Sunday, September 30, 2012

"A Thought To Ponder..."

"Fear Eats the Soul"

"The Truth About Love..."

"There never was any heart truly great and generous, that was not also tender and compassionate."
-Robert Lee Frost

"A Song For Sunday..."

"Fear Eats the Soul"

"Gay PDA Is Okay!"

"Love Is The Real Light Of The World... Live Fearlessly"

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 1114"

"Sunday Morning When You're In Love..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"The Poet's Corner..."

"Sonnet To The Moon"

Now every leaf, though colorless, burns bright 
With disembodied and celestial light, 
And drops without a movement or a sound 
A pillar of darkness to the shifting ground.

The lucent, thin, and alcoholic flame 
Runs in the stubble with a nervous aim, 
But, when the eye pursues, will point with fire 
Each single stubble-tip and strain no higher.

O triple goddess! Contemplate my plight! 
Opacity, my fate! Change, my delight! 
The yellow tom-cat, sunk in shifting fur, 
Changes and dreams, a phosphorescent blur.

Sullen I wait, but still the vision shun. 
Bodiless thoughts and thoughtless bodies run.

Yvor Winters

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 1113"

"Love And Happiness Are The Same Thing..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"Gay PDA Is Okay!"

"Love Is Beautiful... Live Fearlessly"

Friday, September 28, 2012

"The Lover's Moon..."

"Lover's moon is high on the sky...143"

I am always remembering...

"The Truth About Science Fiction..."

As you can see, "The Rise of The Machines" has begun...  
Did this unnerve you as much as it did me?

"Fear Eats the Soul"

"Gay PDA Is Okay!"

"Love Joyfully... Live Fearlessly"

"The Imitation Of Life..."

A lovely British-Canadian film about reconciling heart and truth.
Staring my favorite Anglo-Asian actor, Jimmy Mistry.

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 1112"

"The Gold At The End Of The Rainbow Is Love..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"Sometimes In Advertising..."

Advertising poster for now defunct commitment-oriented dating site 
San Francisco, California

"The Artist's Corner..."

Acrylic on canvas
Steve Walker

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"I Am Always Remembering..."

The date was September 27th.  It was the early Autumn of 2006. I was going on a blind dinner date to meet Stephen Christopher Harris for the first time.  Since we'd become online friends in August of that year, we had talked by phone for the first time the week before when he was preparing to return to Detroit from a work project in South Carolina.  We'd talked a couple of times after that and had exchanged a number of text messages by the time we agreed we'd meet one another for dinner that night.

We made the date earlier that week and I had been so nervously excited about meeting the man that already I knew I was falling in love with that I couldn't concentrate on anything.  When I got out of bed that Wednesday morning and went for my daily run, everything seemed beautiful and right with the world.  As I ran down the street, I thought of what I'd talk about with him that evening.  By the time I'd run my four miles and finally arrived back home, I had silently said many prayers about my hopes for our meeting that evening.  As I got ready for work, I decided I wanted to take him something that evening.  I thought flowers at first, but then remembered he mentioned liking sweets, so I settled on candy instead.

I left work early that day so that I could stop to buy a box of candy for Stephen.  But as I looked at the boxed chocolates, the boxes all seemed too "girly" in their decoration and I worried that he'd get the wrong idea of how I thought of him if I gave him something like that.  And I didn't want him to think me too effeminate either.  Instead, I bought a dozen assorted candy bars deciding I would wrap them as a present in some way when I got home.

At home, I searched through my big box of gift wrapping supplies in the attic until a found a lovely gold foil covered box with a matching ribbon and bow.  It had actually been a candy box from Christmas the year before, but it didn't have any markings on it at all.  I lined it with tissue paper and arranged the candy bars inside and closed it and stretched the ribbon and bow from corner to corner.  I thought it looked great and I thought to myself, this looks "manly" enough.  Then I turned my attention to getting myself ready for my anxiously anticipated date.

I was so tense and nervous that I hadn't realized how long I'd been in the shower until the water finally began to run cool.  As I rinsed myself under the cool water, finally I felt some of the intense stress begin to subside.  As I dried myself and as I wiped away the fog on the mirror, I paused to look at myself and I thought, "You haven't done much with this body have you...?"  And I wondered if he'd really find me attractive or even handsome in any way... But still, I hoped he would.

