Gratitude List 1814

(1) You know you’re losing it when you plug the laptop charger into the kitchen wall socket, somehow thinking it will help you boil a pot of coffee. Grateful for the good laugh I got when I finally realized what I was doing.  Coffee tastes good too — Guatemalan, I believe.

(2) Feeling threatened by today’s deadline on my new monthly column for Street Spirit News, I surprised myself by cranking out a decent rough draft yesterday afternoon.  Grateful for the gig, and glad to be working with Alastair Boone once again.  

(3) Encouraging conversation with Norman, the pastor at First Pres, after church yesterday.  We decided that wearing masks has helped us to develop our reading of each other’s eyes — a useful skill that was left largely undeveloped during the days when we got to see the whole face.  (Mathew 6:22 comes to mind).  He also said he’d read a study where a majority of people now believe a masked face is “prettier” than a face without a mask.  (I immediately came up with two reasons why this could be true — but we can leave that for future discussion.)  We talked a bit about certain kinds of sports — “sports of aim,” I call them.  The book Zen in the Art of Archery came to mind.  Wonderful intelligent conversation with a very intelligent man.

(4) Had a great time on Friday driving around with Jodie, the pastor of the United Church.  She reminds me of myself somewhat — the things I like about myself, that is.  Same Myers-Briggs type and astrological sign, too — not that I put much stock in the latter.  (The former can be fun, though.)

(5) Keva Shull returned to the project last week, under terms with which I gladly agreed (since I’d come up with same terms, for all players, myself.) Matt came back a few days later, and now all the Kids are back. The Oracle Project is picking up steam, and I’m grateful to have found a group of talented young Performing Artists who believe in me. At this time in my life, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.
–Marie Curie

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Demonic Devices of the Mainstream

I awoke yesterday morning in a state of deep discouragement — deep enough to be uncharacteristic of my general nature. As the day went on, I became encouraged by realizing where it is that I myself have erred. The problem is not technology. The problem is my relationship to it. And that relationship can change.

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M.I.A. Update

I’ve been way too absorbed in trying to prepare a sophisticated yet flexible “scratch track” for all the solo singers and musicians to utilize to help them record all their parts remotely, from wherever they are, while sheltering in place.

This process has been assaulted by numerous attacks against my sanity, including the inexplicable loss of my phone service when once again I was confused for the person who gave me the phone a number of years ago. This time however I am unconvinced I can get the problem resolved.

The disturbing events did however inspire a new podcast that I hope to publish tomorrow, prior to my Monday gratitude list in which I will announce, among other great news, that Keva Shull has returned to the project.

Really into editing the podcast right now, but I believe the scoring of bass parts is a priority. I’ll post it tomorrow sometime, assuming I meet the self-imposed deadline that it is against my spiritual principles to have created.

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Gratitude List 1812

(1) Oracle Project blasted off yesterday like a rocket ship. Click to hear the voice of Karlie Smith who is singing all three of the Three Girls harmonies — with bluesy improv when appropriate. I’m also very much enjoying working with George Petersen, who was executive editor of Mix Magazine – a leading magazine in the Sound Industry — for twenty years and an expert on Sound Design.

(2) Finally started moping over the snowfall and ran yesterday in 22F degree weather in my spikes — and on thin ice to boot. It was a life-changing experience, and I am far more enthused for living as a result.

(3) Once again I am thankful to have this peaceful secluded one-bedroom apartment, a true shelter in the snowstorm. Also arranged my two functional computers so that the work laptop (which can be taken out of the house) is in the living room and the other computer in the bedroom. I’ve compartmentalized it so that I only work on the living room laptop and do all things restful or recreational in the bedroom.

(4) If I mentioned this earlier, I’ll mention it again. My wallet, lost for over six months, was located by a total stranger ten miles away on the Palouse River when she was looking for a geocache. She messaged me on Facebook to ask if I were the Andy Pope having that street address. The wallet was trashed, but all six of the plastic cards were fully functional, and my photo Id and vaccination card are still intact. I’d only replaced the ID and a single debit card. Now I have library card, Safeway card, Winko’s card, Hope Center card, PayPal debit card and two debit cards as well as an alternate photo ID. Michelle was kind enough to soak all the cards in warm soapy water and wrap the worldly-worn vaccination in plastic before she drove to my house and gave them to me. I didn’t know what to say, so I asked God to bless her and gave her a free Hyfrydol CD.

(5) I can’t say how warm my heart became when I attended a 15-member Zoom meeting last Thursday evening. It consisted of myself and 12 of the main contributors to Spokane Faith and Values, as well as two invited onlookers. I was taken by Steve Smith, retired professor of journalism, and the resident FaVs atheist. I also very much enjoyed the fellow who represented the Bahai Faith. The one evangelical Trump supporter stood up under considerable fire from myself, a non-Trump supporting evangelical, and Dr. Smith. All of us got to know each other better, and I went to bed that night believing that I am truly among friends.

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Gratitude List 1811

(1) If I ever start going stir-crazy from staying alone indoors too much — as I did earlier this morning — all I need remember is that a single walk to the corner store and back along the freezing snowscape last night was sufficient to bring me home singing songs of gratitude that I don’t have to sleep in it.   Thankful for the roof I’ve been able to keep over my head for over four years now, and thankful for a positive relationship with my landlord.

(2) A Broadway singer-actor who teaches at the Yale School of Music and has a bio on Wikipedia gave me a complete commitment to sing the male lead vocals on the Oracle Sequence.   Keyword is Broadway.  (Let that sink in.)

(3) My daughter and I are getting along better than ever, after both of us having realized that the best way for us to communicate is in successive voice texts on our respective iPhones.   We’re even getting to know each other better, and I find myself letting my hair down at times, as well.

(4) Yesterday I received $200 more in donations to the Oracle Production Project, now topping $1000 of the $6000 desired by March 1st.  Also received a final (?) paycheck from the United Church along with the $50 bonus given to all staff members as well as $100 “just because.”  Pastor Jodie has a very big heart and is a wonderful human being.  I still however find that I am much more competent doing things like this, and if I can find two more singing students who treat me as kindly as Zazen does, I’ll comp the money lost from the church gig without having to step outside my door.

(5) Despite the doctor’s verdict that my levothyroxine dosage should be upped from 137 to 175, I have examined myself carefully enough to know that I have still never experienced any symptoms of hypothyroidism, throughout all this time — even going weeks or months without, when I was homeless.  Furthermore, about an hour after I took it at night-time, I noticed such a drastic negative mind-altering effect that I found myself speaking in Christian terms: “This substance, whatever it is, is not of God.”  On the other hand, though it’s a strain to imagine Jesus having a morning cup of coffee, I find myself thanking Him for the experience.  Enough said.

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On My Own

I won’t have the podcast about my Christian experience ready for a few more days. I’ve been getting feedback from a couple other people and it just doesn’t seem ready to post yet. Parts of it would be unintelligible to anyone who doesn’t know me well, and I need to make it simpler.

Why don’t you soak in my student Zazen’s rendition of “On My Own” from LES MISERABLES in the meantime.  This is from our lesson on Monday — so it’s highly informal.

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Podcast Update

I like to post podcasts on Wednesdays but I was up late editing and lost a whole lot of edited work. I’m re-editing now and it may be best if I post the podcast tomorrow morning. (I did learn something from the experience and have created an organizational tool that will help prevent such mishaps in the future.)

The podcast will be an attempt to explain why I believe as I do, and how I came to Christ. It may be a little wild from some people’s perspectives but it’s about time I did this so I won’t be confused for someone I’m not. (If that makes sense.)

