And The Door Shall Be Opened

i-am-e1480292532425-1024x353I started this blog in March 2016 with an Easter poem, so this is something of a tradition now…

This one, written years ago (available in my second book, “Abundance — a collection”) for me boils Easter down to its essence.

Happy Easter!

AND THE DOOR SHALL BE OPENED

I am knocking

On your heart

Your mind

Your soul

Do you hear me?

Do you feel me?

Do you know me?

I am knocking

Do you know

the sound of love?

Listen closely

I am knocking

Love is knocking

Love is…

I Am…

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This Single Act

Riley 032318

I wrote this years ago for the birth of a friend’s first child. I’ve shared it with several new moms over the years.

Now, I share it with my daughter and son-in-law, Emma and Jake Williams, on the occasion of the birth of their first child, Riley Jean, on March 23, 2018.

Words are truly too small to capture or convey my joy, pride and hope in this moment. 

Riley, my lovely girl, Papa loves you…

THIS SINGLE ACT

God touches us in many ways.

But perhaps He is most with us in our child’s first breath.

For, in this single act, which, for too many, has lost much of its

awesome mystery to the

cynicism of time and science, the Lord of All confirms His

presence in us, continues

His love for us and confers His powers on us.

In this single Act, God brings together all the majesty of nature,

the love of humanity,

the joy and hope that He controls.

In this single act, there is magic enough to bring reverence for

the power of Heaven.

In this single act, the hand of the Spirit – that part of Himself that

God grants every person – opens the door of our heart to show us the

Way to Truth.

For in this single act, God gives us another chance to redeem ourselves

by teaching this new creation

to find happiness, foster peace and rejoice in

His glory.

Humanity cannot ask for nor expect a greater gift, for

In this single act, God proves His existence and grace,

His image mirrored in the eyes

of our own.

In this single act, we find our way back to God, whose love

brings us to the world and shields us

from its pain

In this single act we can truly justify God’s unending faith

in the ultimate goodness of the

human spirit.

 

We March

march

This month, my writers group challenged itself to create something about the word “March” — the definition, the month, an experience, the weather, anything…

WE MARCH

To be honest, I was not sure why it came to mind.

I hadn’t thought about Prince’s song, “We March” in forever. Then, suddenly, a few weeks ago, as the country’s teens started to talk about walking out of school on March 14, 2018 to protest gun violence, I couldn’t get the militaristic melody out of my head.

To be emphatically clear, I am a major Prince fan. I listen often to just about everything he recorded (and I do mean just about everything. Save a couple of extremely expensive or hard-to-come-by imports, I have every album that Prince put out.) But I had not heard this song, nor listened to its parent, “The Gold Experience” recently enough to explain it suddenly singing itself to me.

As for the song itself, it is magnificent. Shimmering. Powerful. Rocking, but jazzy, with a Prince-ly touch of funk. Beautifully produced. Like most of Prince’s published work, it is better than about 98 percent of the pre-processed, computer-concocted crap that passes for popular music today.

Yet, in the scheme of his vast canon, it is fairly obscure, dating from 1995. The early/mid 1990s is the period when “The Artist Formerly Known As” was putting out more material than either his record company or many of his fans (except me, of course) cared to consume.

Then it hit me: the lyrics!

As I started singing the song I registered the words behind the music and realized that “We March,” written 23 years ago, was speaking to me today, in 2018.

A Dylan-esque poet of funky seduction, a master of shocking/funny/naughty – even sometimes raunchy – wordplay, a paragon of the weird-bordering-on-inscrutable verse, Prince was also a keen, eagle-eyed political observer and social critic.

Going back to his first near-masterpiece, “Controversy,” which addressed the Reagan-era 1980s (nuclear war, Russia, homophobia, AIDS, gender and racial identity, burgeoning sexuality in the media, etc.) Prince often wrote and sang about what was happening in the real world.

However, his political oeuvre was often buried under the more scandalous and risqué material that shimmied from his home/studio Paisley Park — an adolescent-male fantasy land of OMG beautiful women.

Still, when the man had something to say, he said it, loud and clear – although even his most ardent fans may have had to struggle to stop dancing long enough to hear the message through the melody.