In Stephen's comments on my blog and in our brief conversations, he'd alluded to his thinking of me as being handsome, although I never thought as much about myself.  I remembered I had wondered all that day if he would look like his profile photo... although you couldn't see his face, you could see he was well-built, muscular and handsome.  A friend who'd seen his Yahoo 360 photo suggested that it probably wasn't him.  And to be honest, I though as much as well, but I had decided that I really didn't care one way or the other... so long as he was as "nice" as he had seemed to be in his comments and in the few conversations that we'd had up until then.  As I daydreamed in the mirror, I caught sight of the time and I quickly shaved and preened and groomed like had I never done before as my thoughts turned back to wondering what it was that he saw in me... Although I had more than a few pictures of myself posted on my blog and I was sure that he had a good idea of what I looked like, I hoped it was what I revealed about my heart that interested him most.

When I emerged from my bath, I rethought and agonized over what I should wear so much so that I was nearly in a panic as I changed shirts and pants repeatedly, never satisfied with how I looked.  In the end, I put back on the first outfit I'd tried on.  It was the same one that I'd picked out the night before, black twill pants, a tan faux silk shirt, a black sweater vest and black dress shoes.  Finally, surrounded by half my wardrobe on the floor around me, I stood in the mirror gazing at myself again from all angles as I practiced sucking in my gut, sticking my chest out and leveling my shoulders.  Finally I thought, "Okay, you're ready... but remember, first impressions are lasting ones..."  As I put on my best watch and the one other piece of jewelry I owned, my class ring from college, I grabbed the box of candy bars from the dresser and I headed downstairs.

I grabbed my best jacket from the closet and I stepped into the dining room and picked up my Mother's photo from the top of the server.  As I looked down at my Mom's picture, I asked her to wish me luck.  And as I replaced the photo and was about to leave, I thought to pray.  I got down on my knees and I asked that God might watch over me as I went out seeking what I already knew I was hoping would be true love.  I prayed that we both might have discernment about one another and that we might both know if we could  find in each other the precious desires of our hearts.  Although I had been nervous up to then, when I ended my prayer and stood up again, I felt warm, calm and genuinely happy.  I walked to my front door, took a deep breath and stepped across my threshold knowing there would be no turning back.

As I drove the five or six miles to the restaurant, I practiced the greeting I'd settled on... "Hi Stephen, it's great to finally meet you!"  Over and over again... "Hi Stephen..." Until finally it felt comfortable and natural.  By this time I had arrived at my destination,  I was on West Grand Boulevard in front of the Fisher building.  As I circled the building looking for a space to park, I found one right across from the restaurant entrance.  When I checked my watch, I realized that I was way early... it was only a couple of minutes past 7 pm.  We'd arrange to meet at the bar of the Grand City Grille at 7:30, so I sat in my car and wondered with each car that passed, "Is that him...?"  Then finally, at a quarter after 7, I got out, walked across the street and into the building.  When I got into the restaurant, I told the hostess that I wanted to wait at the bar for my dinner companion.  It was a Wednesday night, and the restaurant wasn't very busy at all.  The hostess pointed me in the direction of the bar and I took up a seat off to the side.

I had scanned the bar area before I sat down and none of the other patrons looked even remotely like they could be Stephen and so I realized that I had arrived first.  I thought, "Well, if I'm going to sit here, I should order a drink." I didn't drink at the time and I hadn't had an alcoholic drink since 1995, so when the bartender asked what I was having, I wasn't sure what to ask for.  I quickly settled on a Pepsi and as soon as I said it and saw the bartender begin to fill the glass, I regretted it.  I thought, "What will he think if he sees me sitting here with a Pepsi?"  So I quickly gulped it down.  Sitting there with my empty glass, time seemed to have slowed down and I found myself in deep contemplation about whether to eat the maraschino cherry that sat on top of the ice.  But as I was thinking about the cherry, I felt a hand on my shoulder and as I turned on the bar stool, I instantly recognized him, Stephen was standing there before me.

It seems strange to me now, but my very first thought upon seeing him was that he was not as tall as I had imagined him... Although we'd never discussed our height or any aspects of our appearances, I was genuinely surprised that I was good bit taller than him.  I remember he was casually dressed, yet there was a distinctive "crispness" about his appearance.  He was wearing blue jeans and a fitted white dress shirt that highlighted his broad shoulders and trim waist.  He was well groomed from head to toe and I could smell his cologne and it was as intoxicating as his appearance.  I thought happily, the photo in his profile was indeed of him.  He was quite handsome and I felt myself begin to blush as my blood ran warm in my veins and what must have been a very happy smile appeared on my lips.