Anyway I’ll first run it past other Christians of the Reformed leaning and you may expect tomorrow morning at 7:30 PST.

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Doctor’s Appointment Upshot

I had asked all the people at all churches where I have recently failed to be a good church musician to pray for my doctor’s appointment this morning. The appointment went well, and I find this doctor to be one whose judgment I have no reason to distrust. Then I sent this follow-up email to all the church people on the list.

Hi –

I’ll try to be brief.

Dr. T seems like a decent doctor, and I believe i can get my levothryoxine refills from him as well as the annual check-up, if it ever finds anything else wrong with me physically.  Which it probably will because I’m aging.

He is not a mental health diagnostician.  He understood my rundown of the symptoms and has no reason not to believe me.  He wonders how much of it is neuro-physiological and how much is psychological.  He mentioned a form of “brain test” that has three words, that I was trying to remember long enough to give my daughter a voice text, when the modern day text device started acting up on me and jangled my nerves.  So I just don’t remember the recommendation, but in any case, Dr. T was not about to presume to diagnose me on the spot.

I already know that I am completely neurodivergent and that the more I am aggravated by this condition, the better my piano playing is at the same time.   I believe the last pastor who heard me play in a church setting at a time when I was completely totally uptight will confirm that.   My piano competence is directly proportional to my incompetence in all other areas, on a varying scale day after day.

This is called neurodivergence, they call it autism spectrum, they say that bipolar affective disorder and ADHD and dyslexia are all on the spectrum, okay well what-have-you.  My friend Cody has the same condition as I do, though it manifests in a different way, and he managed to manage his piano job all right but I am a horse of a different color.  I have learned my lesson and while I am thankful for the pastor and congregation of the church where I tried to get a piano job, I cannot return to a situation that so often has not worked out, and that did not work out this time either.

I am a spiritual person, and I am a good musician, but that doesn’t make me a good church musician.  I have learned this now, and I am humbled.

Back to the morning “rage events,” as soon as I described the experience, the doctor IMMEDIATELY said to take the levothyroxine at a different time and to PLEASE jump-start my day with strong coffee and breakfast as I did prior to 2008 when all this morning torture first began.

So basically it’s the difference between starting off the day zippiidy-doo-dah in a GOOD MOOD or starting off the day in a state of neuro-catastrophe.   I would think that would be a no-brainer but every other doctor has insisted that levo can only be taken in the morning, and I didn’t fight it, because I just don’t like doctors, and usually burn out on going to see them after a few brief disagreements.

Doctors throughout my life have been these guys who have wrecked up my otherwise excellent physical health and fitness with a bunch of pills I’ve not been able to say NO to.   That I lost everything I had in 2004 because of all those pills and landed on the streets where my untreated ADHD combined with socio-economic factors made it darn near impossible to get OFF the streets is a memory I have obviously not forgotten.

So the good news is I got my morning cup of coffee back.   The doctor says that if taking the levo at a different time does not solve the rage problem — like for example if it just gets moved to a different time of day — then we know that the levo has nothing to do with it.

All I know is having a nice strong cup of coffee in the morning over breakfast and the D-News will probably go a long way toward solving the problem.

So, once again, I got my cup of coffee back.   I’m glad.

Andy

P.S. I did not succeed in remaining brief.   Thanks for bearing with me.

Gratitude List 1810

(1) Mercifully, I got my ride to Winko’s on the 2nd of the month this year (so I wouldn’t keep squandering my monthly grocery money at the nearby A&W.) Cupboards are all stocked up and shelter-positive. Furthermore, I made it all the way through the month last month on one trip to Winko’s.

(2) The Oracle Project appears to be taking form. The pastor at First Pres okayed 20 consecutive Sundays in the room housing the Great Green Piano, last night a Broadway singer-actor with a bio on Wikipedia expressed interest in singing the part of the male protagonist, three of the Kids from the previous workshops have hopped on board, and today we received an unexpected $500 donation.

(3) Thankful for Ashley Peterson. Period.

(4) It looks like my daughter and her boyfriend have landed a nice two bedroom on the Russian River, far away from the high crime district where they currently live in Oakland, California.

(5) Tomorrow is the day when I will be seeing a new doctor, strongly recommended by three members of my church. Hopefully I will have a regular personal physician for lab work, etc., and hopefully he will in some way realize that I have Severe ADHD, that this transcends any other diagnosis, and that we will together find treatment that works.

“Tis a lesson you should heed, try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again”.
    — Thomas H. Palmer 

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Gratitude List 1809

(1) This is the second day in a row that I awoke in an insanely good mood for no clear reason.

(2) Prayer works. A number of people in the local arena began to trouble me over the holidays. When I finally got around to praying for them (like I’m supposed to do, Luke 6:28 and all), something changed. What changed was that I began to see the innocence of their hearts, and I developed compassion. Since before praying, I basically hated their guts; and since after praying, I began to see them as fellow, hurting human beings, I would say that prayer works.

(3) Grateful for having reconnected with a theatre composer whom I worked with many years ago. He must be in his 80’s by now. He’s had nice things to say about some of the music I’ve written lately, and I’ve set my SoundCloud to always play his “six piano pieces”‘ by default.

(4) More money in the fundraiser. But I also just realized that it’s almost 2002 already! I better craft a detailed budget and rehearsal schedule and get on the ball here. Daylight’s burning, and I keep slacking. Definitely grateful for Karlie, who obviously knows how to sing. She may not exactly be you-know-who, but she’ll do her homework, show up on time and do the job.

(5) Tracy having published my somewhat edited column last night, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from a dear friend of mine, a gay man whom I know from Musical Theatre,. who happened to read it and was highly approbational. What I was mostly grateful for in Part One of the series is that I got agreement from left-leaning Christians, right-leaning Christians, and unbelievers alike. In this era of division, that’s the kind of thing that thrills me. Hopefully this one will also “fly” — though I had considerably more difficulty with it. Anyway – on to Part Three.

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Gratitude List 1808

(1) Seeing as it is 8 degrees Fahrenheit now, I find things such as meditation and a hot bath very useful in the absence of vigorous outdoor exercise.

(2) Very good singing lesson today.   My student and I both agreed it was very constructive.   I really enjoy the arrangement and only wish I had maybe three or four other students as well.

(3) Spontaneously came up with a fairly decent podcast that seems relevant to basic stuff that’s happening, here there and everywhere.

(4) Christmas was peaceful.  I basically just treated it like any other day, and tried not to think about all the fun other people were having that they probably weren’t having anyway.

(5)  The more I shelter, the more I notice I don’t feel like spending a lot of time online.  There’s something about doing stuff offline that is so much less anxiety-provoking.   Lots of possibilities, anyway, when one has a computer, lives alone, and has ideas.

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‘Cause this is all what I’m cracked up to be

Amid any other consideration, I must say that my eyes have been opened as to the truth about the myth of my old age.

For the second day in a row, I wore my regular comfortable old walking shoes with soles worn out and holes in the tops, and I trudged the surface more comfortably and with less inclination to slip & fall than I ever have in my boots.

I am no longer suffering under the illusion that I’m too done in to further endure the cold weather conditions with the hardiness of my lifelong modus operandi.

I walked all the way to Matt’s place, stopping at Walgreens to pick up my levo, and when the time had come, walked all the way back, hoofing it through intriguing new territory en route.

Brisk four miles of walking, feeling the cold air like a tonic salve on my lungs. Good to be home but even better to have been outdoors!

And to think I thought I was becoming a softie! I’m gonna crack the window.