His words from 1995 expressed his frustration that the world of the 1990s wasn’t much different than the world of the 1950s.

Whites still oppressed blacks. Men still disrespected and abused women. Politicians still lied to people of all genders, races and ages.

As students and young people nationwide stood up, locked arms, raised their voices and righteously declared that they’d finally had enough of gun violence in schools; of politicians whoring themselves to fear profiteers; of living in a world destabilized more each day by piggish leaders who lie as fast as their thumbs can tweet; I realized that the world of the 2010s still wasn’t much different from the world of the 1950s.

Seventy years later, so many still suffocate under the weight of systemic discrimination. Systemic corruption. Systemic oppression. And, most of all, systemic greed.

Hearing that song play and replay in my head, I realized that it might be time once again, literally and symbolically, to march.

Many people, blinded by their own naïve optimism, irritated by the idea that there’s still more to do, unconcerned about the ripples in someone else’s pond, and selfishly protecting their ill-gotten gains, will argue this contention.

They will say:

“Things are better.”

And the young – for it is always the young who dream of changing the world — will answer, No, they’re not.

“What do they want now (insert your favorite oppressed group here: minorities/women/Muslims/immigrants/transgenders/gays…)?

Everything that the politically, socially and financially dominant group – that is, white Christian males – has always had.

“Can’t things be the way they used to be?”

No, they cannot. Ever again.

And if that means we must march, then we march.

Now’s the time, 2 find a rhyme

That’s got a reason and frees the mind

From angry thoughts, the racist kind

If we all wanna change then come on, get in line

Next time we march

We’re kickin’ down the door

Next time we march

All is what we’re marching 4

We march for gender and racial and sexual equality.

We march for safety.

We march for financial stability.

We march for political integrity.

We march for justice, truly blind.

We march for peace, truly universal.

We march for love, truly encompassing.

It is brain-numbing and heartbreaking that we even have to contemplate, in 2018 putting boots to the ground to achieve such basic human essentials as these. But if we do, then so be it.

We ain’t got no time 4 excuses, the promised land belongs 2 all

Yes, it does — regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race or any of the million other walls purposely and politically built to divide and separate and isolate us.

And so, they march.

I march.

We march.

 

 

 

 

 

Family

familyOn March 10, 2018, I had the pleasure and honor to serve as keynote speaker for a fundraising event for a college scholarship program created by my good friends, Bishop Nolan and Gloria McCants. The requested theme was, “On Your Own, But Not Alone.” 

From that came this rumination on the definition and importance of “family” in the context of college — and, really, in all of life.

“ON YOUR OWN, BUT NOT ALONE”

Good afternoon! My name is Tom Hernandez and I am honored to deliver the keynote address today.

I promise, I won’t take but a few minutes of your time. I know you have other things to do today besides listening to me, blather on and on, like I’m delivering some kind of sermon or something…

But before I share a few thoughts on the topic du jour, I want to salute and congratulate my very good friend, Bishop Nolan McCants and his lovely, talented, much better half, Gloria, for creating the Nolan and Gloria McCants Scholarship last year to help a young person.

All scholarships are welcome and appreciated, because they help young people take an important “Next Step” in their lives, to attend college.

But not all scholarships are equal.

Many are based on academic achievement, some on athletic prowess, others on special activities or life goals.

But a very few rare ones, like the Nolan and Gloria McCants Scholarship, recognize and support young people for their values. For who they are as human beings. For what is meaningful to them and the Greater Good of the community.

This year’s scholarship, for example, requires a 500-word essay on the applicant’s “position on the importance of integrity.”

“Integrity!” Can you believe it? It’s been about two years now since I’ve heard the word even mentioned by a leader at any level — and here are two people willing to put their money where their mouths and minds and spirits are, to support the idea of integrity!

Now that takes some courage and conviction in 2018. And that’s why it is all the more important that all of us support this Scholarship with our words and hearts, certainly, but also with our wallets and checkbooks.

So, thank you, Nolan and Gloria for doing what you are doing today, and doing what you do every day. This world would be a whole lot nicer, and smarter, and more thoughtful, and kinder, and compassionate and sharper dressed, if more people followed your example. I am proud to call both of you friends!

