Category Archives: Northeast

TheBeauty of Nature: Bill Crowley Park by Silvano Torres

5100 Lauder Rd.
Houston, TX 77039

 

 

November 2010–Parks are ubiquitous in the United States but every park has its own history. Bill Crowley Park is not an exception. Hundreds of people from the surrounding neighborhoods visit Bill Crowley Park in Houston every year, including me. My experiences in this park have convinced me that Bill Crowley Park symbolizes the easy-going diversity found in our city. Looking around at the many types of people, their ages, their races, and their recreational activities builds a story for Houston ‘s way of blending all types of people. All of the neighborhoods around the park are known to be some of the most safe and peaceful in the Houston area. Bill Crowley Park is a place for families to come relax, have fun, spend valuable time together, and enjoy the beautiful nature of our world.

Bill Crowley Park may be reached by traveling north from Downtown Houston on State Highway 59 and to 5100 Lauder Rd. The park is located at about half a mile on Lauder Rd. to the west of Highway 59. When you first enter the park you will see three signs right away. First the 20 mph speed limit sign, the second sign tells you not to park along the side of the road to protect runners, and the last tells you that the Harris County Sheriff’s Department directed by Tommy Thomas patrols the park. As soon as you drive further into the park you must be more cautious because children are running around most of the time, but particularly on the weekends. You will also be warned not to process or consume any alcoholic beverage while in the park. If you fail to follow this rule you can receive a fine of up to $500. No person, other than a police officer, may carry or process a weapon within the park. The security in the park is the number one priority for the park’s patrol department. All this information and more are available at the Harris County Sheriff’s Department official website, http:/www.hcso.hctx.net/patrol/parks/rules.asp.

I visited Bill Crowley Park for the first time about five years ago. I went to play basketball and to run for little while with my sister. I remember we went late in the afternoon at about 7:00pm . All the basketball courts were full and lots of people were waiting for a chance to play. My sister and I decided to go running instead. There were many people running, walking, and riding their bicycles around the park’s track. Children were playing in the playground, a couple of people were playing tennis and other people were just sitting on the benches soothing. Something that really caught my attention was the number of parents spending time with their children. Some of the parents appeared to be tired, I thought maybe because they had just come from work. In spite of everything they made an effort to spend quality time with their kids. Bill Crowley Park closes at 8:00pm every day, so at this time my sister and I had to go home. I live approximately one mile from the park so we just ran back home to exercise more.

I continued this routine of going to the park for about two months. Every now and then I would get a chance to play basketball, others I would just run, and occasionally I sat down in one of the benches away from everyone to relax. I would sit to think about my life, my plans for the future, and lay back and look at the sky to listen to the singing of the birds on the trees. This helped me release a lot of the stress that I was going through in my first year in High School. During this period I met a couple of people. In one of my usual visits I was invited to play tennis by a boy who saw me pass by in one of my laps around the track. I had never played tennis before, but I was eager to do so. I agreed to play and it was a fantastic experience. After we were done playing we introduced each other. His name was Omar and ironically we attended the same school at which he played tennis. We would get together at the park or at school to play for a while till we were to busy to keep that habit.

The park counts with two parking lots one is located in the right side of the park in the shape of an L the other in the left side of the park. It has three Baseball fields all to the right of the first parking lot. These fields are empty most of the time except on Saturdays when a couple teams get together to compete. It has one big Basketball court with eight baskets to give everyone a chance to play and not wait for others to finish. To the left of the park there are two tennis courts with a steel cage around them to prevent you from losing balls and from hitting anyone.

All of the things that we have in our park even the park itself would not be there if it wasn’t for the support that the National Recreation & Park Association provides. The NRPA provides our community volunteers with the proper knowledge to support our park. NRPA unites the community to help them discover the benefits of having parks, to protect the environment, and to prevent disagreements when it comes to changes in the park. Also, Houston s running community speaks up whenever unwanted changes occur in the park like the cutting of trees.

In the center of the park is the most visited attraction of all. The children’s playground; with all the swings, the short little tunnels that lead to the sliding ramp and many more things children love. The park also provides a ½ mile track that goes around the center for anyone who enjoys walking, running, or riding bicycles in the beautiful outdoors. Around the track there are many benches for you to sit and appreciate the beauty of nature, to relax and release all the stress of the world around you. Dispersed all around the park are 25 concrete tables with cooking grills available for anyone to cook as well as trash cans to keep the park nice and clean. The main office is located by the baseball fields and there is always a peace officer available all the time the park is open.