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Gratitude List 1807

(1) It felt nice to get out for exercise after being “snowed in” for about a week.  It was especially good to feel the cold fresh air getting into my lungs — a welcome reprieve.

(2) Finally created the “big pitch” to be issued to the regular recipients of my irregular newsletter.  Sent it out right at solstice this morning (that is, 7:59am PST) and quickly got a one hundred dollar donation.  So now it says $300 has been donated by 4 donors when you click on the GoFundMe.  Off to a good start.

(3) Finally got all remaining Hyfrydol CDs into the mail.  Hopefully folks will still get them by Christmas.  Also, I got to talk with my friend Danielle twice today while doing errands, which was nice, her being in Georgia.

(4) A little recording made between me and my singing student confirms that my home Howard piano creates a fine sound for vocal accompaniment.  This was only a “practice take” but we can do a more refined take later.  The whole arrangement really blesses me.  

(5) Trudging in the snow, having to be extra careful even in snow boots, and feeling my fingers get all frozen over and having to thaw out over doppio in a downtown cafe, has made me very grateful for the nice warm abode in which I have been for several years so pleased to dwell.  Be it ever so humble, this is it.  

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Gratitude List 1806

(1) I turned in Part Two of my series The State of Christendom in Contemporary American Culture to Spokane Faith and Values.

(2) On Saturday, I gathered 2 hours and 40 minutes worth of conversation between me and a formerly homeless person named Benjamin Clewell for a future podcast. Though it will probably take me more than two days to edit it down to size (all things considered), I will still probably have a decent podcast by Wednesday based on Christendom Part Two.

(3) Nice to be inside the nice warm house while the snow is falling down outside my window.

(4) Thanks to enhanced income over the past two and a half months, I have paid all my back bills as well as all this month’s current ones, and am stocked up with enough food for more than a month.

(5) Karlie Smith has learned the five new songs I wrote, and also has agreed to sing on the Oracle Production Project, which is my present day baby. Am in the process of contracting other reputable people, including a bassist, guitarist and drummer of some repute. It’s all in the early planning stages – but we can make it work.

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Piano Update (Feed the Birds)

I’m so wacky from a sudden PTSD onslaught I only slept two hours I was so triggered. I’m under quarantine and trying to figure out how to set up the tripod. If I can get some sleep, I’ll feed the birds on my home Howard piano, assuming I figure out the tripod, which procedure is grossly inhibited by the severity of my ADHD. Ah – were it not for mental health diagnoses, where would we be? Catch y’all soon.

Homelessness and Health Care

I was asked by students at the nursing school of Lewis- Clark State College to give a four minute summary of issues that homeless people typically have when it comes to accessing health care. A more detailed account of this issue may be found on my SoundCloud involving original incidental music from one of my musicals, The Burden of Eden.  

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The Leprosy of Homelessness

“The Leprosy of Homelessness” was first posted to my online diary on July 14, 2016.  I believe nine “followers” had access to these words.

As you may recall, on July 17, 2016, I fell to my knees, sick with a flu and suffering outside, and screamed to the heavens that Somebody would put a stop to all this homelessness. On July 27, 2016, I stepped off the bus in the city where I was born, a city where I’d not been for 63 years. On September 1, 2016, I signed a one-year-lease on my first apartment here.

I unearthed “The Leprosy of Homelessness” two days ago, while searching for the address of a guy named Barry who had me stay with him throughout December of 2010. I wanted to find it so I can pay off a $40 debt that’s been nagging at me.

I’m incredibly sick with this awful flu, more so than even at the start. I’m outside in the elements. I’m sick with a flu. Don’t people get it? They ask me things like: “If you’re homeless, how come you have a laptop?” As though a homeless person couldn’t own a laptop.

They ask me where I’m sending these messages from if I’m homeless? I tell them I’m sitting outside the Burlingame Public Library shivering with my laptop plugged into their outdoor power outlet.  But they don’t believe me.

People always act like I’m trying to pull of some kind of scam — just because I’m homeless, or else the scam is that I am homeless — if like say, they know me from the Internet, and they think I’m “too intelligent to be homeless.”  They further suspect me of being a liar, a scammer, a hustler, a criminal, and a crook.  But why? Can people not believe that my situation is as critical as it is??

I petitioned everyone on my Facebook friends list to let me in for a few days, so I can recover. But of course nobody will let me in. I got kicked of the homeless shelter where I caught it, because they figured I would spread it. The hospital wouldn’t let me in. They said if they let me in, they’d have to let “all of us” in. I got kicked off the night bus because it was obvious I was sick–and I get it.  I might contaminate somebody.  But I’m only trying to stay alive — why am I getting all this suspicion and distrust? Or worse yet, indifference?

It reminds me of that scene in New York where something like fifty-one people watched a guy get stabbed to death and nobody wanted to get involved. It was a big news story when I was a kid. Or even in Berkeley a couple years ago, where that guy beat this guy to death with a tire iron for asking him for a cigarette. People stood by and watched, and I remember somebody shouted: “Somebody with a gun, shoot that guy!” But whoever might have had a gun (who knows?) nobody brought it out, nobody shot the guy. Everybody just watched as he beat the guy to death before the police came.

You guys have been following me here.  You’re all in my corner.  We’re all cool.  But say if I were to post it on my Facebook (which I just might), people are  probably only going to say: “Aw, come on, Andy! Get a grip!” But that’s because they don’t know. They can’t imagine. I put all these words together, in an effort to get people to picture what it’s like down here, but usually the only response is: “I can’t imagine what it must be like.”

I become infuriated. I want to say: “Did you even read a single word I wrote? Are my writing skills and my communication skills so God-awfully bad that after I go out of my way to describe what it’s like, all you can say is “I can’t imagine what it must be like?” It’s damned insulting! If someone’s not interested in what it’s like down here, why don’t they just say so? Or else, don’t follow me, for God’s sake.

When a number of my acquaintances died on the streets of Berkeley a while back, I would write to my brother and my remaining friends in the Mainstream trying to demonstrate how somebody would not have died had they been inside, or had they even had a dollar or two to ride all night on one of those buses. First off, people have a hard time figuring out why we have trouble coming up with a dollar or two, or why a couple bucks is going to make such a huge difference in a homeless person’s life. But I watched Darlene die overnight. She didn’t need to die! Two bucks would have saved Darlene’s life.

I told my friends about it. They offered condolences, and their condolences were accepted. But this was not about receiving condolences. I hardly knew her. I hardly knew Tom, or Jimmy, or any of them. I only know that they were outside trying to deal with medical conditions that are best dealt with inside, and that they died. I was trying to illustrate how in one guy’s case, three bucks would have spared his life. But people don’t want to hear that. They only want to shrug it off with a superficial condolence: “I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your friend.” Unless the person was of crucial closeness to them, they don’t really care how they died. And me? I care – because I’m one of them. I care – because I’m trying to get a point across.

We are a nation that has become plagued with the Leprosy of Homelessness. And it is entirely unnecessary! Services, Shelters – they will not solve the problem. They do not address the core heart of the issue. They only keep a person bound in the shame and stigma of a conspicuously visible condition that nobody wants to look at. Why? Is it because they know inwardly how soon it could happen to them? They, after all, are human too – like us. Or are we human? Do we need to be dehumanized in order for our separation from the rest of humanity to be complete? If that’s what it is going to take to ease the conscience of the Mainstream, I guarantee you, that’s what’s going to happen.

It happened in Nazi Germany. Don’t think it can’t happen here.

