to do more than just nail it back up, which is what I was going to do. He came today.

While I was looking at the fence, which Keith said he would take care of, Tim noticed water leaking from the soffit (haha! Soffit! I know this word because I was on track to becoming an architect before I got bit by the starving artist bug!), the overhanging part of the roof.

“Hey, Derrick, let’s take a look at this…” he said, pointing to all that water dripping from somewhere inside my attic on this sunny, cloudless day. This could NOT be good. I stiffened my upper lip and set my jaw for the financial disaster dripping like sulfuric acid from my roof, or attic.

“Is your water heater in your attic?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered weakly, trying to hide the dread I was suddenly feeling. “What genius thought to do THAT?”

I mean, yeah, you save space, but there can’t be that much security in having forty gallons of boiling hot water two feet above your head!

Okay, Kathy and I own our little three-bedroom house. That is, the BANK owns it, and lets us live here as long as we pay the mortgage (Fixed-rate. Really low interest rate. That’s another whole story…). There is no way that any two other people who make as little as we do, and who are as deep in debt as we are, could live where and how we live! She is a tech-support/customer service rep for a cellphone company, and I play music “from time to time.” Yet we do it. We have two cars — one of which we bought new two years ago — and we have never missed a payment. This is what God does. Kathy has two loaves of bread, and I have  couple of fish, and God stretches it to an unbelievable degree! Plus we are almost the parents of two children! We have no business being as blessed as we are! It is amazing to watch how He, in Indiana Jonesian fashion, brings us through one near-miss after another. It is incredibly faith-building!

We had AHS appliance insurance, but I cancelled it after we paid a 500-some dollar yearly payment and our dishwasher began leaking and we called them and they came out (for a $50 DEDUCTIBLE!!!) and ran the washer through three rinse cycles and told me that the problem was soap suds from diswashing liquid and left!!! Heck, with my payment plus the deductible, I bought a dishwasher and a washing machine! All for the guy to tell me to use different soap! Insurance is a racket! But what can you do?

Anyway, Tim got out his drill, unscrewed the grate from the soffit, and found that the water was coming from a pipe in the attic, probably the runoff from the overflow pan. Me with no appliance insurance. My game of “Chicken” was about to come to a head! I was 911’ing the Lord as we took the death march into the house and up to the attic.

I tried to display some inner faith: “Whatever happens, the Lord will work it out. I won’t really worry…”

We get up to the attic, and sure enough, there is about an inch of water in the overflow pan. There is a stream of water running down the side of the water heater, and after some inspection, Tim sees that the cold water pipe on the top of the heater is squirting out a thin stream.

He turns off the line, removes the hose, and shows it to me. As we are loading into the car on the way to Home Depot, he says in that cool Texas drawl, “Man, the Lord shooore does look after YOU!” The hose looked to be moments from bursting and spewing water all over the attic!

“Yeah,” I said, “I couldn’t possibly be an atheist, as many times as He’s pulled me through!” The replacement pipe cost $4.89.

Had that windstorm not blown down my fence, and had my neighbor not just happened to see Kathy coming into the house, and had not Tim agreed to come and take a look at it, and had I not gone with him into the back yard (which I rarely do) and had he not been looking around and had he not noticed that leak, there is no telling what would have happened, and how much money it would have taken to fix it.

THAT is how God works through events and through people to work His magic. Yes, bad things often happen. People get hurt and they sometimes die. But because I have seen how He works, my faith (not my WORD of Faith!) is increased. Driving a new car inspires confidence, but nowhere near the confidence that God will see me through soundly to my destination. God always sees me out the corner of His eye.

February 3, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Church Life, Faith, God, Jesus, Life | 4 Comments

…Just another office job.

Some of you may know that I play at BB King’s club here in Memphis on Monday nights. I used to be in the house band, and I will soon tell you how I came to not be. Playing in clubs is a treacherous endeavor. Here is one example of why:

The current house band has been on staff since we, Ty Brown, were replaced back in September of ’03. They back up the highly paid headliners and are required to know all the headliners’ material, as well as perform the last set during the week alone. They are an excellent group of players who tour with nationally-known acts on a regular basis. They have done great work for the four-plus years there, having to be proficient in various music styles such as blues (of course), pop, R&B, jazz, country, reggae, and soul. The guys would rehearse early in the mornings despite getting off late at night.

The year for a working local musician goes like this, generally; busy in the spring and summer, not so busy in the early fall, booked solid during the Christmas season, and hibernating in January and February!

At BB’s in Memphis, the year is about the same, except that Memphis in May is a BOOMING time for them. Beale Street is the main tourist attraction in Memphis — Elvis notwithstanding — and BB King’s club is the premier spot on the street.

I’m no business expert, but I know that a club like that establishes its budget around the busy season and lives off the fat in the slow time. I’ve been told that that is how they do it. Landscapers operate the same way. It is (usually) understood that musicians in a house band are employees just like the rest of the staff, and as such, have a set salary. The pay doesn’t fluctuate like gas prices or my blood pressure. It has never been my experience that this has been the case. Until now.

A new general manager was hired last year, and when she came in, she met with the leaders of the bands who played there and assured them that, unlike the past regimes, she understood the musicians and would work on their behalf to make the environment fair, respectful, and enjoyable for all of us. People have been getting fired left and right since then. (see the film, “I Come in Peace.”)