"Christopher...?" he said to me as I stumbled to get out my well practiced greeting... Instead, I said, "Yes... Stephen...?" And then we were both smiling broadly as he extended his arm and I shook his hand.  He began to apologize that he was a little late, but I looked at my watch and said, "No, you're right on time, it's exactly 7:30."  Then, although he hadn't taken a seat, the bartender came over and asked what he'd like, and Stephen said, "Nothing thanks." Then he asked me, "Are you ready to eat?"  I said, yes and he turned and signaled to the hostess who came over and seated us in a corner booth with a round table.  At first we were both kind of clinging to the opposite open ends of the booth such that the full width of the table was between us, but then he slid further around towards the middle and invited me to do the same by motioning for me to move over on the seat next to him.  I moved closer and we started to talk...

When the waiter came with the menus, we had both become so comfortable and engrossed with each other, that we didn't even notice him until, he placed the menus in front of us.  As the waiter told us of the specials, I think he realized that we were on a date, his own smile gave it away.  As he asked about drinks, Stephen asked what I'd like, I said a Pepsi and he ordered ice water with lemon.  When the waiter left to get our drinks, Stephen said he likes to drink a lot of water and always has lemon.  That became my first mental note about his likes and dislikes, and as we talked, in the back of my mind, I carefully recorded it as an important fact.  As we perused the menu, he asked what I'd like, telling me, "Have whatever you want, this is my treat!"  And we talked about what was on offer, he settled on a New York Strip Steak and I chose Roasted Garlic Chicken Fettuccine.

When the waiter returned, he still had that "knowing" smile on his face and it didn't bother me at all.  I was in the midst of my coming out to my family and friends and it felt good to be out and about in the world, just being myself and being unafraid.  As he sat the drinks on the table, he asked, "Are we ready to order gentlemen?" and Stephen immediately said, "Yes, we are... I"ll have the New York Strip medium well with the loaded potato and can I get asparagus with that?" The waiter said, "Yes, you can, and for you Sir?" and before I could speak, Stephen said, "He'd like the Roasted Garlic Chicken Fettuccine."  No one had ever ordered for me that way, but when he did, it confirmed in my mind (and for our waiter) that yes, we were a couple out on a dinner date.  And in that moment, I felt more human and truly alive than I had at anytime ever before in my life.  It was a moment I've never forgotten... a moment of true happiness and joy recorded in the annals of my mind to be remembered forever.

Later that evening, after enjoying our meals and an incredible conversation, as the waiter brought the check, I asked if he could package the rest of my entree as it had been a really large portion.  He said, "Of course, Sir" as he took my plate away while Stephen looked over the check and placed a credit card in the folio.  The waiter brought back a small bag with handles which inside held a black foam dish with the rest of my fettuccine.  Stephen and I talked and laughed and enjoyed each other's company for a good while longer before we finally decided it was time to go.  As we left the restaurant, I asked where he'd parked, and he said, "Just around the corner..."  I offered to drive him to his car since I was parked right across the street.  He agreed and got in, and I drove him around the building to where he'd parked his car.

We sat there in my car talking for a few minutes more, neither of us I wanting to part from the other.  In that first evening together, it was as if we'd been old friends reunited after some long separation.  But reluctantly, I finally decided it was time to go as I told him how much I'd enjoyed our time together and how I hoped we'd do it again soon.  He promised we would as he gently brushed the back of my hand which was resting on the seat between us.  "I'll call you," he said as he opened the door and then reached back in for the golden candy box on the dashboard.  I'd given him my gift before I pulled away from my parking space across from the restaurant, and the warm smile on his face when I placed it in his hands brought joy to my heart.  He said thank you again as he closed the door, and I watched him get into his own car and drive away.  I didn't fully realize it then, but as he left that night, along with the golden box, he took with him a piece of my heart that I never got back.  But I was happier than I could remember ever being before as I drove myself home while replaying in my mind's eye all the moments of what I still remember to be one of the most wonderful nights of my life.