So I used one of the H-words and both of the S-words.  “Homeless, Shelter & Services” have come out of my mouth, but not “Housing.”  I shoot myself in the foot every time I use these “buzz words.”  A “real human being” doesn’t seek “shelter” — he seeks a “place to live” for God’s sake!  But what does it matter now? In the light of possible death, what does my recently accelerated search for dignified indoor dwelling mean now? Not much. God will provide me the dignified internal dwelling space that I need. And outside will be dogs, and adulterers, and idolaters, and every person who loves the lie more than the the truth – because their deeds are evil. — (And that’s Revelation 22:15 in case you suddenly thought I was a great poet.)  Do you want to be that kind of person? Do you want to be outside the gates of the City of God?

Probably not, if you really were to stop to think about it. I know I wouldn’t want to be excluded among everybody who loved and practiced falsehood. That’s why I’m so adamant about getting a truth across, a truth that in this society, as concerned as we are with liberty and justice for all, most of us have not really paused to consider. I know I didn’t, before I was thrust into first-time homelessness back in 2004.

So consider these words of truth. These are not the rantings of a political radical with an aggressive agenda. They are the best words I can think of to describe a reality that affects me and my homeless brothers and sisters every single day of our lives. How many times has it been been pouring rain in a thunderstorm, and a single dollar got me into McDonald’s for a senior cup of coffee, to get out of the rain? Lots of times. How do I get that dollar? Well, some people called “hustlers” don’t have too hard a time running up to every Tom, Dick, and Harry saying “Spare some change? Spare a dollar? Spare a dollar? Spare some change!” But can you imagine me doing something like that? I sure hope you can’t. I can’t. And I’ve been homeless for the better part of twelve years.

Homeless – for the better part of twelve years. How many times have I had the flu in those twelve years?Exactly twice. Like I said, God bless her, the first time my friend D. was able to take seven hundred bucks off of her credit card – I didn’t even ask for it, God bless her – and that got me a hotel room for a couple weeks. When I got my check at the top of the next month, I sent her the seven hundred dollars back. That was a totally positive, one-time huge favor that she did for somebody she cared about. She can’t do it right now. Why?

For one thing, she has to take care of her mom and her brother, and have them in her house, crowded though it might have been, because they were in some kind of straits, and I don’t want to go into the personal financial details of a friend of mine, but suffice it to say she helped them out at a time when they needed to be let indoors. And this, she did while six months pregnant with her first child.

I also know for a fact that George would let me in if he didn’t have his nephew and his sister over their right now, and his wife hadn’t have broken her leg, because that’s just the type of guy he is. Hell, D would probably buy me a house if she had the money. One time when I needed to eat, George and his wife went out of their way to meet me at a Burger King near a motel I had put money down on, and make sure I ate, and make sure I had some cash. I told D about this, and she immediately quoted the Proverb: “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

That’s for sure. I don’t want to talk about my brother– and you don’t want to ask about him. I love my brother and he loves me — and let’s leave it at that. We just don’t see things the same way. He’s helped me when he could help, and I have appreciated it. But that help stops at the border marked by his front door. Now let me reiterate: I have been homeless throughout most of the last twelve years. In that period of time, exactly five people have let me so much as walk through their front doors, at a time while I was homeless. George was one of them. This guy Barry was another.  And a stranger wants had me over for spaghetti and a shower.  And Howard let me house-sit.  And then there was Art.

And Barry – I don’t even know this man very well. I remember he and his wife were extremely cordial and accommodating. I got a lot of music written. There was some issue about my “panic attacks” but it wasn’t so bad, if I recall. Later, however, Carol had to take care of her granddaughter – so my staying over there wasn’t an option. But when it was an option, what a wonderful period it was in my life! I got so much music written. Why? Because somebody let me in, at a time when I was not able to get myself “in” – by myself. It’s that simple.

But year after year goes by, day after day. The times I’ve even been let inside somebody’s car now amount to exactly twice. The people who have let me in their cars are Paul and Cary. It might have been Paul’s girlfriend’s car, but the point is WOW! Somebody actually trusted a homeless person to sit in the back seat of their car!! I felt LOVED. Loved! You can’t imagine what it feels like to step inside somebody’s house, and feel the sense of home – the sense of protection, the sense of warmth – the sense of LOVE!!

The feeling of stepping into a MacDonald’s in the rain, of getting that single dollar – believe me, I might not feel loved by the person who let me have a dollar, but I feel loved by God when that kind of thing happens. He will not chasten me forever. He will, in the end, be merciful. And God will always, always let me in. All I need do, is knock.

Knock – and He will open. Ask – and He will answer. Seek – and He will be found. And I will seek Him! And I will find Him — in the day when I seek Him with all of my heart.

I recently reconnected with my old friend Sara, a Christian musician. I was chatting with her last night, pondering if I should remove my previous post on the matter, wondering if it was too strident, if I ought to have been more mellow, if I ought to have been less dramatic, perhaps, and most importantly, if I risked laying a guilt trip on everybody.

She instantly said: “Leave it.”

I asked her: “Why?”

She said: “You spoke from your heart. You’ve told them – the hospital does not have beds reserved for illnesses that are readily dealt with in people’s homes. You don’t have a home. Your only recourse is for somebody to let you in – or else for you to get a motel room, which costs money you don’t have. So why aren’t they letting you in? Leave it! They should feel guilty.”

Be that as it may. If my brother were to call me up, and he had lost everything, and he was out on the streets, and he asked me to please let him stay over for a few days, there would be no guilt left for me, but only the joy of being able to say: “Steve, you’re my brother, I’ll get the coffee on, you get over here right now!

Why someone would prefer guilt to that simple surrender of love that lets their own family back in their house, is beyond me. But maybe someone has something to hide. That’s the condemnation, right? The guilt Jesus talks about in the third chapter of the Gospel of John. “And this is the condemnation: the people loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil.”

Evil? Am I the one who called you evil? If you’re evil, then I am evil as well. Compared to GOD, we’re ALL evil! So you don’t want me to see the messy kitchen. So maybe you watch porn and you don’t want anyone to know about it. Am I going to go about snitching you out in light of you having done something so huge as to have been the sixth person in twelve years to let me inside your front door??

Or is it me? Do I smell? That Mexican gal on the train sure didn’t seem to mind. Am I a space case? Will I rant and rave and talk your ear off? You can stick a rubber ball in my mouth for all I care. Will I space something out? Leave a towel on the bathroom floor? Leave the broiler oven on all night? Probably – but really – is the just punishment for being the Absent-Minded Professor — HOMELESSNESS???

Do I have anything to hide? I daresay I do not! I knock – and He is opening. I ask – and He is answering. I seek – and He is found. For I have sought Him, and I have found Him, in the day when I will have sought Him with my whole heart.

That day – is today.

Let me in. If you don’t, He will.

I have nothing to lose.

Andy Pope
Burlingame, CA
July 14, 2015

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Gratitude List 1805

(1) The two people with whom I’ve had the closest contact since summer have both tested positive for Covid-19, two days apart. Thankfully, each of them is young, they both work out, and neither of them has pre-existing physical health conditions. Also, I’m relatively low risk because it had been a while since I’d seen them. Still, this was a wake-up, causing me to realize how much time I’ve been spending in high-stress environments full of Covid Confusion. I’d forgotten how much sheltering in place agrees with me. Now I remember, and I’m glad.

(2) The pastor of the new church gave me a downstairs office where I can prepare for the service in quietude. I’ll let her know on Saturday (when I get my Covid test results) if I’ll be able to use it this Sunday. Grateful for her caring, and for the knowledge that she’ll keep me on payroll even if I test positive and can’t show up for a while.