Last week brought the coupe de grass. She informed the band that due to the fact that the club was doing less business after Christmas, their pay during the week would be cut by twenty-five percent, and that if they didn’t like it, they could walk and that another band could be brought in at less than what she was offering them! Point blank. Cold blooded! Happy New Year! (Our band had its pay cut as well, but our bandleader took the hit and pays us the same as before, which is decidedly less than what we would normally make elsewhere.)

Now, these guys had done nothing to warrant this pay cut, and they should have quit. The hard fact is that the GM was telling the truth. She could bring in some hacks to play five hours for fifty dollars a man or less(!) and the average tourist would not know the difference because they would have no other point of reference and would be so caught up in the whole “Beale Street Experience” that they wouldn’t notice the poor musical quality. Musicians around here don’t stick together, and the union is feckless. There is some bad music on that street sometimes.

I was told that she said that the pay would go back up in the summer, but who’s to say? If they went for this — taking less money and liking it — they will go for anything. If the GM has shown no conscience or loyalty to the band up to this point, why would she be expected to when times “get good” again? All she is concerned with is the bottom line. It is the classic corporate model. Quality suffers while the bosses get richer. Look at all the plastic they put on cars now… But they are ten times more costly to own.

I’ll bet the managers didn’t take a pay cut!

This club can probably go the whole year from what they make from May until Labor Day. I was told by a lower-level manager once when I was in the house band that on a particular Saturday night while we were playing, the club was so packed, the band was so good, that they made 10,000 dollars on food and alcohol in one hour!!

It is funny: The musicians are the reason why these clubs even exist. The musicians are the ones who take thoughts and make them into art. Yet when there is “fat” to be trimmed, the musicians always get cut. Beale Street, BB Kings Club, would be just a restaurant were it not for the live music, and good musicians. But we always get the snotty end of the stick at these times.

I, personally, would have told the GM to go ahead and get some hacks to take the stage. My abilities don’t depend on HER, they depend on those who care to enjoy the ART of good musicianship. Another gig can be found without being insulted in this way. See how long the club would remain the premier spot with some crusty old dude in a orange suit sittin’ on a bucket playing an out-of-tune guitar with four strings on it. If jazz has only a niche audience, in all its elegance, think how small an audience there would be for gutbucket blues 24/7. 

The Bible says that for a time the injustices of man seem to go unpunished. The wicked seem to prosper. This may be one of those times, and I must fight to accept it. But I’m not wired like that! I had to at least say something! I can’t stand unfairness. Before you say it, No, BB isn’t involved with the running of these clubs that bear his name.

And here I thought I was out of the thorny corporate loop…

January 15, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Employment, Life, Life Lessons, Music, On the Job, Rant, Work | Leave a comment

“See How They Love One Another!”

This post is lonnnng overdue.

I want to — need to — tell you about my church.

I grew up in a Black Baptist church. I began going there when I was a pre-teen. I got baptized at fourteen years old. My church experience was the typical one: get up early,  go, listen to many songs, some shouting and crying, many announcements, stand for the entrance of the pastor, give tithes and or offerings, turn to my neighbor and say, “naaybuh…”, listen to some more songs (an “A” and a “B” selection), listen to a sermon, more shouting and crying, some falling out, watch the “urshers” attend the fallen, watch as “the doors of the church are opened,” listen to testimonies, sit through still MORE announcements, hear the benediction, wake my baby sister up, go home.

The service was replete with emotional outpourings. I, being a complete introvert, often felt uncomfortable with the displays, and was usually made to feel that I somehow did not love the Lord enough because I did not jump, shout, dance, and fall out like some of the others did.

Even though I knew that the Lord made me that way, this way, it took a long time for me to understand that there was more than one way to worship God, and that they are acceptable. I never thought the dancers were wrong (except for those I “discerned” were doing it for show), and I never once gave in to the crushing pressure to be untrue to my own character and worship Him in an insincere fashion.

But as I grew and learned, and visited, or played in, many other churches, I discovered two disturbing things.

1. While the adoration for God was ever on display, there simultaneously existed a frustrating absence of intellectual balance in the congregation.

2. The Church in America is painfully segregated.

People at my church, and others that I attended were sorely lacking in the knowledge necessary to love God “with our minds” as well as with the heart and soul as we are told to do. False doctrine was rampant, especially the prosperity teaching. Folk would break out in “tongues” with the impunity of knowing that no one had the information to challenge them for interpretations, stuff was being named and claimed, blabbed and grabbed, and legalism not unlike that of the Pharisees ran throughout. People were easily misled, and spouted the many disjointed Scripture verses they knew woefully out of context. No one seemed to be learning anything at all except how to shout like sister Davis, and “hoop” like the pastor.

And I rarely saw any White people. Unless some judge or prospective city councilman stopped by to ask for a vote.

I had always thought that if one were a true Christian, prejudice could not exist. I foolishly thought that racism was hatred and that one could not enter Heaven if he hated anyone. Stupid me! I live in, what I understand is, the second most segregated city in this country, next to DEtroit. That fact plays itself out in no more vivid way than on Sunday. I pass Methodist and Presbyterian and Southern Baptist churches and see NO Black people! There are churches here that I remember being White years ago that are now Black, not because they were outgrown, but because the neighborhood went Black and the Whites went away. Far, far away.

It always broke my heart that it appeared that the Christian life wasn’t being lived out because we could not open our hearts and truly allow God to reallychange us. The same people who denied me jobs, clutched purses when I walked by, ignored me when standing in line, pulled me over for no good reason, called me “nigrah”, and moved out when I moved in went to — go to — these churches. I am not fooled. Heck, the Klan burn CROSSES! Crosses, not pentagrams or some other symbol of racism, but the very emblem of suffering and shame by which God saved His people! Some of the people in my all-White-but-for-us neighborhood who never speak to us go to church, too!