On one occasion when I had finish running I sat down in one of the benches close to the left side parking lot of the park when an elderly man came up to me. He was wearing a headband, a gray sweater, black shorts, and white running shoes. He had been walking for quite some time. I new this because I passed him up a few times when I was running and his sweater was very wet. I had seen this man a good number of times that I went to the park. He asked me if he could sit with me and I told him he could. Then he asked for my name I told him Silvano, he went on to introduce himself. His name was Robert Oregon and he was 65 years old. He told me he had been going to Bill Crowley Park ever since they opened it more than 15 years ago and he would never stop until god call for him. He said before the park was built there was nothing but woods in that area. “The community around here needed a park. We needed a place for families and friends to come together other than at home.” He said that parks are the best way for anyone to see the diversity among the communities of Houston . Also, the best place to meet several of your neighbors.

On my latest visits to Bill Crowley Park not much has changed. The baseball fields are empty most of the time. The basketball courts are always busy in the afternoon. The tennis courts with only two persons most of the time. It was very pleasing to see all the parents with their kids playing and teaching them how to play games or to use toys. I saw this man teaching his son how to fly a kite. His wife was teaching their daughter how to ride a bicycle. This brought back memories from when I was a little kid. I remembered when my mom helped me make my first kite. Also when I got my first bicycle and went to try it out for the first time. I know how important those things were for me at that time. I went to ask this couple how they felt when they were with their kids? They both told me that they felt complete. “These are times that we are never going to get back and I want my children to enjoy them to the fullest and to know that we were here for them.”

Many more couples were walking around with their little babies. The children’s playground is still the most visited place in the park but I think I have seen more kids now. This means that our community is growing which means our city is growing as well. The diversity at Bill Crowley Parkis incredible you see Whites, Hispanics, Blacks, Chinese; you name it the park has it. The diversity makes Houston a great city and Bill Crowley Park its best symbolization. When I see all those kids with a smile in their faces it makes me want to be a little kid again with no stress or worries and no responsibilities, those were the good days. I have been to many more parks after my first visit to Bill Crowley Park but none of them compare to Bill Crowley. One thing was different I did not see Mr. Robert Oregon in any of my recent visits. I have been thinking that maybe he is not able to go to the park by himself because of his age, but maybe God made the call already.

Furthermore, this park is the best representation of the great city of Houston . My experiences have convinced me that all parks have the potential to build a sense of community. This idea has come to me in my own experience of making friends and meeting strangers. Also, from watching mothers and fathers build strong ties with their children. When I see that my community is united it makes me feel much safer. I always see some of my neighbors at the park and we always greet each other. I hope to meet more people in the years to come. I will keep going to Bill Crowley park because is one of the places where I forget all my problems.

Map:
View Larger Map

Links:

Houston

NRPA

Harris County Sheriff’s Office

National Park Service

Texas Parks & Wildlife

Parking Disaster:on Washington Ave. by Ana Ramirez

Washington Ave
Houston, Texas 77007

On our way to my brother’s school it is hot, humid and we are stuck in traffic like every day. You could see how the cars start piling up one in back of the other and the line keeps growing bigger. Finally the light turns green, but only for a couple of seconds before it turns red again.

You don’t see many people walking at five a clock on the street of Washington Avenue between Heights and T.C. Jester, all you see at this time are cars pulling in and out of the parking lots. I smell the different types of food from the restaurants nearby like Jack in the Box, El Rey, and nearby bars. My stomach growls like a lion and it’s only getting hungrier by the minute-the fresh smell of roasted chicken in the air only makes it worse. Small businesses on both sides of the road are full with customers at this time, and more and more keep coming in.

Washington Avenue used to be a very quiet neighborhood. I remember when my mom and I would catch the metro to go to a nearby Matamoros meat market on Washington Ave and TC Jester. Now the meat market isn’t there, it has been replaced by a new one like many other businesses have. Most of the houses are being replaced by all these new townhomes and condominiums. People that have lived here for years are now selling their properties and are moving into another neighborhood.