(3) Finished the 4th draft of Part Two of my critique of contemporary American Christianity. Submitted it to Dr Kurt Q for proofing and will submit it to Spokane Faith and Values thereafter.

(4) The bio and synopsis pages on this website have been considerably corrected! An old friend wrote the bio, and someone named Anonymous wrote a very eloquent A-Z synopsis, revealing the complete story line of Eden in Babylon. Web site now includes all materials needed for anyone to produce the show, shy of guitar chords.

(5) Thankful for the good friends I have made in this life, and for the ever-increasing friendship I’ve been forming with my 36 year old daughter. Life can be sweet, and even its trials can be used to enhance the depths of joy that lay dormant within our spirits.

“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
— Albert Einstein

Dark Holly

“Dark Holly” is a medley of various themes sacred & secular, based on the French version of the Christmas carol “The Holly and the Ivy.” This is not to be confused with the more well-known English version, which is in a major key. The French version is in a minor key — and my version is even darker.  I’ll try to lighten things up next week with maybe “Sleigh Ride” or something along brighter lines.   Enjoy —

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Gratitude List 1804

(1) After an unusually stressful day yesterday, I came home and decided to shelter in place till Thursday. It seems a nice time to read & reflect, maybe write a little, listen to music, play the piano — and only go out for exercise. It’s interesting that it feels like I’m “on vacation” in my own place of residence! Grateful for the solitude; grateful for the leisure.

(2) On a similar note, I’m grateful for Zoom meetings.   I only have two Zoom commitments in the next three days, but neither of these people could care less if I showed up in my bathrobe.  Grateful not to have to go through a totally stressful process in order to arrive somewhere on time.  I really don’t miss searching for my keys, my wallet, my glasses, my mask, my iPhone, and whatever else I need, putting down one thing unconsciously somewhere while picking up the other, and worrying all the time that I’m going to be twenty minutes late because of it.   With Zoom, a cup of coffee, and a couple clicks of a mouse, we’re rollin.’

(3) Grateful for running and for the role it has played throughout my life.   Did two miles yesterday charging up the hill and feeling quite chipper.

(4) Although I lost the beanie I have worn every day for nearly four years now, and although it is nowhere to be found, and although it felt really strange to go through two church services and a Choir rehearsal in my fedora, I am very grateful to have run into a certain Math professor who, feeling my plight, responded by gifting me with his beanie.   Grateful for this wonderful little college town and all the nice people whom I have met here.

(5) Speaking of loss, I may have overreacted recently in interpreting a certain person’s professional declining to complete a project “at this time” as a “loss.”  Something in the wording sounded like they never wanted to see me again.   Later, I found that I was reading too much into their words — due to my own abandonment issues.   Anything is possible.   Though this particular project has been suspended, there may be a project in the foreseeable future wherein they & I just happen to come together again.   And that may be sooner than we think.

It is nice to be valued.   But it’s even nicer to value someone.   I’m very grateful for the beautiful artistic experience that this very impressive person has brought to my life.

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club.”

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Piano Update — “Get Together”

I made it over to the Baldwin Grand yesterday and played a version of the song “Get Together” by Dino Valenti.  You may know it.   It’s a 60’s tune popularized by the Youngbloods.  It has lyrics such as these:

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love on another
Right now!

Certainly a fitting theme for the present day.   To look at social media posts, one would think we’re all intent on doing the exact opposite — and hating one another.   

I myself found myself in a PTSD flashback for the first time in several months yesterday.    As the details were amplified, I found myself hating an entire social group, to which many of my friends belong.   This amounts to nothing more than stigma and prejudice, which I decry.   So while it hurts my heart to have found myself entertaining stigmatic perceptions that I abhor, it does evidence the fact that we are all human.  We are all — as the song goes — “but a moment’s sunlight fading in the grass.”

Interesting that in this account of the song’s history, those lyrics are referenced as “Zen-like.”  Perhaps so, but it’s sad that these are direct allusions to Christian views of the human condition that were widespread back in those days, and associated with what used to be known as “Christian Love.”

As we all know, Christianity these days is less associated in the common populace with love, and more associated with judgment.   Maybe the tides need to turn, yet again.   

Anyway I have to take care of some personal needs and I’ll have the song uploaded later on this afternoon.   Thanks for listening.  

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Gratitude List 1803

(1) This is the year that my best friend and I reconciled after not talking with each other for eight years.

(2) This is the year when I finally realized that the Latah Recovery Center is a very positive place for me to be.

(3) As of the beginning of this month, I have paid my rent on time for four years, in an ideal one bedroom apartment in an out-of-the-way location. For the first time in many years — 22 to be exact — I have had my own place and my own space.

(4) Last year and this year, I have had the opportunity to use skills that I have missed using, and I have been surrounded by a group of young people who admire me for those skills — and more. A church also let me use their rehearsal space and piano free of charge for this project, and continue to allow me to play an outstanding Baldwin GP-190 concert grand most every Friday to make my YouTubes.

(5) This year I got a job playing piano at a small church. Not only that, but my local reputation was good enough that they hired me over the phone without asking for references. I’m about to fulfill my 9th week there and get my second month paycheck.

(6) Thanks to a guy named Cody, I have seen two live musicals and now an amazing musical movie — Les Miserables — in the past month.

(7) This is the year when enough people believed in a certain project of mine that they collectively donated $1500 in an 11 day period in order to help me finance a summer workshop.

(8) I have a wonderful 36 year old daughter with whom I am forming a meaningful lifelong friendship.

(9) For 14 years now, I have had an intelligent, compassionate Christian friend named Danielle, and I don’t know where I would be without her.

(10) Somebody gave me a great coffeemaker when I needed one. With it I have made the current cup of coffee with which I am revving up to do the four mile run I have done every Thursday since 1976 except for the three years when I was fat and a handful of other scattered odd years. And God gave me perfect running weather on this day. Makes me wonder who much I can possibly give Him in return. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Gratitude List 1802

(1) Z’s singing lesson went well again & we also had a great conversation. I felt this rush of gratitude as soon as I started playing my standard vocal warm-ups. This is especially heartwarming considering that five or six years ago, I was fairly convinced I would never be able to use those skills again.

(2) Heard from Keva whose show has closed now so we can get back to the album. For those of you have already bought it, we may be doing touch-ups on a couple of the earlier five tunes, as we gradually put the next five together. Grateful for Keva’s professionalism.

(3) Thankful for my gig at the nursing home, where I met a really interesting pastor / long distance runner who just agreed to have lunch with me next week.

(4) Check it out: Over 4500 views on “An Affair to Remember.” I even got a couple of downvotes! I must be moving up in the world. :)

(5) Shivering last night, I grabbed a second blanket and suddenly felt the same gratitude I used to feel when I needed another blanket when I was shivering outdoors. I always said “Thank you Lord” as soon as the second blanket made the shivers stop — and I said those words last night as well. Nothing like feeling God’s got you covered! (Let that sink in.)

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Rent

The ol’ bones are movin’ a bit slow this morning. Rainin’ cats & dogs too. Okay so what am I excusing myself over? Well – I missed it last week & really want to get down to the grand piano and do a version of “All You Need is Love.”

Give me a little time to figure out a way down to the church. In the meantime you can read these thoughts I jotted down in my personal journal last night before bedtime.

Rent at Eastern

Being as I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve stepped away from the Palouse Empire in five years, it sure felt nice to get out of town for the evening. Just got back.