Even the music is segregated! Go to a Christian music store and notice the “Christian” category versus the “Gospel” category.

After years of frustration over these two issues, I left my church (not the Lord, though) in the hopes of eventually finding a place where God was both worshipped AND known, and where people of all races felt welcome.

By the time I got married five years ago, I wasn’t even going to church. I was sick of all the empty, clanging emotionalism that was void of even the basic hermeneutical understanding necessary to avoid falling into the trap of materialism and cult worship. My wife grew up in the Church of God in Christ (Which is the Baptist church on Red Bull and amphetamines!I certainly wasn’t going there!), and I didn’t want to take her to my old church and expose her to the status quo. Many Christians today, yes many Black people, get caught up in false teaching because of the charisma and style of the speaker. They can’t see why Oprah is not a Christian. I am speaking in general, of course, but I have spent most of my life being Black. I have seen these things first hand. The “Black Church” is largely driven by emotion, and the congregants often don’t know God the way they need to. This grieves me.

While in Lifeway Christian Bookstore one day a few years ago, my wife and I ran into one of her co-workers. Their conversation eventually led to the church, and after hearing Kathy’s friend talk about hers, I told Kathy in the car afterward that that was our church! It was doctrinally sound and it was run by people who had moved here (Memphis) from all over the country to specifically reconcile the races here! Sold!!

We have been members of Fellowship Bible Church, Memphis since July of 2005, and for the first time in my life, I love church. It is not all of one thing or the other. There are those who are (politically) liberal, and those who are conservative. There are those who throw up hands and sing, and there are those who don’t. There are doctors and there are African refugees. There are Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Asians, and just about any other race you can think of. And there is this…

They LOVE!  Hard! All the way! They break open their lives like biscuits and share them freely without pretense or prejudice. I have never in my whole life experienced the openness and acceptance evident there. From all sides. It is Christian life in HD, 1080i, one billion megapixels, on a two mile screen. Believe me!

There are three teaching pastors, (Bryan Loritts, John Bryson, and Ben Parkinson) the lead teacher being Black. We don’t shy away from issues of race as many do in diverse environments, and they don’t give lip service to injustice. The idea is to take people from the comfort of the common ways of thinking and force them to live as Christ demands: loving thy neighbors as thyself, even the ones who look funny, dance off beat, or laugh loudly in theaters!

Growing up in Memphis has afforded me the opportunity to experience racism on a first-hand basis. I know what it looks like, which is why I hate and confront it here. I know what it feels like to be left out, unwanted. I know what the stares and the codewords mean. I have spent time away from Memphis, and have interacted with those of other races. But I have never had the wonderful fellowship I have now. We love each other like family! We spend time together, in each others’ homes. We use each others’ bathrooms!

I have stories of selfless acts of love that made Kathy cry (I don’t cry!) and that amaze us. I can’t recount them all. This church has shown me what I suspected but never witnessed; that God has true Christians of various hues who love each other unconditionally. And be sure that this love extends like climbing vines beyond the church and into the community in a tangible way. We give money and time to schools, and certain members have sought to live in rough neighborhoods in order to be change agents.

Maybe you have seen this but I, and those I know, never have. When Kathy gave birth to Max, we were amazed to find that every day women were coming to bring food until she was well enough to get around. Just the other day, one of the members, Megan, brought her son to the house and spent hoursputting our sunroom together. (Kathy is eight months pregnant, and we have never cleaned that room out) Wendy, (these ain’t Black names, you see…) came to the house last week to measure the windows in the kids’ room in order to hand make some curtains. Much, much more could be said. Much more.

Some of them read my New Year’s Eve post and chided me for not letting them keep Max when I was in a tight spot. These people take actual time and serve one another. Without seeking anything in return. I have never met so many affluent-yet-unpretentious people, White OR Black, in my life! (It was a whole year before I knew that “Eddie” was a freekin’ doctor! He was just Eddie to us)
These folks love us to death! And not as pets, which used to be the case back in the day. We are all equals. I don’t have to dilute my “Brotherness” in order to be seen as viable. And we love them! I would not trade this church for any other. And I tell my Black friends about it all the time.

We Black folk have a comfort zone, too. We like our food seasoned a certain way, our chitlins cleaned just so, our Gospel music sung a certain style, and our preachin’ hooped at a particular point in the service. I wish that we all could open ourselves up to the fact that God is not an American, that He made us all, and that we all find our reflection in Him. But we have been burned. Rejected and relegated. It is hard to break old habits. Not ALL White folks hate you.

Lest you think I am unwittingly in some CULT, understand that this church is populated by those who seek a full-orbed relationship with God. They know why they know what they know. And if they don’t, they are being taught by those who do. Our leaders are schooled, educated, and qualified. And they are humble. There are no titles, and we do not rise at their entrance. They stress servant leadership, not forced exaltation. They expect us to check their biblical work and are not offended by being questioned.

Of course there are differences in non-essential issues. No human-run organization is perfect. There are dispensationalists, amillenialists, charismatics, cessationists, Calvinists, and Arminians. But we all agree on the essential points of the Faith. And the spiritually sick are ministered to.

We are not taught the Bible in bullet-points, but by books. In context! We just got through with Ecclesiastes.

There is no Word of Faith doctrine or Prosperity pimpin’ going on here. No focus on the accruement of stuff. Rich and poor, sick and well alike, all enjoy the true prosperity of real life and Heavenly hope. Money is a tool and not a goal.

