Sunday, March 8, 2015

About My Daddy

(Originally published March 4, 2015)

My daddy's name was Robert E. Johnson.

On March 10,1940, my father was born. On October 16, 1984, my father transitioned from time to eternity. His two sisters were ten and eleven years older, and the treated him like the little brother he was. They adored him, and he adored them. They doted on him, and he relished in the attention. Bert and Amelia LOVED their little brother, and Bobby LOVED his big sisters.

During the 44 years in between, he did some things. They were not quite earth shattering, nothing to be recorded in Ripley's Believe It Or Not. He did not do anything that was worthy of a Nobel Prize, a Heismann Trophy, or a Purple Heart. He lived and died.

He was a simple man, yet complicated at the same time. He loved God, his family, andmost importantly, the Dallas Cowboys. He loved football. If you lived in his house, as my younger sister pointed out so eloquently, you loved the Cowboys (or you didn't live there).

Bobby didn't finish college, but he went, where he (I told you he loved it). In fact, on his Army discharge papers, his pre-military occupation is listed as "athlete". My daddy was a jock (explains a great deal of my later attraction to football players). Remember how I said he did somethings that were not quite earth shattering? Well, he was the first Black man to hold a supervisory position in the Augusta, GA post office. That was quite an accomplishment back in the late 1960s/early 1970s. He played golf, like his father and his sisters. That was quite an accomplishment in itself, considering he was born less than 1/8 mile from the back of Augusta Country Club, which shares Raes Creek with Augusta National, two courses he could not play during his four decades on earth. In my eyes, however, there was nothing my daddy could not do.

Now, lest you think I am romanticizing my daddy, I am not. He had his demons. He really did. Gin and bourbon were two of the greatest ones. Fidelity was another one. Financial responsibility was yet a third. He had his issues, and all three of his wives would attest to that. But he loved, and he loved hard.

I miss my daddy. I call his name every day, and have done so since the day he died. I am blessed that I see him in my sisters, and especially in his grandchildren, especially the boys. His namesake is going to be big like him. The other grandson loves football. He really IS Bobby Johnson's grandson. His daughters are absolutely fearless. His son? Well, I'm still trying to figure out what qualities I got. (Really, I am.) I miss my daddy because he's not here, but more importantly, I miss him because he missed:

·     His oldest daughter's weddings, and the birth of her two children, and the subsequent birth of his great grandchildren. He missed watching his oldest daughter grow into an amazing insurance woman, who can hold down a household AND raise children AND raise hell quietly.
·     His youngest daughter growing up. He did not get to see the little girl, 10 days shy of turning 5 when he died, get a flipping master's degree and become a politician. He also did not get to see her develop into the most brilliant out of his three children. (I will probably regret saying this.) He missed the births of his grandsons, who are literally copies of him and who are brave, and strong, and amazing, and fearless. His daughter is raising them to be Johnson men, and baby, Johnson men they are.
·     His son. He missed his son screw up. Not a lot, but more than a little bit. His son loved the wrong men (at times), didn't play football, didn't go into themilitary. He didn't graduate from an HCBU. He got a few of his father's bad habits (bourbon comes to mind). He DID get his love of Dallas Cowboys football,and the quality to love his sisters. He missed the opportunity to see his son finally get his head screwed on straight, and finish college, and seminary. His son is a preacher. He missed his son grow into his calling. Bobby missed seeing his son become a (sometimes) fearless who stands up for what he believes in, and fights like hell for the marginalized to be heard. He will miss his son's ordination, and whatever happens thereafter. He missed me falling in love witha man who shares his name, and hates football.

Remember how I said I was trying to figure out what I got from my daddy? It finally hit me: music. He LOVED Aretha Franklin. So. Do. I. He LOVED the Beatles, and I do too. The Beach Boys? Yeah! The Commodores? You bet. There is one behavior that I do that he did: he would lay down in the floor, in front of the stereo, and just listen to music for hours. I do too.

Happy birthday Daddy. I know you wanted a son who played football like you, and that’s not me. However, your son grew up to be a man who loves God, his family, and the Dallas Cowboys.

I guess I am just like you where it counts.