We were running a little late and got there just as the show was starting. They weren’t reserved seats — it was self-seating after proof of purchase. The only two seats left together were in the front row right by the (stage right) orchestra.

Quick rundown. Production was great, artistic direction was great, most actors were very good, vocal direction outstanding. Neither Cody nor I had ever seen the show before. He was displeased on the basis of perceiving the show to lack a solid plot line or sympathetic characters (the latter of which is debatable. Lack of a solid plot line may have been intentional, but the “wrapped up” ending makes me wish [a certain company] had gone ahead and produced The Burden of Eden, because one of the three reasons why they said they didn’t was because the ending was ‘wrapped up.’ Maybe I should have pointed out their hypocrisy when they produced RENT – but you know, I’m a nobody. It would have been like pointing out the “hypocrisy” of — (edit: TMI).

I didn’t like the first Act music very much. Also, this modern treatment of musical theatre, making it somewhat more like an opera (with limited spoken dialogue and lots of sung dialogue), is something it always takes me a while to get used to. It wasn’t till Act 2 that I could really appreciate the flow of it (and as Cody pointed out, the music in Act 2 seemed better too.) Once I got adjusted to it, it got better and became more appreciable.

I see how several musicals I’ve seen in recent years have followed this pattern: Sideshow was like that, and Sunset Blvd, and now Rent. It does make my work appear to be very old-fashioned, at least in structure, if not in content.

Cast was full of very strong singers, everyone with an individual body mike. Two of these singers were exceptional, those being Keva and the woman opposite her, whose name I don’t recall. Strong black woman, super voice, hit a high C & did not screech.

I turned to Cody and whispered: “Judge Jimson, Eden in Babylon.” We talked about it after the show and he concurred.

Cody commented that Keva’s performance was all-round the best performance of the show, though he copped to being biased.

I replied that even if I hadn’t have been biased, I’d have dubbed her the best performance. She was phenomenal. Singing-wise I heard some notes and turns of phrase that, in my experience, only Keva Shull can pull off effectively. And that Acting is nothing to shake a stick at. Keva’s primary artistic identification is “Musician” but the subtlety of her Acting skills is something she may not have fully recognized. I just wish we could somehow get EIB up in time for Kev to actually be Taura before she becomes too old to play a female character who is specifically written to be 18 years old exactly.

I’m trying to remember if there was ever a time in my life, maybe on one of my better MD gigs, when there were enough great singers to choose from, whenever I had some kind of musical project going on. I don’t think so – maybe back in the 80’s when I was MD of UC Davis Student Musical Theatre — yeah it seems I wasn’t hurting for female voices back then. But it also seems to me that this time in life is unique.

Maybe EIB being “different” – and this era being different — the production of it will be mounted from a radically different approach. Something tells me that’s the best bet. I just have to really reflect on how to go about it, and how to keep people on board.

Or maybe there will a magic moment when Kelsey or somebody finds a theatre in Portland or somewhere that she just happens to describe the show to, and they just happen to be interested — and a bunch of other things just “happen.”

God can make it all happen, if He wants to. I just have to seek Him. He can do it, where I can’t.

Space was pretty cool, we were up close of course, but it was proscenium and pretty cozy. I do love the way that “Seasons of Love” figures throughout Act Two.

About the five remaining songs for the album, I agreed with Keva just to leave her with the four of them and let her choose the fifth when we wax, which now looks like Winter break. We’re going to try and see Cody in Jane Eyre at that time.

Had a lot of weird new thoughts about myself and all the strange little things I keep doing wrong, or doing period — stuff I just need to chuck. Somehow it comes clear to me during a rare trip out of town, and somehow it becomes vague again as soon as I get behind my computer.

Well – it was a beautiful night. I’ll probably be back in the morning.

10:27 p.m. – 2021-11-18

Gratitude List 1801

(1) We’ve been getting a lot of good rain lately.

(2) Definitely been living a bit more comfortably this month, having the additional income from the church.

(3) Though Kurt and I only had a half hour to meet yesterday on Zoom, it was a strong meeting, and I felt enthused afterwards.  Mostly talked about the introduction and first chapter of Ashley Peterson’s new book, A Brief History of Stigma.  (He hadn’t read it, but I had.)  I related mainly how stigma is employed by dominant class groups and also how it is produced through the social construction of reality.  I’d thought such things before but had not seen them presented in such a scholarly way until now.  Kurt was able to enlighten me somewhat as to why that might be.

(4) I’ve been decidedly spending much more time outdoors than usual–despite changes in the weather (or in a way, because of them.)  If it’s not raining, I better just get out there and experience it.  It’s a great antidote to the gnawing sense of stagnation that often strikes after spending too much time in the house alone.

(5) Cody & I got tickets for this Thursday night to go see Keva in Rent at Eastern Washington University.  This will be a nice change-of-pace, involving a trip out of town (out of State, technically) – and a nice reconnection–not to mention she’s going to be great on those Idina Menzel tunes.  It will be great to see her.

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Gratitude List 1800

(1) I created a new piano album called Hyfrydol (after the Welsh hymn that is included on the album).  My friend Kathy designed the cover, and sales of CDs have been going very well locally.

(2) Received a first paycheck for a month of work at the new church, and my student paid me in cash for two months of lessons last Saturday.  So I’m enjoying a distinctly increased income this month (though at the same time, I’m trying to forget about it, so I don’t fall into the trap of thinking I’m “rich.”)

(3) I finished four of the five new songs for Keva and have sent them to her, piano practice takes — lyric sheets, lead sheets, etc.  Don’t expect to hear from her very soon (as her show is opening on November 17th), but I also have been enjoying getting the tunes out to various instrumentalists and back-up-singer types who may be interested.

(4) Found a complete Hal Leonard “Essential Songs of Broadway” book with piano-vocal arrangements of over 85 classic show tunes.  This will be good to keep around in general, and to work with Zazen in particular.

(5) Good meeting with Kurt yesterday, though I sent him a misleading email capsulizing my new theory, and was not able to complete some essential thoughts during the course of being questioned about it.   This is inspiring an exhaustive email that may later morph into a blog post, column, or bigger.  I do enjoy writing on certain themes, and I am thankful for the leisure I’ve been granted to exercise these gifts.

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Gratitude List 1799

(1) It’s nice to have a roof over my head and be able to listen to the rain outside my open window. It’s been a welcome switch, as of the past five years, from being rained on more routinely, and settling for that mode of existence — as though nothing good could possibly have followed it.

(2) An unsettling period of cognitive dissonance is finding resolution.   Specifically, I need believe neither of what the two similar-but-not-identical groups of people seem to believe about me.  Rather, my belief about myself may stem from a source entirely removed from the groupthink of either group.   This more truthful, unified belief may inform my actions with both groups, and with any group, and with all individuals, for that matter.   I need let neither group define me.  

(3) The lady who works graveyard shift at the nearby 24-hour convenience store has subscribed to my SoundCloud channel and listened to all my podcasts.   

(4) The more I scan the panorama of various conflicting news sources, and the more I read the columns of those purporting to assent or object to the columns of various other columnists, the more I find that I want nothing further to do with journalism in the least, and the more I am content to resume my various unfinished artistic projects.  In particular, I find I truly enjoy writing meaningful lyrics to strains of wordless music that keep pleasantly playing in my head.

(5) I really have everything I always dreamed of having, all those years when I was homeless.   The task appears to be to utilize it according to the fulfilment of those dreams — not according to some past, failed social edict that, after all, had the power to kick me out onto the streets to begin with.   It’s great to have been blessed with this great gift, and to be able to see by comparison, by hindsight, how great a gift it truly is.   