We worship individually and collectively in the way that God designed us to, and there is no peer-pressure. Some answer with “amen” and some nod quietly. Some stand and sing, and some simply stand.

Of course, there are problems that arise, but they are handled in a measured, Godly fashion. I truly feel that I have, in Fellowship, a small glimpse of what Heaven will be like in terms of our interaction with each other.

I know that some of you feel the same way about your place of worship. I hope you do. I know that some feel that if you are not of their particular denomination (CoC?) you are lost. This is in no way my assertion. It is just that in the course of writing my blog, the impression may be that there is a level of displeasure and despair, and that I don’t experience true Christian fellowship. Not true.

I just wanted to introduce you to my Family. The people I love.

January 15, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Church Life, Culture, Diversity, False Doctrine, False Teachers, Hypocrisy, Love, Prosperity Gospel, Pulpit Pimps, Race, Racial Reconciliation, Racism | 24 Comments

“Where Do Bibles Come From?” Max asked.

My expectant wife, Kathy, and I were on the couch talking, and she remarked that Max (who is now 17 months old) has been increasingly poking her in her rapidly disappearing navel and asking, “Baby?”

She told him, “Yeah, that’s where the unbib — I mean — the umbilical cord is!”

“Yeah, son, ” I said to both of them,  “It would be called the unBIBLICAL cord only if we weren’t married!”

January 8, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Humor, Jokes, Malaprops, Pregnancy | 4 Comments

MY New Year’s Eve

 Tonight (Monday, new year’s eve) I am playing a party. I’d BETTER be! This is the biggest gig night of the year for a musician. My gig will pay me almost six times my normal amount. It is about a forty minute drive from home at a casino in Tunica, Mississippi.

I found out by text message at about 1 AM last night that the 5 o’clock sound check is mandatory. Now, normally, sound checks don’t involve me because I am just the sax player/background singer and I don’t have to set up any amps or pedals or anything. Usually the boss will tell me to just get there about thirty minutes ahead of time to check my mics and everything. I assumed that today would be no different.

I was wrong.

My wife hates her job. One of the reasons is that, for example, today she has to work. (She works every Christmas Eve, too.) She gets off at five. I watch Max during the day, and she takes over when she gets home. See where I’m going?

I text messaged the bandleader, who has always been reasonable about stuff like this — even on big gigs, to ask what I was supposed to do about sound check since I had Max and that Kathy didn’t get off till five.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that our other car has not been roadworthy enough for extended trips since this old lady ran me off the road and into a curb, and now whenever I have to drive more than a couple of miles, I start to smell tire rubber burning…

What am I supposed to do? I wrote.

In less than a minute his reply was, That’s not my problem.

Not his problem. Motherfather! (sorry. I don’t curse but sometimes substitutes creep into my mind… Pray for me)

So, as far as he knew, my wife would have to leave work early, or I would have to bring the baby with me to sit around and wait for two hours just for me to say, “Check, one two, one two” and come back home and get ready for a gig that won’t start till about 9:30!

Let me inform you here that for the type of gigs I usually do, sound check is a COLOSSAL waste of time. We all knew that if the time was set for five PM, they would not even start running cables until the entire rhythm section was set up. Why did I have to be there at 5? I HATE with a passion having my time manipulated and wasted!

That is EXACTLY what happened.

Heck, the boss — whose problem it was not —  didn’t even get there until 5:20! When I got there at 4:50 or so, the drummer was the only one there!

Okay, lately, I’ve been mulling and praying over the idea of starting my own band. I have a lonnnng list of grievances with my bandleader, the latest of which is the fact that I went the entire Christmas season without playing ONE Christmas party! This is usually the season to be jolly, pocket-wise! Meanwhile, he has been playing with other bands (he is the bass player in the band), renting out his audio gear, and is going to Singapore next week with a blues singer.

I’m not jealous at all. The thing is that we, his band, have been either sitting at the house, or scraping to find work while all the other bands are booked up. Part of the reason why he gets so much more than I do is because it is his job to deal with the agents and the clients, and to find us work! He expects us to be available when he books a gig, but his incentive to do so has been compromised because he has so many less stressful outlets by which to make money. 

It is a lot harder for a non-essential sax player to find work than it is a drummer or keyboard player. (I wouldn’t trade my horn for anything!)

When airing my grievances to the other guys (the boss basically blew me off and tried to string me along when I tried to talk to him), they felt that it was my job to take care of mine, and that when it was all boiled down, Bossman was looking after his OWN family.

Okay.

I always said that I didn’t want to form a band of my own until I got a manager to deal with all the headaches — lateness, drunkenness, drugs, irresponsibility, laziness, skirt-chasing, etc.

But the more I talked, the more I heard, “You’re ready! Get your own group.”

I am making a point with all of this. Bear with me…

I talked to a few guys, none but one of whom plays in the band with me regularly, about the particulars and possibilities of doing this.

“I want to play more jazz and Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra-type standards, and not this top forty/old school junk that we play ad nauseam. Is there a market for this here?”

“Should I deal with an agency, or go by word-of-mouth?”

“If an agency, what measures do I take to get signed?”

“I have no gear. How much would I need for this type thing?”

“How much would a small set-up be?”

“If I do this, would YOU want to play with me?”

“When I get enough cash to make a record, will you work with me on it?

I asked around to get the tenor of the times, so to speak, and a lot of guys wanted to get on board.