So many changes have been made throughout these couple of years it’s not the same quiet neighborhood that I remember. Now it’s full of small business shops like stores, restaurants, bars and lots of traffic. The traffic only gets worse with each minute that goes by you could hear the engines of the cars as they sit still without moving an inch. On our way back to the house the traffic has not changed at all but is now worse than it was before. Cars are now being parked on the side of the street because there aren’t enough parking spaces. Businesses like bars and restaurants fill the streets at night with customers this causes them to have to park their cars all though the side of Washington Avenue. Another problem is nearby construction and road work on I-10. There has always been a problem with traffic on I-10 and if traffic was big then, now it’s only getting worse. Traffic is bad enough with only two lanes to drive on and you could imagine how it gets when one lane is being closed by cars and more and more cars pile up as they try to find their way out of the traffic by finding a better route throughout the small streets. Something needs to be done about this. It isn’t fair for long time residents to have to suffer the consequences. And if more people gather together to fix the problem then maybe we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place.

Everyone has a problem with the neighborhood that they live in and complain about it, but if no one does anything to fix the problem then you can’t complain because you are also responsible for letting the problem grow. If everyone gets together and argues about what they could do to fix the problem and how they could let everyone know how they feel then they could fight for what is right.

The article Legalizing Walking talks about how something so easy like walking has to be legal for you to do. People can’t just go outside and walk like they normally would they have to have permission from the government first. And if there’s nowhere to walk, then where are they going to walk? On the side of the road where there’s hundreds of cars passing by every day? Or on peoples yards, if there’s no sidewalks?

These are some Questions that the author answers in Legalizing walking. Not many of us think about these things like the author does, or do something about the problem. We may be walking on day and notice that in some places there are sidewalks while in others there aren’t any. My neighborhood has sidewalks for you to walk on, but not all places do. You may be walking in one block and when you get to the next block there is no sidewalk. This forces you to have to walk on the side of the street. What happens when children have to walk on the side of the street? They too run with the same risks you do, and if no one does anything to fix the problem, who will?

This is why we have people who represent us and work hard every day to make our life’s a lot better and easier every day. The author doesn’t just give us the problem he also give us solutions and the things that are being done every day to fix the problem. You may think that putting a sidewalk is something so easy that many of us can do and why shouldn’t every street have a sidewalk so we can walk on. Well it’s not as easy as we think because of everything that has to be done before putting a sidewalk. There are laws that have to be passed and once the laws are passed there are rules that have to be followed. The author talks about some of the steps that have to be done in order for this to happen, “The next step involved a twelve-member committee that crafted the actual ordinance and included six developers; four consulting architects, engineers, and planners; one governmental representative; and one advocate from a nonprofit.”(pg 8, ph. 5, cite) This is an example of one of the steps that has to be done before a law is passed. It is not that easy to pass a law because some of the things that have to be kept in mind are businesses, homes, parking, traffic, safety, and the people. What the Mayor’s and committees have to look and solve is how a property is made for example its location, parking, traffic, and most important the location and size of the sidewalks. This is why it’s so difficult for us to walk without a problem or anything to worry about.

Not many of us do this though; we just complain and wait for someone else to do it for us.

Some of the solutions that I think could think of to fix the problem with the traffic on Washington Avenue are to make more parking spaces available for the people. It could be a big parking lot with several floors where many could just park and walk to where they’re going. Or what’s better we could have more parking lots underground so that there is less traffic and more room for people to walk on. Parking lots underground will help us by getting some of the cars out of our way and the fewer cars that are on the side of the streets and the less traffic we have the better for us. Downtown for example, is a very busy area with thousands of cars passing by every day and getting in and out of parking lots. If it wasn’t for all of these parking lots built for storage and underground storage as well downtown would be a total chaos. Parking lots can help reduce the traffic and are very helpful in many ways. Without the parking lots something that could take us ten minutes to go to like a nearby pharmacy, will double the time with the traffic. This is why putting parking lots will solve many of the problems that we have with traffic.

Another thing that we should consider is a place for people to walk on so that they could feel a lot better and comfortable walking every day to nearby places, just like what the author said in legalizing walking about how we need more sidewalks. Now days people are used to driving everywhere even to a nearby corner store they have to drive. If there were more places where people could do activities outside instead of inside this would be a lot better for everyone. They should have more places with patios outside their restaurants where people could sit there and have a nice cup of coffee. Little changes like this can help our neighborhood and make it a better place for us and our environment. We just have to do something to make it happen so that we can have a better place not only for us for everyone that wants a difference and that is tired of having to put up with all of this things. Just remember that things don’t change by themselves and each of us needs to do our own part.