    Saturday, March 7, 2015

    I'm Coming Out!

    (Originally posted April 9, 2014)

    "I'm coming out! I want the world to know, got to let it show."
     - Diana Ross, "I'm Coming Out"

    Six months ago today, my religious life as I knew it, came to a jolting and horrific stop. With one signature, all that I’d held close and true since August 18, 2007 ended. I did not know if I was going to survive, but I did. Since then, the people closest to me have listened to me go through this discernment process about where I am supposed to be, what I am supposed to do, and in essence, who I am.

    The coming out process is never easy. I never appreciated the difficulty that accompanies the decision to declare a truth about ones self that could potentially change people’s opinions, and in some cases, alter relationships permanently. For the people who hear about the coming out sometimes feel betrayed and disappointed; some feel bereft; most celebrate that the truth has finally been told, and embrace that truth with hope and determination for the future.

    I never had to come out as gay to my family; they already knew. When I confirmed it, there were some hurt feelings, but overall, my family has always embraced me in whatever I have endeavored to do. For that, I am eternally grateful. My friends have been there to walk with me; I don’t know what I would do without them. My seminary community and field education site have always been amazingly present and, in the last six months, has been the life jacket that has kept me afloat.

    I am coming out as a Congregationalist today, because that is who I am in my DNA. Many of you have heard me say this: “I’m Baptist born, I’m Baptist bred. I’ll be Baptist when I’m dead!” I tried to follow the Episcopal form of church governance, but honestly, I have been a “Baptist in an Anglican Suit”, and that suit is ill-fitting. So, the time has come to take it off. I will be completing my field  education process with the church I am assigned to, but after that, I will returning to the United Church of Christ, which is the denomination I joined while living in Illinois, and where, if I am completely honest, find my spiritual moorings. Additionally, people who have known me have seen the internal struggle this has been, and for many, this announcement is no great surprise. In fact, it’s a relief.

    So what? Well, for those of my friends who are Episcopal, that means that I won’t be an Episcopal priest, and I am a little sad about that. I have too much, in the words of Billy Porter, “pizzazz”, which might be great in a congregational setting, but not so much in high church. And that’s OK. I learned what I was supposed to learn while in that setting. For my UCC brothers and sisters, I’m coming home, and hope to be received with open arms.

    So that’s it. And with a nod to Bex, a friend of almost 30 years, I am going to do a quick Q & A section to answer some questions.

    Q:            You’re leaving the Episcopal Church. Were you put out?
    A:            Absolutely not! No, I was not put out. I am leaving of my own free will and accord. Run and tell that.

    Q:            What about preaching? Will you still be doing that?
    A:            I will ALWAYS do ministry, and if God permits, I will ALWAYS be a preacher. I just don’t know where I will be preaching as of now. However, something will come along; of that I am certain.

    Q:            Why not go back to the Baptist church of your youth?
    A:            Because you cannot be an openly gay man with a partner in most Baptist churches, especially churches that are historically African-American. Notice I said “most”, not “all”.  

    Q:            So where are you going to church now?
    A:            I will continue at my field education site until graduation, and then…who knows?

    Q:            You mentioned graduation. What are you going to do about your ministry and vocation?
    A:            Bob says I am going to “get a job”, and that’s absolutely correct. I am also starting the church membership search. Those two, together, are a full-time job.

    Q:            So why make this announcement? Who cares?
    A:            I made this announcement so that I could move into my future unencumbered by my past, and to live a transparent life. And who cares? I hope YOU do, because you are reading this.

    That’s it. That’s all. Any question? Let me know.

    May the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of us all surround you with love,


    Gut Checks

    (Originally posted August 12, 2012)

    I love taking a drive alone. It gives me time to think and process life, all the while listening to music I have listened to many, many times and singing along at the top of my lungs. It's my decompression time. Now, to be honest, I love taking car trips with Bob, but driving alone (most times) is relaxing to me. I am talking about driving for pleasure, not commuting. That's not pleasurable.

    This morning, I was driving to Lancaster to begin the transition into the school year, and the drive was going along pretty well. The morning was pleasant, not too warm for the end of August. I was listening to the alphabetical list on the iPod, and Andrea Bocelli's "Canzone Stanata" came on. Now, confession IS good for the soul - I love this song, and it's not just because Stevie Wonder duets with Bocelli. It is an amazing work of art.