Now, to the point – the winner of this scholarship will be headed to college. How many of you plan to attend college next year?

This is an exciting time in their lives. They’re experiencing so much change right now, so many big transitions, and for many of our young people, college will be a part of their future.

To all of you, congratulations and good luck. I know you’re looking forward to all that college will bring – new friends, new experiences, new social opportunities, perhaps the occasional class or two…

But most of all, many of you are thinking one thing: “FREEDOM!”

Well, I have news for you – many of your parents are thinking the same thing!

I mean, of course, they will miss you, but…

Now, seriously, please always remember that your main reason for going to college is not the football or basketball games or the new girlfriends or boyfriends or the dances or even to prepare you to get a job.

It is to enrich and expand your brain and your spirit and to become a more enlightened, and enlightening human being! So, on behalf of everyone who will help foot the bill for you, I say, please go to class and study!

Anyway, the point is, college is going to be a whole new world for you, in every sense.

It will change your life.

It will be thought-provoking.

It will be exciting.

It will be inspiring.

And amid all of that, it will also be hard.

And frustrating.

And, sometimes, lonely.

There are many differences between high school and college. But the main one, in my experience through both of my daughters, is that in high school, people are paid to care about you and your success.

That is NOT the case in college. And frankly, that is less the case the bigger the school you go to. As long as your check clears for this semester’s tuition, many professors do not care about you. They don’t have to. They get paid whether you show up to class or not. Whether you do well, or not.

Now, I am not being cynical or critical, just stating a fact that many of our young people never think about, until they have to think about it, which is this: in the adult world, you are responsible for your happiness. You are responsible for your success.

And for many of you, college is your first step into the adult world.

And, sometimes, the adult world of college can be a little sad and dark.

Trust me when I say this, because I know it, I have lived it, and I have survived it:

You are going to find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the work.

Confused and anxious by the illogic of a large institutional system. “I am majoring in pre-law. Why do I have to take biology?!”

Physically and mentally and spiritually exhausted, as you study for your sixth final exam in two days, putting the finishing touches on a blue book essay, while squeezing in two part-time jobs and an internship (that was me my senior year at Lewis University!)

You’re going to see so many questions, that you cannot even contemplate the answer.

Yet, the answer is right in front of you.

And behind you.

And around you.

In this and all things, the answer is, family.

Yes, college is about many things – classrooms and football games, making new friends, finding a good-paying job so you can pay your parents back for 18 years of rent and utilities and food! – but it’s mainly about one thing: figuring out who you are, and who you want to be. Family is always an important part of both.

Now, you’re thinking, “But what good can my family do if I am hundreds of miles and several hours away from home?”

One of the greatest things about the world we live in, is that “family” can and does mean many different things.

“Family” obviously means those folks who raised us and with whom we were raised – our parents, grandparents, guardians, and yes, even our siblings, as awful as brothers and sisters can be!

But today, “family” can – and often does – mean more than those folks who share our blood and our name.

Family can be:

  • Extended relatives.
  • Old friends and new friends.
  • Church members.
  • People of like-minded interests.
  • People who look like you and look nothing like you.
  • People who speak your language, and whose language you can’t understand.
  • People who hold your hand and your heart, who provide a shoulder and an ear, who profess to understand because they’ve been there, and pretend to understand even though they’ve never been there, but they love you enough to give you some of their time.

You see, “family” isn’t so much a blood relationship anymore.

Rather, it’s a collective connection, an intuitive investment in each other’s well-being.

Now, I don’t want to get all “Churchy” on you – Lord knows, no one likes that! – but, “family” is God’s grace in the form of communion and community.

So, as you move toward college – this first step into what can be a mean, indifferent, uncaring world – know that your family – however you define it – will care for you, and keep you, and raise you up.

Your family – whoever they may be – will help you to get back, and move ahead. To believe, and to revive and refresh, and to succeed.

Always know – in your brain and in your heart and in your soul, that you may be far from home, but you’re never alone. Because you are surrounded by your family.

We support you. We believe in you. We empower you. We trust you. We are proud of you.

And we love you.

Congratulations to all of you, and good luck!