It’s easy to think of and come up with some of these ideas on how we could change our neighborhood but it’s not easy to actually get it fixed. Before we can do something people need to get together in small organizations and figure out what they need to do to let their voice be heard. One thing that they could do is go by each house in their neighborhood and get signatures of everyone that thinks they should put parking lots. They should have a leader that represents them and speaks for what everyone has to say about the problem. Let the governors and city council know about this and make sure that they also do something to change this. Once the problem has been stated the governor and city council along with other people like architects, engineers, planners and designers need to get together and look for a solution to fix the problem. Once a solution has been found then that’s when everything gets to be put together and constructed. This is what needs to be done and what we could do to fix a problem that we have in our neighborhood like traffic and parking space.
Map:

View Larger Map
Links:
Heights Chaos
New Properties
Houston Traffic

Bio:
Ana Ramirez is a second year student at the University Houston Downtown, who is planning to major as a teacher. Ana is a very freindly person that loves helping others in whatever she can. She loves kids and gets along great with people. She is currently a part time student at the University of Houston Downtown and a full time worker at Namco.

In my experience, Ana has proven herself to be an honest, hard-working young woman. she is generous and kind. Even as a teenager, she was always thinking of others. Several times, I have witness her volunteer to help others in her community.

At all times I have found her to be  humble, dependable, and a nice going person . She strives always for the best and takes a high interes in education. Ana plans to get a degree and pursue her career as a teacher.

My Neighborhood Gas Station by Brittany Cortez

12303 Eastex FWY
 Houston, TX 77039
(281)442-8130

November 2010-There is always a time where everybody’s day becomes a little bit more hectic. Days are long, hours and longer and the minutes that pass always seem like the longest, and in this busy city of ours it’s hard to find that perfect place to relax and unwind and call it a spot of your own. But luckily for me I’ve found that hot spot and that spot is my neighborhood Exxon and I would like to share it with you. Yup that’s right your ordinary neighborhood gas station. But there’s something special about mine, located right on the corner of Aldine Mail Route and U.S. Highway 59. My Houston hot spot never fails me, no matter what I may be going through I go to my Exxon and always leave with my feelings uplifted.

One way my Exxon helps me out, and I’m sure could be useful to many others, is that it helps me think. Here is where I can come when I’ve had a really long day, may be that I could be stressed about a certain situation or just need some alone time. The excitement that I experience here takes me back to the bodegas at home in the big city (New York) where I grew up and first experienced the meaning of a true bodega. There you could find a bodega on any street corner no matter where you were. As you entered the little shack you can hear the Latino music playing throughout the store and the store owners talking with their strong Hispanic accents. In case, you are unsure of what a bodega actually is, it is the equivalent to a typical corner store. It still has everything to offer you, your favorite snacks (ice cream, chips, candy, soda, ice, etc). So my Exxon is really special to me for that reason and many others.

When I’m at my neighborhood Exxon, one of the things that I enjoy doing is listening to the sounds that go on while I am there. On a Friday or Saturday night you will hear the different crowds getting gas, beer, ice, cigarettes, getting ready to go to their hot spot the club down Highway 59 called Escapade 2000 and 2001. Where at the end of a busy night out my ordinary Exxon will be there new found hot spot to meet up and hang out at as everyone gets directions to the next after hour or to a friend’s house. Or early in the morning you’ll see a gas station full of people getting ready for their days work filling up there gas tanks, getting their morning coffee, and talking about the long day they have ahead of them, and with that thought of motivation of everyone else around me getting ready to conquer there day it gives me that much more positive strength. Or the hype of the mid-day rush hour, that lets me know that I have made it half way through my day. Let’s not forget the simple conversations that might be taking place around you either. Everyone with different stories to tell some might me personal others may be about their visit to my Exxon.

When I’m here at my Exxon I come across all sorts of people, and more than often it happens to be someone I may know. Even the workers here I have come to befriend. On a average day you’ll see you working class, or on a after school after noon you’ll see you typical teenager stopping by for there and size fountain drink for 99 cent trying to make it home, and the homeless guy who sits there faithfully everyday asking do to you need help pumping your gas or maybe washing your windows for whatever change you can give him. I might even see a friend or two while I’m there getting gas as well. My Exxon is also a spot where I might come meet up with somebody to give directions to my house, being that it is located right on the corner of the street where I live it is a much easier spot just to come to, and it’s so extremely close to my house it’s not a hassle at all.