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Name of Tune Revealed

It behooves me at this time to announce the winner of last week’s contest.   The correct original name of the piece I played last week is “Hyfrydol” — a Welsh hymn whose title roughly means “delightful.”  It was composed by Rowland Pritchard in the early 1800’s.

Since then, it has been known by various titles — some sacred, some secular.   Among these are “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” “Jesus What a Friend of Sinners” and “Blue Boat Home.”

And the winner is Jodie Tooley, pastor of the United Church of Moscow!  Jodie was the first person on my Friday Piano List to correctly identify this tune by its original title. Here is the song again, now correctly titled and credited:

Jodie will get a free beverage of her choice, and a piano CD of mine, at the establishment of her choice. If you would like to be on the Friday Piano List, please submit your email address on my Contact Page.

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Gratitude List 1798

(1) Ran five miles yesterday. First five miler in the past 35 days since I’ve been decidedly getting into shape. Also, first five miler at 2500ft altitude. I’m eager to get back down to sea level and run a 10-K.

(2) I’ve selected all five songs in order to complete the Keva album. It’s been a rush to find myself writing musical theatre lyrics again. I’ve written lyrics to two of the tunes I wrote down in Berkeley, and I’m happy with the lyrics. I’ve also resurrected a song called “The Joke,” and I’ve scored all three songs for female voice on Finale. Three songs completely scored, two to go.

(3) Also I’ve been coaching Zazen in singing for musical theatre. Cody let me borrow his Andrew Lloyd Webber anthology, also selections from Les Miserables. She’s working on “On My Own” and “Memory” now; also, my song “I Know Who You Are” that I wrote back in Berkeley, whose lyrics I just wrote last week.

(4) Tonight both of my theology groups are having a joint meeting at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Theology Afield hasn’t met for 18 months now, and we’re combining with Theology on Tap (a Lutheran group), for the duration now, meeting monthly at the church. Tonight’s material has to do with the Afghan refugees and the biblical stance concerning caring for refugees from other lands. I’m also really eager to see everybody again — it should be great!

(5) In general, I am really enjoying not being as stressed out as I often was throughout the time when we were workshopping Eden in Babylon. It’s been nice to do my running and do my Art – and do the things that I enjoy – free of time pressure and other stressors. It’s what retirement is all about, and I’m grateful.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” — Marie Curie

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The State of Christendom in Contemporary American Culture: Part One

Recently a friend of mine who has been struggling with alcoholism lost his job, lost his car, and was forced to sleep outdoors. Logically, he figured this might be a good time to check into a rehab.

Finding an affordable Christian rehab, he did so.

When queried at the intake as to his religious beliefs, he specified a Native American religion that had been handed down through his ancestry.

“Well you can forget about all that stuff right now!” they replied.

This naturally struck him as a bit disrespectful, as well as unrealistic.

“The only way you’re going to get into heaven is by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and all that other junk is of the devil.”

Again, my friend found this quite off-putting. But he followed through.

He further reported that in the next two days, he was told that Covid 19 is a hoax, that the vaccines are deadly, and that all gay and trans people are going to hell. On the third day, after enduring a four-hour sermon, he walked out.

And I can’t say that I blame him! I’m a person who considers the Bible to be my primary source of moral authority and practice. And yet, I would have gladly taken my sleeping bag out into a field somewhere, rather than to tolerate such a barrage of brimstone.

People often perceive decisions such as my friend and I would make as “impatient.” But consider the kinds of things with which one has to be patient in such a scenario:

Steady indoctrination against one’s lifelong values that has nothing to do with the reason why one is in rehab.

According to the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous — otherwise known as the “Big Book” — an alcoholic is “a person who has lost the ability to control [their] drinking.” This loss of agency with respect to alcohol implies that alcoholism is a condition — not a choice. This is why it is often referred to as “the disease of alcoholism.”

If a person has a disease, then they are in need of healing. I think it’s safe to say that the power of healing and the power of indoctrination are just about direct opposites. Indoctrination – of any kind – does not heal. It wounds.

A sense of being forced to make a decision by people who cannot possibly make that decision on one’s behalf.

You can’t force somebody to accept Christ. Jesus comes into people’s lives when He chooses to.

When I came to Christ in the Spring of 1983, I was completely alone inside my rented cottage. Sure, Christians had witnessed to me. Sure, I had been drawn to a Bible verse, here and there. But at about one in the morning on a certain unknown date, I read a passage that so eerily applied to my exact situation at the moment, that I was moved to take that Bible down to an all-night restaurant, where I opened it to the Book of Isaiah. Convinced of its power and beauty, convinced that it represented the power and beauty of Jesus Christ, I accepted Christ the following morning.

To my view, God chose that moment to convince me. From there, I did the rest.

Many of the tenets espoused have nothing to do with the Bible or with Christ. This is dangerous.

We see this happening all over Christendom in contemporary American culture. Preachers from certain pulpits preach just enough “love God, love your neighbor as yourself” to appeal to parishioners who truly seek to do good things — and throw in a little hate against gays and hate against women while they’re at it. Those in the pews are often susceptible to both. They frequently fail to “swallow the meat and spit out the bones.”

Someone in a very vulnerable position, such as a homeless alcoholic seeking recovery, might be particularly susceptible to false teaching. They might soak in the truth of the Gospel along with the balderdash, and be challenged to discern between the two.

A sense that one has willfully entered a program in need of true help, and instead is being hurt more than one is helped.

I have seen this happen far too often.

A sense of disappointment that these people are “supposed to be Christians — supposed to be about love.”

I find this occurring less often than some decades ago. Less and less in our culture is the word “Christian” associated with someone who seeks to love God and love one’s neighbor as oneself. In the 50’s, when I was growing up, people used to say things like: “Hey thanks! That was really Christian of you!” Meaning, a good deed had been done.

Nowadays, I meet lots of people who, when they hear the word “Christian,” are much more apt to think of someone who imposes their values upon others, rather than lives those values themselves.

We who believe in Jesus need to take a hard look at where our churches may be headed. Even in the 80’s, when televangelists were first on the rise, and a gigantic sweep of conservative “born-again Christianity” seemed to consume the nation, I felt there was something wrong in the emphasis.

Specifically, it was not enough for me to have “accepted Christ.” I was also strongly influenced to accept every tenet of the Republican Party — even those with which I disagreed.

I consider myself to be a believer who has accepted Christ – who changed his worldview one morning, and never changed it back. But this particular believer cannot believe what has happened to Christendom in contemporary American culture.

This piece was first published last Thursday on Spokane Faith & Values.

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Gratitude List 1797

(1) The A&W opened up again after being closed several weeks due to understaff. So I was able to have one of their nice fish sandwiches. Then at the Recovery Center there was apple pie and a banana. So I got to start off with three healthy things in a row.

(2) I’ve run four miles four times in the past 32 days since I’ve been at it again, in addition to many shorter runs, bicycle rides, and brisk walks. Very thankful for vigorous exercise, and for the beautiful days we’ve had lately to motivate it.

(3) Played my third service at the new church yesterday, Did a Shaker tune, “‘Tis a gift to be simple” for a prelude, having heard mention of it during Sunday School. Also enjoyed the adult Sunday School, which they call “Faith Explorations.” Then they decided to start the Choir up again, and asked me to sing bass. The church makes me feel warm inside.

(4) Had a nice Zoom conversation with my lifelong best friend on Saturday. It’s great to have reconciled, and our friendship is stronger than it ever was before.