The thing is this: Was Bossman’s attitude so cold towards me earlier because he had somehow heard about my possible plans? I was very discreet, but my wife seemed to think that was the case. I felt that since I was not doing him wrong by trying to support myself — without taking any of his guys with me — he had no reason to be upset. Besides, I was only just thinking about it! I wasn’t trying to burn any bridges. The river’s too wide to try to swim back across!

Back to the story…

Everyone had told me to play it cool and not to go off, even though he had it coming! I’m terrible at the poker-face.

So it’s 5:30, and everyone was at the venue, but nothing was set up, and the lone sound man was dragging his feet. Setting up a stage this size is an hour job for three or four guys, so having just one didn’t bode well for us, time-wise. And I had to go all the way back home to get dressed.

Most of the other guys had brought their clothes, but, as I tersely related to the foot-dragger, I didn’t assume that I would not be able to return home from a 5 o’clock sound check for a gig that started at freekin’ 9:30! That’s why I didn’t want to go all that way in the first place! I knew they would be piddling around with my time!

He made a smart remark that left me biting a hole in my lip.

The funny thing is this: When the boss saw me, he smiled, said, “What up,” and proceeded to pass out calendars for next year! As if all this down time were just a blip! He was totally oblivious!

If he were planning to pre-emptively fire me, he surely wouldn’t be doing that!

At 6:40, 6: doggone 40, the lead singer walks in cool as iced tea, and nobody raised an eyelash. Now if he could do that, why did I, as far as the bandleader knew, have to get my wife to leave work early and lose money for me to sit around for two hours before any microphones were turned on?!? Why was it so crucial that I be there to stew in my own suppressed anger with nothing to do but watch the “Beverly Hillbillies” marathon backstage on Nick at Nite?
At 6:45, we were ready to check the mics and the instruments. The lead singer’s mic was awful, and the sound man, frustrated by his lack of help, and by our absence of sound check etiquette (everyone was checking stuff all at the same time. I hate that), snapped at us.
This, this set the boss off, and he proceeded to curse the guy out as I walked past them both on my way to the car for the forty minute trip home to eat and change. I thought it was interesting that he went to bat for the guy who showed up an hour and forty minutes late, but left me to fend for myself earlier without even a thought.
All night during the show, he tried to crack jokes with me and make light while I concentrated on being professional, and sang on a mic that wasn’t even on! I couldn’t even be phoney enough to make eye contact with him.
As the lead singer butcherized the words to “Auld Lang Syne,” my decision was being hardened with every beat.
The show was complete with belly dancers, showgirls, fire-baton twirlers, full-scale pyrotechnics, and smoke machines that made the place look like the devil’s lobby! All I kept thinking was of the rich man in the Bible, all nervous,  saying, “Please! Somebody get Lazarus on the phone! He knows me! Somebody call Lazarus!!”

 I told Kathy about all of this when I got home.

“Baby, now, a new year is coming in!” she said in an attempted motherly tone. “You can’t be ticked off for the new year.”

“Why not?” I asked, ” ‘Cause I’ll be ticked off the whole year?”

“Well, you know,” she said, “History does like to repeat itself…”

“No, it doesn’t LIKE to. It just TENDS to.”

We threw back our heads and laughed. (freeze frame, roll credits…)

This year will be different.

Happy New Year, dear readers! I love you all. Thanks for indulging me in this endeavor, and for encouraging me. May God bless you as He has blessed me, and may He give you the nervous anticipation and hope that He has given me as we all embark on this new journey called 2008.

January 1, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Employment, Humor, Life, Music, New Year, On the Job, Playing Music, Saxophone, Work, Writing | 4 Comments

What Do You Get When You Cross an Apple With a Banana?

My needs are a red line extending from  me to God.

My wants are a yellow one.

My goal, my hope, is to live a mostly orange life.

December 23, 2007 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Faith, God, Metaphor | 4 Comments

Denzel Kissing Marilyn Monroe. Those Were the GOOD Ol’ Days!

I often hear those on the “Religious Right” (with whose Christian, MORAL stances I agree, by the way) such as Dick Bott, James Dobson, and Phyllis Schafly, and the late Marlin Maddoux lament the sweetness of the bygone halcyon days of the past.

Crime is rampant, security companies and locksmiths are booming businesses. Drug use is almost the norm.

The words “sex” and “immoral” are rarely associated with each other anymore. Anything goes. What FEELS good IS good!

NO one is safe.

So what should we do in order to regain or obtain a more morally upright society? Return to the fifties as some conservative reminiscers wish? Can’t do that, because real life ain’t like picking the peanuts out of Cracker Jacks.

For you, it was, “Leave it to Beaver,” sock hops, soda jerks, and maybe a Pat Boone knock-off of a Bo Diddley record. Father went off to the office in the morning, and Mother stayed at the house and made home.

You lived an open and free life. You could go where you wanted, eat in any restaurant, sit in any section, live in any neighborhood, relieve yourself in any restroom, try on any outfit in any department store,  stay in any hotel, and vote in any state. You could drive any car, without worrying about being stopped by the police for a dubious “unsafe lane change.”

The fifties were, for us, a time of terror, exclusion and submission. We had to know our place. We were “boy,” not “sir.”  We looked no White man in the eye. We were lynched for the slightest supposed misstep. We were not on television unless we danced or served, and we could not vote. We lived life on our knees, praying and cleaning other folks’ floors.( I use “us”, and “we” the same way YOU do when referring to the past)

We lived like the mice in the walls: life was great until it was time to get some cheese, then we had to deal with all the cats trying to kill us.