When I got home, I took the foam dish with the remnants of my meal from the bag and put it into the refrigerator.  The next day at work, I enjoyed the fettuccine for lunch, but as I went to throw-away the foam dish, I stopped myself.  Instead I carefully washed it and brought it back home that evening and I put it away at the top of the cupboard.  Even then, I realized it would become a precious memento of the day of our meeting.  As I looked at it again tonight, I remembered the joy I felt as I went to bed thinking of him late that night... It was Wednesday, September 27th 2006 and nothing was ever the same afterwards.

I am always remembering...

"Fear Eats the Soul"

"This Made Me Smile..."

My British friends will 'get' this...

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 1111"

"There Is A Beauty In Love Found No Where Else..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"Gay PDA Is Okay!"

"Let There Be No Fear In Love... Live Fearlessly"

"A Love Song..."

For the lost and gone...

"Eriskay Love Lilt"
Traditional Hebredian Love Song

Bheir mi oh a ro van oh;bheir mi oh a ro van e.
Bheir mi oh a ro ho! Sad am I without thee.

When I'm lonely dear white heart;Black the night or wild the sea,

By love's light my foot finds the old path way to thee.

Bheir mi oh a ro van oh;bheir mi oh a ro van e.
Bheir mi oh a ro ho! Sad am I without thee.

Thou art music of my heart;Harp of joy oh cush ma cree

Moon of guidance by night;light the pathway to thee.

Bheir mi oh a ro van oh;bheir mi oh a ro van e.
Bheir mi oh a ro ho! Sad am I without thee.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"The Artist's Corner..."

"Urban Lights"
Acrylic on canvas
Andrew Potter

"Gay PDA Is Okay!"

"Love And Happiness Now!... Live Fearlessly"

"Sometimes In Advertising..."

Advertising poster for now defunct commitment-oriented dating site
San Francisco, California

"This Made Me Smile..."

Who said grammar is no longer important?

In the world of hi-tech gadgetry, I've noticed
that more and more people who send text 
messages and emails have long forgotten 
the art of capital letters.

For those of you who fall into this category,
please take note:

"Capitalization is the difference between
helping your Uncle Jack off a horse
and helping your uncle jack off a horse."
Is everybody clear on that?

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 1110"

"Just Happy... That's What Love Is"

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Sometimes In Advertising..."

Advertising poster for now defunct commitment-oriented dating site 
San Francisco, California

"Gay PDA Is Okay!"

"Be Proudly In Love... Live Fearlessly"

"The Truth About Love..."

"As love is the most noble and divine passion of the soul, so is it that to which we may justly attribute all the real satisfactions of life, and without it, man is unfinished, and unhappy."

-Aphra Behn

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 1109"

"It's Just Love... Be Happy!"

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

Monday, September 24, 2012

"It's About Equal Rights..."

This November, voters in Maine will have the opportunity to undue the injustice that was inflicted upon her GLBT citizens when marriage equality was repealed three years ago.  These courageous firefighters are standing together to support their gay brother in this ad which begins running tomorrow in "The Pine Tree State."

"Fear Eats the Soul"

"This Made Me Smile..."

I love Catherine Tate!

World Cinema Review - Germany

(The Experiment)

Germany 2001
Written by Mario Giordano, Don Bohlinger and Christoper Darnstadt
Based on Giordano's novel, "Black Box" 

English Trailer
 (full film w/subtitles posted below)

How to describe this film... It's not quite a horror film and not quite a full-blown suspense thriller and yet it captures every essential element of both those genres.  Loosely based on social researcher Philip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971, this film brings to life the understanding of the limitless nature of human social interactions and more shockingly our capacity to override our own social mores given the right set of circumstances.  In essence, this is a film about the battle of good versus evil that is played out all the time in the hearts and minds of men.

Without giving away the entire film, the plot centers around a group of men recruited to participate in a "social science study" at a German university wherein half the subjects will become prison inmates while the other half become their guards.  As we humans typically do, in short order, and left to their own devises the "prisoners" and the "guards" soon develop a pecking order and the phenomena of the "cult of personality" soon takes the "experiment" to levels the researchers never imagined or intended.

This film was remade as a 2010 American release (The Experiment), starring Adrien Brody and Forest Whitaker.  And while the American version is a "good" film, it pales in comparison to the German original.  The German film possesses a taut psychological grip that's just not there with it's American counterpart.  I think part of the reason the German film trumps the later American film is that the German actors perhaps have a more realistic understanding of human nature as it relates to the ability of absolute power to corrupt absolutely... Afterall, Germany experienced the effects of the "cult of personality" with Adolph Hitler who led a nation of otherwise normal people to acts that are still difficult to reconcile with our understanding of human decency and good versus evil.