    While I was realizing just how incredible the artistry was, I had a gut check (using non spiritual language for those who don't believe like I do). For those of you who do believe as I do, I had a "Come to Jesus" moment on the drive (wherever you see gut check, insert "Come to Jesus moment". Little did I know that that would not be the only one. Here's the essence - I am blessed to be driving to graduate school on a Thursday morning, listening to music that I love, going to a place I love, to study a subject I love.

    And the tears flowed.

    Ten minutes (ten miles) later, I missed a phone call from an old friend who left a message saying how much they loved and missed me, and how proud they were of me and my educational process. And as I was listening to the voice mail, I realized that this person, who happens to be a little whiter (OK, a LOT whiter) that I am, loved me. The essence of the second gut check - Love has no color.

    At that moment, I had a flashback to a conversation I had with my younger sister a couple of years ago about her oldest son, RD, who just happens to be autistic. This particular meltdown went like this:

    RD: Everbody hates me! Black people hate me! White people hate me!
    YS: Well RD, that's not quite true. Miss Jones likes you, and she's black. Miss Smith likes you, and she's white. Uncle Guy loves you, and he's black. Uncle Bob loves you, and he's white, and...
    YS: (uncontrollable laughter, and proceeds to call her older brother and brother-in-law)

    Love knows no color, and I was reminded about being in school, and mothers being "Mom", no matter whose mom it was. Marching band comes to mind immediately: Buckingham's mom went to the ER with me when I collapsed from not eating, and stayed until my mother could get there. Caryn Jackson's mother drove us to more practices and concerts than the law should have allowed. James (I still call him Jimmy) and Steve Meade's mom was ALWAYS there! Cora Alter, mother of one Juli Betts, loved all (however many of us it was) like we were her own personal brood. Love truly has no color. I still think Melinda Pratt has some inside information on who I REALLY am... (just kidding, but I will always remember the Pratt/Bartosh present to me on my 16th Birthday,and it included Hovermales!)

    I then thought about my mother, and a story she used to love to tell about me as a baby. It seems that during one of her "religious explorations", we (she, my dad, and I) became Jehovah's Witnesses. Don't ask. Just don't. Don't. Since you are asking, my dad's girlfriend was a JW, and my mom joined to keep an eye on them. I never said they possessed emotional and marital intelligences.

    Well, it seems that the Augusta, GA Kingdom Halls took a bus trip from Augusta to Brooklyn (bus trip!), the site of the Watchtower Society's headquarters. According to the late Mary Alice, I was passed all over the bus to every woman, black, white, or whatever. In her telling of the story, I was the happiest, laughing baby ever, and I loved everybody who got a hold of me. (Quite a radical notion in the early 70s.) That made me smile, and I realized that not much has changed. I still love anyone who crosses my path, black, white, or whatever, and I have never met a stranger. Thanks Mom.

    Well, you would have throught the gut checks were done, but of course, they were not. The third one was especially for me - you are not a failure when you are not successful. You are a failure when you don't get back up and try again. That one knocked the wind out of me. I had to pull over for a minute to get myself together after that one. Law school was not a healthy experience for me. I made some good friends, but in hinsight, I was not mentally or emotionally prepared for the intensity that encompassed studying law. I thought for years I was a failure for not giving it a second try, and the message came through as clearly as the St. James' bells that peal on the hour - "That was NOT THE path or career for you. THIS IS!"

    I get it now. Do you? If not, send me a message - I'll help you understand what it all means.

    Take 2

    I have decided to try my hand at blogging once again. I tried for a couple of weeks 4 years ago, but I wasn't feeling it. Now, thanks to my little sister (who I am always trying to keep pace with), I figure I should start up again.

    So much as changed since the last time I wrote on this platform. I've finished my masters, returned to my congregational roots, and am finally serving part-time in ministry. I am living my dream.

    Bob and I are coming up on 10 years (10 YEARS) in a few months, and honestly, the odds were against us from the start, being an intergenerational, interracial gay couple. But we made it last, and are making it last each and every day.