It just shows that we live in different worlds.

Was life perfect then? You would say “practically,” but my parents would disagree. The fifties look cool in the movies. Until the lead character asks for a mint julep, and the maid walks in! YOU don’t have to suspend reality when you see Robert Mitchum kiss Sophia Loren. I do. I love old movies, but I have to turn my sensitivity meter down. I have to ignore all the steppin’ and fetchin’ and grinnin’ and shinin’. I have to try to find context when Butterfly McQueen declares with fright, “I’on know nuthin’ bout burthin’ no babies!!”

I couldn’t have played baseball with Wally and the Beev. I wouldn’t have even been allowed in their neighborhood.

And before you lambaste me and call me a perpetual victim, I must tell you that I have experienced some of the same things my very self. Heck, as children, we were drilled on the art of not looking back when being followed by the Po-leece!

Yes, I want a lower crime rate, effective punishment, no legalized abortion, prayer in schools, and a more civil societal manner, too. But I also want equality in education and opportunity, and justice.

 I want my pregnant wife to not be interrogated by a “neighbor” for parking her own car in front of her own house on our all White (but for us) street!!! Don’t tell me racism is anecdotal and largely in the past…

God can deal with a man’s private sins, but when they become public POLICY, we all bear a responsibility to do something to change things. Discrimination was just that back then — the law.

The Dobsons and the Schlaflys and such simply prove that, at best, they don’t even think about us when they say such things. There is a cavernous divide which still exists.

So, be specific when you long for those “good ol’ days,” because we Black folk can take that to mean that you want us out of your neighborhoods, schools, lives, and back in our “places.”

December 13, 2007 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Conservatives, Life, Morality, Race, Racism, Religious Right, Republicans | 6 Comments

Swimming Lessons.

My good-hearted 16-month-old son, Max, stands tottering on the shore of an ocean of sorrows. He has what appears to be the most friendly personality of any child in the world. He beams at the sight of other kids, never fights over toys, and when he smiles, he does so with his whole body! He loves to have fun, and possesses a wide-open heart. Life and this World are gonna KILL him!  Beat him to oatmeal! Waiting for him is a sea of sharks, jellyfish, and other predators seeking to drag him under and rip from him all the innocent, uncorrupted joy he now possesses.

Though I could bail him out and be a vessel by which he could navigate this ocean, I can only guide him while he swims alongside. It is with great sadness that I realize this. I have swum this way before, only barely making it without being consumed by rage, hatred, and selfishness. I didn’t know if I would make it, and I don’t know if Max will.

But God knows.

It is He who has given me the map by which I will lead my son. It is He who will instruct me as to what to say when the waves roll high and threaten to swallow him.

”Don’t let Life win, Son.

“Don’t let situations cause you to give up and become that which seeks to destroy you. Don’t be led by those unworthy. Make God your conscience. Know the right answers. USE them. 

“Every girl won’t like you. Some will hurt you. On purpose. Be nice anyway. Don’t let matters of the heart submerge you.

“Pain passes. Laugh when you need to. Cry when you have to. Keep swimming!

“Don’t let people be the riptide, the undertow that pulls you in an unGodly direction.

“Sit up front. Don’t back down. Don’t sell your friend out. You won’t have many.

“Life is hard. Often unfair. God is the prize. Know Him truly.

“Have your fun, but put in your work first. Stand flat-footed on your word.

“When you get tired, God will buoy you by the Spirit-shaped float inside you. 

“Keep this joy you have, only coat it with a veneer of strength with which to defend yourself. With this, you will be able to brush off the arrows hurled by those who will hate your love.” Daddy.

November 19, 2007 Posted by | Advice, Childhood, Christian Life, Faith, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, God, Life, Life Lessons, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Words of Wisdom | 2 Comments

“Thou Shalt Sell No Bootleg Movies.”

The other day, while the band was on a break, the subject of the new Denzel movie, “American Gangster” came up. A couple of the guys were talking about how good it was, and since it hadn’t come out yet, I asked, “Waitaminnit. How y’all see the movie and it ain’t came out yet?” (My conversational grammar is not always as polished as my published grammar. Besides, there were no White folks around!)

They laughed at me, the church boy.

“Bootleg, mane*! You wont it? I got it,” Dude 1 said. (I’ll not name names here)

“Naw,” I replied. “I’ll wait to see it at the movies.” Chuckling.

Dude 2 laughed and said, “The preacher don’t want to tick the Lord off!”

Dude 1, the seller, eyed me sideways over the top of his shades and asked sarcastically, smiling, 

“The Lord don’t like bootleg?” He was trying to corner me…

“Nope.”

It is important for the sake of timing,  to note that the rest of this exchange came rapid-fire, without pause:

Dude 1 asked, “Aw, rilly**? Where dat at in the Bible?”

” ‘Thou shalt not steal!’  (They fell out laughing!) Yeah, thass EARLY in the story! Thass in the firss act, even before the firss commercial!” (They’re rolling, laughing now, falling backwards and stomping like we Black folk do. We LOVE to laugh.) Yeah, man, you ain’t even gotta be a theologian to know that one! I gotcha, didn’ I?”

“Yeh, mane! I cain’t argah*** witcha right there!” We kept right on laughing.

I don’t get many opportunities to preach to the guys with whom I work, and it is cool when I do. It is a delicate balance– trying to be relevant while not selling out the Lord. They see me as separate, not doing many of the things they do, yet they do not shun me thereby rendering me ineffective.