"Das Experiment" definately earns 5 out of 5 stars for superb story telling, great production values and powerful performances from all the actors.  The film has received numerous awards from film festivals around the world and was well received by film critics everywhere.

The film is available from Netflix and the full film (below) is currently posted to YouTube

"Fear Eats the Soul"

"The Things Love Says..."

You and I are connected in a way  
that goes beyond romance, beyond friendship,  
beyond what we’ve ever had before.

It has defied time, distance,  
and changes in ourselves and in our lives.
And it has defied every explanation  
except one:  
purely and simply, we’re soul mates.

I can’t explain it.
I just feel it.

It’s there in the way my spirit subtly lifts  
whenever we talk,  
how the sound of your voice  
brings me home in a way I can’t explain.

It’s in the delight I feel  
when we laugh  
at exactly the same things.

When I’m with you,  
it’s like a tiny part of the universe  
shifts into the place  it’s supposed to be,   
and all is right with the world.

These things, and so many more,  
have made me understand  
that this is a once-in-a-lifetime,  
forever connection  
that could only exist between you and me.

And deep in my soul  
I know that our relationship is a rare gift,  
one that will bring us  
and extraordinary happiness  
all through our lives.

-Suzanne Heins

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 1108"

"Looking To Love And Our Future Together..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"Gay PDA Is Okay!"

"When He Takes My Hand It Says, I Love You... Live Fearlessly"

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Same Gender Loving People - No. 1107"

"Together, You And I..."

Positive images of people like me... The truth of the matter is that we all need to see people like ourselves. So everyday, I'll post a photo, drawing or some other artwork that depicts Same Gender Loving People as what we are... Only Human.

"I Am Always Remembering..."

I thought of my father today...  I remember it was about this time in September, just a few weeks after the Labor day holiday, that my father made his first and only attempt to "connect" with me after he and my mother separated on Christmas day the year before.

It was 1980, Ronald Reagan was president and I was a lonely, confused and scared 9th grade drop-out who had known, but not accepted that he was gay since kindergarten.  I was 16 years old and my mother I think saw the confusion in me and knew I needed my dad's guidance.  At the time, I had no idea what I'd do with my life, or even if I wanted to live or die. (I had attempted suicide when I was just ten after enduring years of bullying and torment at the hands of classmates and even one of my own brothers).  But in my father's absence, I assumed the role of "man of the house" and that gave me a sense of purpose... it was I think, my saving grace...

Somehow, despite their acrimonious relationship at the time, my mom had convinced my dad to call me and when he did, I remember how happy I was to hear his voice.  I'd not seen or heard from him in months.  I realize now, that I sound and speak like my father, and so I can quite easily hear his voice in my own speech and in the way I say things.  And I remember the night when he called me from work to tell me he was going to come for me that Sunday afternoon and that we'd spend the day together... I was happy that night, something I rarely felt in those dark days of my youth.  All the rest of that week, I wondered about what we might do on Sunday... where we would go... what we would talk about?

Sunday finally arrived, and all that morning I sat on the stairs waiting for my dad to come.  Finally, a little after 12 noon, I heard his car horn in our driveway.  I kissed my mother and hurried out to his car.  When I got in, neither of us said anything as he backed down the driveway and drove us to the park just a block away.  When he parked the car, finally he spoke.  He said he missed me and that he was sorry things had turned out as they had.  I told him I understood, although I didn't.  And though I was happy in that moment to be with him, just beneath the surface simmered an anger and resentment that would stay with me until the day I came out to him at age 42.  My dad asked me what I wanted to do and I said, "I'd like to go to the movies."

Although I'd been to the movies many times before that, I had only been to one movie with my father up to that time (and only two others after that day).  He said okay and asked if I knew what I wanted to see.  I told him I wasn't sure and so we drove to the deli at the other end of the street and I bought a newspaper.  As I turned to the entertainment section, I saw an ad for "The Final Countdown" and I knew that's what I wanted to see.  My dad had been in the Navy during WWII and I thought he might like it too.  I told him where it was playing and we decided to see it at the United Artist theater at Wonderland Mall.