(5) Had a great conversation with one of the Kids who has struggled with an issue I myself have struggled with. She and her sister and sister’s best friend may join me in forming a support group to address this issue. Also very grateful for the Kids, as always. Life has its challenges, but there is joy and promise — where they can be found — if we seek them.

“The sun never stops shining. Sometimes, clouds just get in the way.”
— Anonymous

Re: Name This Tune

I’ve received a number of equally correct answers to the question I asked in the previous post. However, since I also asked the question to the 150+ recipients on my Friday Piano List, I’m going to wait a while before revealing the answer. The “winner” will be the first person who told me the original, single-word title. This occurred at about one in the afternoon today.

New Lyrics Update

In a certain school of thought having to do with musical theatre, the composer-lyricist writes the music first — having a general idea what the song will be about — and then writes the lyrics second.

I’ve talked to a lot of singer-songwriters who think this is totally backwards, But there’s a method to the musical theatre mania.

Cole Porter was one such composer. All those great tunes — “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “Night and Day,” even “Love for Sale” — were once instrumental pieces of music with no lyrics whatsoever. I am of his school of thought. If I were to write the lyrics first, the music would suffer. I would be trying to squeeze music to previously provided lyrics. As a composer, it would seem as though it wasn’t even my own music. The lyrics would also suffer, because they wouldn’t have the benefit of there being good music already prepared to match them.

Now, I realize that my argument is illogical thus far, because I have made no effort to demonstrate the primacy of music over lyrics in the little world of musical theatre that lives inside my head.

Therefore, I can only make too more-or-less empirical observations:

(1) I very much enjoy finding lyrics that match my previously composed music. Yesterday I did it twice — I finally wrote lyrics to “I Know Who You Are” and “Bone of My Bones” — two songs whose music I wrote in Berkeley in 2016. And Keva’s going to sing them, and I’m jazzed.

(2) Whenever I have written a musical play, people invariably report that among the three main components of a musical theatre libretto — book, music & lyrics — the lyrics are the best. With The Burden of Eden, for example, people mostly said: “Lyrics are outstanding, script is very good, music is kinda so-so.” For Eden in Babylon, it was mostly: “Music is great, script seems all right, but man those lyrics!”

Now I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but if there were ever a renaissance of a culture that had an appreciation for traditional musical theatre mores, I would be right there. Since there isn’t, I just want to thank everyone who has purchased our Keva album, and let you know that the lead sheets to “Bone of My Bones” and “I Know Who You Are” are in her inbox, as we speak.

Two down, three to go.

Keva Album Update

Here’s the situation on the album Keva & I are releasing.  You can hear the first song “Time Will Tell” without paying for it.  But you can only hear it three times for free.  To download it, you have to pay $3 USD for it.

If you download it, you will also receive full lyrics to each song, as well as a brief history of the songs — when they were written, who else has performed them, and so forth.

You can click on the thumbnail to get the entire album.   

Right now there are five tunes on it, all for $10.  Ultimately, there will be ten songs on it.  If you buy it now, you get all ten songs for the same ten bucks.  If you wait until all the songs are on it, you may have to pay more than ten bucks.

Finally, if you wish to pay more than $3/song and $10/album, feel free. Many of us are strapped these days, however, so I can understand if you don’t. But I hope you will kindly consider supporting this endeavor at this time.

Gratitude List 1796

(1) Sleeping much better lately, including an eight hour bout last night. This may be due to my exercise program. The four mile run on Wednesday was particularly exhilarating, and three mile brisk walks before bedtime have helped as well.

(2) I have 153 subscribers on my YouTube Channel now. (Last I checked it was just over 100.) This is motivating me to practice more regularly on the grand piano at the church, and also invest in some new duds. (Getting more plays on my SoundCloud too).

(3) Had a great experience playing at a nursing home yesterday afternoon (an ongoing volunteer gig that Cody landed for me). Exchanged numbers with the pastor, who had just ran a half-marathon and whose Christian leanings are akin to my own. Also got the number of the lady who runs the program, a widow whose husband was involved in Theatre Arts at WSU, and who herself is a musical theatre choreographer. Turns out she shares my philosophy.

(4) Keva & I are both jazzed about doubling the size of the current BandCamp album. I’ve been writing lyrics to some of the music I wrote in Berkeley, and this one tune is coming out quite nicely. It’s jazzy and suits her voice. Haven’t done this kind of lyric-writing in a while. It’s been a rush to get back in the groove.

(5) I often get a little tear in my eye when I think about the Kids. They could have just gone their way after the workshop and had nothing further to do with me. But they didn’t. And now that we’re not under any particular pressure, I find all the relationships to be much more rewarding. God is Good.

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New Album (Me & Keva)

If anyone wants to support us, click here and take it from there. For $10+ USD, you’re not only getting the five tunes currently on the album, you get the next five for free. Or $3+ per song.

I wrote all five of these songs in the 70’s except for “Daylight” whose music I wrote in 1982 with lyrics added in 2018. Histories of each song are included with the album, along with lyrics to all songs.

The next five songs will consist of stuff I wrote between 2013 and 2016 in Berkeley. It will be a month or more before they are released. So you’re getting a sneak preview.

I’ve removed all free versions from everywhere, except for one YouTube of “Time Will Tell” that’s been widely distributed and well-received.

Please consider supporting this endeavor at this time.

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Barriers Toward Escaping Homelessness

This Wednesday’s podcast is a recording of a Zoom meeting held on October 1, 2021 involving Amber Peace, the Recovery and Special Programs Coordinator of the Latah Recovery Center in Moscow Idaho; Shaun Hogan, the Crisis Services and Volunteer Coordinator of the Center, April Hawley, an LRC employee, two young students named Laura and Ashley from Lewis & Clark State College, and myself.  All incidental music is from The Burden of Eden © 1994-2008 by Andrew Michael Pope.

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Gratitude List 1795

(1) I found double-sided tape at the dollar store which makes it really easy to post all these positive reminders on the wall facing my desk. The positive reminders say things like:

— In your anger, do not sin
— Don’t be overcome by evil, but overome evil with good.
— Run Read Rest Recover
— Create Beautiful Things
— Don’t Postpone Positive

These reminders are incredibly helpful, whilst I work.

(2) Yesterday I really freaked out when I thought I had washed a pair of pants with my wallet in them and that both pants & wallet had been stolen from the laundry room. When I finally stopped freaking out and decided to go into town anyway, I casually reached for a pair of socks in the top dresser drawer and discovered that I had unconsciously neatly folded the pair of pants (with washed wallet as well), and placed them beneath all the socks and underwear. Needless to say, I was really grateful. (All the cards still work, too.)

(3) I went downtown to pay my rent yesterday and learned a great lesson while I lingered. The downtown situation increases my anxiety so hugely it’s best to avoid it as much as possible. I again found myself taking my mask on and off neurotically depending on whom I thought was judging me which way. As I rode away from downtown and hit the trail on my bicycle, the glaringly bright sky immediately turned to a mellow pastel, and my spirit was soothed in a way reminiscent of San Francisco.

(4) Another great lesson was learned last night as I found myself stressing over the podcast soon to be released, again running counter to the ideal of maintaining a quiet life in my retirement. Abandoning the anxiety, I took a brisk three mile walk between nine and ten at night. On my return, my spirit was at peace — and I more-or-less magically knew how to make the podcast better!

(5) The first podcast involving staff members of the Latah Recovery Center discussing the barriers faced by homeless people will be posted at high noon today. Don’t miss it! I have never encountered anything like it, in all my day.

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