This is one small reason why I do not see a problem with what I do. I play music for a living. “Secular music.” (I HATE that term! Is YOUR job “secular”?) I don’t get high, I don’t get drunk, I don’t run around with women, etc. And if I slipped, my entire Christian witness would be torn down. But how many street folk read the Bible recreationally? How many of them go to church and ACTUALLY adhere to the ad they hear? We are told to go out inTO the world. That’s where the people are.

These guys knew that selling and buying bootleg movies was wrong. That’s common sense. I didn’t impart some startling new revelation to them. But what I hope I did was to let them know that God is in every corner of life. And that, hopefully by my meager example, it is possible to be holy and still be an enjoyable person to be around. Christian life is not to be boring and stiff! Will Heaven be that way?

*Man
**Really
***Argue

November 13, 2007 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Common Sense, Entertainment, Food for Thought, Humor, Life, Life Lessons, Movies, Playing Music, Work | 2 Comments

Cone CHIPPIN’!

All right, so here’s another one:

This is how slang terms get invented.

A couple years ago we, the house band at BB King’s club in Memphis, went to Chicago to do a gig at the Isaac HAYES’ club (this got us cussed out by Tommy Peters, the BB’s owner! “How tha bleep y’all gone take off from playin’ at MY fragglerockin’ club, an go all tha way ta ChaCAgo to put money inta tha pocket of tha shadrackin’ people that tryin’ ta shut my meshackin’ place down?!?). The parent company of Isaac Hayes club in Memphis “allegedly” tried to mount a subversive campaign to drive the club out of business.

We were known as “Ty Brown,” and to date, it is the best band I’ve ever played in. 

It was the dead of winter, and the eight of us were crammed into this 15 passenger van, which any musician or church group knows won’t seat 15 grown, often fat, people! It was TIGHT! Plus, all the pillows, blankets, bags and snacks took up any extra room. I, after six years of playing for blues singer, Denise LaSalle, had grown used to sitting in the back. Sorry, Rosa.

When we reached our destination, I squeezed my way out from the back past some of the guys in front of me who were moving too slowly. Then it hit me. Rather, it hit my NOSE.

“Man!” I said. “Somebody FEET cone CHIPPIN!” (meaning, for the unaware among you, that somebody’s feet smelled remarkably like an open bag of corn chips whose expiration date had lonnnng passed)

They all laughed. But one guy laughed the hardest. I suspect that HE was the posessor of the putrid podiatry. I did not do further investigation, though. It ain’t good to be in close quarters with your shoes off on a long trip if your dogs are barkin’.

I just said it in passing, but it kind of caught on. The next thing I knew, it had transmogrified into a musical term which defined bad playing. Now, if a band is doing a bleep-poor job of execution, they are “cone chippin’,” or depending on your geographical configuration, “corn chipping.”

We see it all the time. I don’t like to be hyper-critical of guys’ playing abilities, but when they act like they got it going on and clearly DON’T, they become fair game. See: Most of the bands on “The Next Great American Band.” 

Sadly, I have played quite a few gigs where the chips were flying, and in the interest of providing some relief from all the crooked-preacher-ranting, I will be recounting some of them from time to time.

Like two weeks ago when doing a Jewish wedding, our boss/bandleader neither told us that we had to play “Hava Nagila” nor provided us with the music!!! Come on, now! How you gonna do a JEWISH wedding and butcher up the Jewish WEDDING song?!? I was furious! That’s like playing for Sinatra and not knowing, “My WAY!” That’s like George Bush writing a speech and not using spell check! Cone CHIPPIN’, y’all!

And a WEEK later, we were supposed to do “Just the Way You Are” for the bride and groom’s first dance, and he didn’t tell us about THAT either!!! That doggone song has more changes in it than a freekin’ Liberace show! The singer knew the words, and thought the keyboard player knew it. The bandleader/bassplayer (the LOUDEST instrument on the stage!) tried to catch it on the fly and sounded like he was playing with oven mitts on from the back of a galloping horse! It was crickets and coughing up in there after that was over. (add to that the fact that we started 45 minutes LATE!!!) I can’t go on like this!! Chippun’! Calgon, come git me!!!

The only Christian tail I can pin on this is that I can’t cuss folk out and act a fool in public because of how it would make God look. Thanks for the handcuffs, Lord.

By the way… click this link and you will hear a rehearsal for a Marvin Gaye tribute we do yearly. http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=8227470 The other horns and the strings and backing vocalists were not here on this day, so use your imagination. This is NOT the band I was just griping about!

Sax- me.

Trumpet/flugel- Marc Franklin

Bass- Jackie Clark

Vocals- Larry Springfield

Drums- Dave Mason

Keys- Tim Terry

Percussion-Felix Hernandez

Guitar- Joe Restivo

November 2, 2007 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Humor, Music, Slang, Work | Leave a comment

Music and Drama.

Yeah, I play the saxophone. Mostly, right now, I play section stuff in r&b bands doing clubs, occasional casinos, and various parties. I want to front my own band, but with all of the drama that goes on with guys showing up late, getting drunk, forgetting parts, and other musician stuff, I’ve declared that I would not get my own band until I got a manager to deal with all that junk!

I see a lot of stuff. Things that make me laugh, things that make me angry, and things that make me pray! I’ve seen guys do things that I can’t figure out how to clean up enough to write about that would make you fall out laughing.