    So, now that I am back on the block, I plan on writing at least three times weekly. That's doable, and in the meantime, I am going to transfer some of my Facebook notes here. I have been writing, but not sure if I wanted to keep a blog. I think I do.

    What are you going to write about, Guy? Well, Let's see:
     - politics
     - religion
     - society
     - culture
     - and anything else that captures my fancy

    One other thing - a friend asked me when I was going to write my book. This is how you get started - one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time.

    So, take two! And…. action!

    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    Who Would God Bless?

    It always amazes me when sports figures, Grammy winners, and politicians always say that "God ordained this win." Now, before I go too far, I do believe that all things work for the good of them who love God, and are called according to HIS purpose (Romans 8:28), but can one really say that The Three Six Mafia's "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" was really the best God could orchestrate for a Grammy?

    Governor Rick "Let Me Do A Rain Dance, Yet The Heavens Are Still Shut Up" Perry (R, Texas) attended "The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis", and while I do not have a problem with politicians attending a prayer service, I DO have a problem when they attend said service in their official capacity, and that's what he did. FYI, I have this same problem when preachers become politicians, and preach politics from their pulpits.

    I find it amazing that when Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Pastor Emeritus  of the Trinity United Church of Christ, was literally excoriated for comments he made (and taken out of context) where he said "God Damn America" (I was there for the sermon, titled "Confusing God and Government"), people claimed he was using "hate speech". Yeah, because black preachers have not been on the end of THAT stick, ever

    However, what confounds me even more is when politicians claim that "marriage is for one man and one woman" and define that as "biblical marriage". What confounds me even more is when folks claim that sexual orientation is a "choice". What makes me wonder what people are really saying is when they claim that GLBTA (and any other letters one can add) folks cannot be blessed by God. Says who?

    Listen, if God can bless Rick Perry and his supporters, who actually harm "the least of these", can be blessed, why can't EVERYONE? Seriously, if God can make sure The Three Six Mafia gets a Grammy, God can sure make sure I am blessed as well.

    Just a thought...

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Now What?

    OK, it's been a while since I posted anything. Now I am ready to be all that I am.

    First, I am using my real name, instead of my alias. At this point, I have nothing to lose. I no longer work for my former organization, and in all honesty, I really, REALLY don't care anymore. Second, and this is most important, one has to stand for something, lest they fall for anything.

    With that, now what? Well, marriage equality is going to happen, whether folks want it to or not. Take that and smoke it. For all the people claiming to believe in "traditional marriage", what does that mean? FYI - what you define as traditional has only been in existence for approximately 200 years. In the grand scheme of things, that's a new fangled idea. In the not so distant past, marriage was based on how many wives a man could support, and how many children (especially boys) he could sire in order to work his fields. This whole "one wife for life" idea? Victorian.

    So, now what? In a word, get over it. ALL people will be able to join together legally. And for the love of all that is logical, don't start equating same gendered marriage with polygamy. To do such really, REALLY cheapens the argument.

    Sunday, May 2, 2010

    A Rear View Glance of Confederate History Month

    Well, April is over, and we can look back on the failure that was Confederate History Month here in Commonwealth.  To start off, Bob "Slavery Is Not a Cause of the War of Southern Independence" McDonnell started off by leaving slavery out of the initial proclamation.  Big mistake.  Then his big bubba Haley "I Am Really Satan's Fat Little Brother" Barbour said that is was "no big deal" that Governor Revisionist left the slavery issue out of the statement.  Those darned Negroes.  Never happy with what we give them.

    Then Sheila Johnson, billionaire and mocker of stutters, announced she was disappointed in the governor for his oversight on this matter.  Boo-fricking-hoo.  NOW you want to be disappointed.  Did you really think he was going to continue his charade after he got your money?  Naw, that would make him a prostitute, and we all know that politicians HIRE hookers, not become them.

    As I look back over the month, I realize that Gov. Revisionist was merely wishing that no one would notice his blatant dismissal of people of color in his state.  However, as I said in my opening salvo, we WILL notice, we WILL remember, and we WILL come for you.

    Take that Bobbo.