On the drive to the theater we didn't say much.  It was a beautiful day... clear, sunny and cool.  When we got off the expressway, my dad reached over and rubbed the top of my head like he used to do when I was much younger.  That simple act, brought a sense of peace to my mind and I finally felt at ease being with him after many months apart.  When we got to the mall, as we walked from the parking lot, he put his arm on my shoulders and I felt like his "son" again for the first time in years.  My dad bought the tickets and he gave them to me.  He bought us popcorn and drinks too.  When we stopped to give the attendant the tickets and he handed the stubs back to me, I tucked them into my pocket and my dad and I went into the darkened auditorium and took seats near the back.

I remember there weren't many other people in the theater and my dad commented on that.  He said ,"A lot of people don't like war movies, I don't need them, I was there..."  I said, "I know, Dad, you were in the Pacific." And my dad just smiled and seemed to be pleased that I was mindful of his sacrifice and service during the war.  Then finally the previews started and the rest of the lights went down.  And as we shared the popcorn and watched the film, every so often, I stole a glance at my father's face.  During certain moments in the film, tears had welled up in my father eyes and every so often a few escaped and rolled down his cheeks, and those moments reminded me that my dad was just as human and as frail as any other man.

When he thought I wasn't looking, my dad wiped at the tears in his eyes and I pretended not to see.  But it had a profound effect on me, for I had cried on many days of my young and tortured life and on very many of the days since that Christmas last when he left our family.  I thought as I saw my father cry, if he was a hero to me and he can cry, then maybe it's alright that I have cried too.  The film was a little less than 2 hours long, and by the end, the emotions brought out by the film and by being there with my dad had brought tears to my eyes too.  And although I know he saw them, he didn't say a word.  And as the lights came up and we stood up to leave, I felt drained and emotionally spent.  And in looking at my father's face, I thought I saw the same thing in him.

As we stepped out into the bright lights of the mall, my dad asked if I was hungry.  I said I was and we went to the Big Boy Restaurant there in the mall.  I ordered the same thing that I order there today... a Big Boy Combination and my dad ordered the same.  As we waited for our meal, we didn't talk about the film, but for the first time, my dad told me some of his stories from the war.  Among these were the two stories that I would recount as I eulogized him at his funeral thirty-one years later in 2011.  As I listened in awe to my dad tell his stories of being both human and wise, scared and brave, I knew I again wanted to be like my dad.

As we ate, and I listened, the simmering anger and resentment that I had been feeling for my father melted away and in the back of my mind, I modified a promise that I had made to myself a couple of years before then, when as our home and family fell apart, I committed myself in my own heart and mind and promised myself that I would not be like my dad.  I realized then that it was only in one way that I needed to not be like my him, and that was the way that had caused my parents marriage to fail.  But beyond that, as sat there with him, I knew I wanted to be like him for all the good reasons that I knew.

With our meal done, dad asked if I was ready to go. I said I was, and we walked back to the car just as we had come in... father and son, his arm on my shoulders.  I felt happy and proud to be out with my dad.  We'd only been gone for about 4 hours when he dropped me off at the curb in front of our house.  As I got out he said, "We'll do this again soon, I love you."  As I shut the car door, I said, "I love you too, Dad" and I watched as he drove away and turned at the corner.  When I got in the house, my mom asked me if everything was okay.  I said, yes, and she didn't ask me any more about it.  I went to my room and I took the ticket stubs from my pocket and carefully placed them into a small box that contained what were at the time my most precious possessions... they would become a remembrance of that first day out with my dad.  I still have them today.

I didn't know it then, but that day would be the first of only three times I would see my father between the ages of 16 and 40... I next saw him in 1986 at my sister's wedding.  The third time would be at my mother's funeral in 2004, when as I conducted her service, I noticed him come into the chapel and take a seat at a back pew.  And upon seeing him there, at the conclusion of my eulogy and before we closed the casket, I reached into my pocket and placed my mother's wedding band back on her finger where it had always been for more than 50 years despite the fact that they'd divorced some twenty years before.  Then, although the funeral directors were waiting for me to lead the procession from the chapel, I left my mother's casket and stepped through the congregation to embrace my father and tell him I was glad he'd come as I told him, "Mom never stopped loving you."