See, being a Christian puts me in the position of being the “Mr. Good Guy” who tries to be some kind of example (at least) in the face of a lot of debauchery. The one band that I work primarily for, which will have to remain nameless because some guys’ wives may read blawgs, provides a lot of material. We do this club gig on Monday nights in downtown Memphis, and although I haven’t seen anyone knifed, I’ve seen just about everything else. Like the time my boy Curtis got into it with these two guys about them stealing money from the tip jar…

Curtis plays trumpet with us sometimes, along with Marc. On this night he was playing with the house band, of which he is the leader.

Anyway, Curtis confronts this guy, a part-time bodyguard and full-time drug seller Darryl, I believe he is named, about the cash, and the argument escalates until Darryl, about 6′-4″, 280, draws him outside where his unnamed accomplice sneaks up behind him and knocks him down. (Curtis had slippery-bottomed dress shoes on, and it was drizzling outside.) After they get him down, they proceed to peel his head open with a music stand! All this while the band was onstage! Nobody helped him. A couple of the guys were mad at him about band stuff, and I guess the others were reluctant to maybe get shot. That was real messed up, though, for them to let that happen to him.

Curtis got a concealed weapon permit shortly thereafter. He said that he wasn’t takin no more “A” whuppins!

So, yeah, a couple months later, after his stitches and everything came out, I was onstage at the club on a Monday and out the front window (the whole front wall is basically a window…), we see all these blue lights flashing. Folks in the club started to turn away from all the scintillating entertainment to see what was going on… Okay, here’s what happened:

Apparently the night before, Curtis (A lot of stuff happened to Curtis, but he always lands on his feet. Except for that last time…) was hanging out at the bar. He wasn’t working that night, just hanging. His wallet came up stolen. So, I guess the guy who stole it, not knowing that the guy he stole it from actually WORKS in the place(!), was at the front window bar posing as guess who?! The manager on duty (foolishly?) calls Curtis at home and tells him about it and that the guy is running up charges on his card but not to worry that he has him on ice.

Curtis, I guess, gets this new gun and shoots down to the club. We’re onstage while all this is going on.

So, anyway Curtis gets out of the truck, a Tahoe with big, shiny rims on it, and decides against bringing the gun in. See, the cops set up shop right outside the front door of the club.

But just at the last second, Curtis has a change of heart and turns around to get his gun. This is Beale street, a main tourist attraction in Memphis, and there were a lot of people walking around on a Monday summer night. This White lady saw Curtis stick his gun in his pants and immediately calls 911 with the details: “This Black guy just got a gun out of this big, pimped-out suv and stuffed it in his pants! He looks angry!”

Okay, now we’re back to the point at which I see all the blue lights.

So, they got Curtis on the ground, right? And they got guns drawn on him, and feet and knees and stuff on his neck, and they’re shouting and cussing at him, okay? And Curtis was thinking, “I wasn’t gone shoot the guy, I was just gone persuade ‘im. Scare him a little bit.” He didn’t get a chance to say none of that to the cops. Too much aaasphalt in his mouth.

We were almost through with our second of three sets when all this came together, so when we ended the last song, I shot out the side door and ran around to see what had happened. See, a waitress came to the front of the stage and told the lead singer that Curtis had been arrested, and he told ME. So all I knew at that time was that my padnuh (friend) was in the “back seat.” As I approached the car, his girlfriend (I GOTTA tell you about HER!) beseeched me, “Tell him to bee qwiiiiet! Carlos almos’ had him out, but hee won’t quit cussin’ the po-leece out!” Translation: They were about to let him go, but his persistent belligerence negated that possibility.

“Curtis, shut up!” I said. “Just shut up!”

Curtis said through the tiny crack in the window, with his arms politely behind his back, something like, “Man fornicate these cops! I tole them I had a permit, but they ain’t lissen!” That was probably because cops don’t generally like to be cursed out by gun-toting Black guys. Permit or no permit. If he had just calmly let them slam him to the ground, everything would have been sorted out with only minor cuts and bruises. Better yet, if he had adhered to the law that states that you can’t have a pistol where alcohol is sold and left his gat in the truck, I would have no story to tell.

As it was, Carlos, the manager, was able to get the thief locked up, but unable to keep Curtis from going to jail. It was a CIRCUS! We were back onstage playing “Brick House”(I hate that tune!), or some other drivel,  and Curtis was in the back seat of a police car in the front window of the club where he worked, spitting and cursing, and about to go to the BIG house while the actual criminal was in the car next to him chillin! They spent the night in the SAME JAIL!! The folks in the club looked like they were watching a tennis match, heads going back and forth from the band to the front window.

That, folks, is the environment in which I live out my Christianity. I try to be light to the guys with whom I work, doling out Scripture and advice whenever appropriate, but guys don’t often like to be preached at. I pray for them, though. Would you do so, too? My work world is not much different than a restaurant (I did that too, once, and it was BABYLON, believe me!), an office, or many other occupations. I am blessed that the Lord strengthens me and enables me to remain free of drug use and some of the other common pitfalls that accompany a musical life. Ironically, it was Curtis Monday night who suggested that I write some of these stories down in a book. Maybe I will clean up a few more stories, if you like, and write them here. Let me know. In the words of that great theologian, Rodney Dangerfield, “I gotta million of ’em!” 

Remind me to tell you about the time one of his women tried to run him over. Or the time Larry, another singer, got mad and walked out while we were playing his intro music… Or the time Bill C. took a deaf groupie to his hotel room and tried to whisper “sweet nothings” to her in the dark! Naw, I can’t figure out how to tie a Christian tail on that one. Peace.

October 17, 2007 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Humor, Life, Music, On the Job, Playing Music, Saxophone, Work | 2 Comments