Although my dad went to the cemetery, I lost sight of him as I concluded the service there and it would be five months before I heard from him again.  And then, nearly another year before I would see him again and finally be able to share just how much like him I am and tell him that I had followed in his footsteps... that I had served in the Navy... and that I had broken down barriers just like he did that kept able men of color from opportunity... and that I had been a leader in the things I'd done, just like he was.  And then when finally I shared with him the way in which I was not like him... that I was a same-gender-loving man... hearing his acceptance and love allowed all those angry, confused and lonely days that had gone by since that autumn day at the movies in 1980 to forever pass away to forgiveness and a renewal of my love for my father.

I am always remembering...

"Fear Eats the Soul"

"A Song For Sunday..."

"Amazing Grace"
As Written By John Newton

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.

The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.

Through many dangers, toils and snares...
I have already come.
Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far...
and Grace will lead me home.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

John Newton was born in London July 24, 1725, the son of a commander of a merchant ship which sailed the Mediterranean. When John was eleven, he went to sea with his father and made six voyages with him before the elder Newton retired. In 1744 John was impressed into service on a man-of-war, the H. M. S. Harwich. Finding conditions on board intolerable, he deserted but was soon recaptured and publicly flogged and demoted from midshipman to common seaman.

Finally at his own request he was exchanged into service on a slave ship, which took him to the coast of Sierra Leone. He then became the servant of a slave trader and was brutally abused. Early in 1748 he was rescued by a sea captain who had known John's father. John Newton ultimately became captain of his own ship, one which plied the slave trade.

Although he had had some early religious instruction from his mother, who had died when he was a child, he had long since given up any religious convictions. However, on a homeward voyage, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he was to refer to later as his “great deliverance.” He recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he exclaimed, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” Later in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and began to believe that God had addressed him through the storm and that grace had begun to work for him.

For the rest of his life he observed the anniversary of May 10, 1748 as the day of his conversion, a day of humiliation in which he subjected his will to a higher power. “Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ’tis grace has bro’t me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” He continued in the slave trade for a time after his conversion; however, he saw to it that the slaves under his care were treated humanely.

In 1750 he married Mary Catlett, with whom he had been in love for many years. By 1755, after a serious illness, he had given up seafaring forever. During his days as a sailor he had begun to educate himself, teaching himself Latin, among other subjects. From 1755 to 1760 Newton was surveyor of tides at Liverpool, where he came to know George Whitefield, deacon in the Church of England, evangelistic preacher, and leader of the Calvinistic Methodist Church. Newton became Whitefield’s enthusiastic disciple. During this period Newton also met and came to admire John Wesley, founder of Methodism. Newton’s self-education continued, and he learned Greek and Hebrew.

He decided to become a minister and applied to the Archbishop of York for ordination. The Archbishop refused his request, but Newton persisted in his goal, and he was subsequently ordained by the Bishop of Lincoln and accepted the curacy of Olney, Buckinghamshire. Newton’s church became so crowded during services that it had to be enlarged. He preached not only in Olney but in other parts of the country. In 1767 the poet William Cowper settled at Olney, and he and Newton became friends.

Cowper helped Newton with his religious services and on his tours to other places. They held not only a regular weekly church service but also began a series of weekly prayer meetings, for which their goal was to write a new hymn for each one. They collaborated on several editions of Olney Hymns, which achieved lasting popularity. The first edition, published in 1779, contained 68 pieces by Cowper and 280 by Newton.

Among Newton’s contributions which are still loved and sung today are “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” and ”Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” as well as “Amazing Grace.” Composed probably between 1760 and 1770 in Olney, ”Amazing Grace” was possibly one of the hymns written for a weekly service. Through the years other writers have composed additional verses to the hymn which came to be known as “Amazing Grace” (it was not thus entitled in Olney Hymns), and possibly verses from other Newton hymns have been added. However, these are the six stanzas that appeared, with minor spelling variations, in both the first edition in 1779 and the 1808 edition, the one nearest the date of Newton’s death. It appeared under the heading Faith’s Review and Expectation, along with a reference to First Chronicles, chapter 17, verses 16 and 17:

16 And David the king came and sat before the LORD, and said, Who am I, O LORD God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?

17 And yet this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; for thou hast also spoken of thy servant's house for a great while to come, and hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O LORD God.

While Amazing Grace has a reference to 1Chronicles 17:16-17 in the Onley hymnal, it is more likely to be based on Ephesians 2:4-9, Paul's great treatise on Grace, which says:

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.


"Fear Eats the Soul"

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