Being away from home has not been easy for me and my Houston hot spot has come in handy to me ever since I moved into this part of town. Not only for me but seeing that Houston is such a city of cars coincidence it can be helpful to any of you as well. If you are ever in the area or having a bad day try my Exxon out for size and see how much it helps. Houston is a huge city full of many different attractions, museums, parks, landmarks, clubs, restaurants, but it’s the small things you have to notice and why they are so great and appreciate them.

MAP:

Links:

http://www.exxon.com/USA-English/GFM/default.aspx

http://www.gasstations.com/

http://heraldnews.suntimes.com/news/2458209-417/station-gas-mcallister-selling-bongs.html

Author Bio

Brittany Cortez is currently a part time student at the University of Houston Downtown, who is thinking in majoring in education. She grew up in the Bronx, New York and believes that our children hold our future. To futher pursue her life long dream of becoming a educator she is currently employed as a daycare teacher for preschool children.

Social Haven for Believers: The Portico Ministries

7317 East Houston Road
Houston, Texas 77028

April 2004–When I mention the name or tell people that I am going to the Portico, they instantly want to inquire about the place, for the name compels them to wonder. I can easily analyze their puzzling expressions before they can even form the question: what is that? The definition of the word portico means a front porch with columns. The word is simple, but it holds some sort of mysteriousness; it seems sacred. Is it an exclusive organization, art exhibit, or dance club? I simply tell them, “It is the church service for the college ages and young adults, age eighteen to mid-thirties, at Lakewood Church every Thursday at 7:00 p.m. ” Their body language and response indicates that their inquisitive nature seems somewhat fulfilled. Most of them recognize the name Lakewood , for the inveterate “mega-church,” which has an enormous congregation with a broad range of ethnic backgrounds, was established in 1959 by John Osteen. The non-denominational church, which is well-known in the Houston area and around the world, will soon reside in the Compact Center as the international haven for Christians.

«««««

The cold nights are filled with emptiness, and the stars refuse to show themselves. Houston ’s interconnecting highways and old, haunted railroads on the North side seem coldly habitual and listless. Every few Thursdays, pillows of clouds, which paint the humid skies a dark and eerie color, pound the saturated, industrial landscape; for now, the rain dies down. Inevitably, I can feel my vocal cords wear out from this erratic climate as I sing along with the blasting, gospel music that radiates from my radio and speakers in the car. The songs along with my anticipation to hear the new teaching for the night and the opportunity to share fellowship with friends lift my spirits and fight the depression that oppressively looms over the city. Exiting off of North Wayside, I hit the back roads and arrive at the 55 acre “institution for spiritual enlightenment.”

Many 50 foot, iron poles housing cyan-colored lights reveal that the wet parking lot is nearly full. The church, which looks like a series of two-story complex buildings, partially surrounds the parking lot along with the trees, which brightly glows against the skies. It feels like a remote country side. I park my old, dependable Chevy into one of the well lit parking spaces in the back. Turning the car off, I extend my arm and reach for my army-camouflage slip covered Bible in the back seat of my car, in which scattered textbooks and a box of tissues also sits. I quickly shine my shoes with a leather sponge, slap a thin layer of balm on my dry lips, and grab a pen out of my backpack for notes and a stick of gum out of the ash tray. The world suddenly occupies my senses as the cool wind playfully bumps against my skin and my nose picks up the smell of rain. Cautiously splashing through the reflecting puddles and weaving in between cars, I am impeded by three young, Nigerian ladies, who are nicely dressed and carrying their Bibles in hand. Their laughter stimulates my ears as they freely chat amongst themselves; their jovial smiles contagiously influence mine. I politely greet them. Taking a deep breath, they cordially reply, “We are fine, and yourself?” Inquiring into each other’s life for a moment, our spirit of eagerness puts us at ease as we make a casual connection. I open the door for them at the entrance to the church.

As I step onto the dark marble floors, the atmosphere is suddenly airy. A Hispanic woman, who is dressed in a black uniform with a security guard patch on her right sleeve, stands erect and staidly places her eyes upon me and others who enter. The foyer, which connects to the corridor, gives off a dramatic, neo-classical flare intertwined with elegance. Low yet intense lighting shines from the brassy gold and embellished chandelier that hangs in the center from the high ceilings. The off-white walls are sharply laced with traditional, dark oak crown molding along the corners of the wall and over the Spanish double doors with many embedded rectangular dimples in the surface. On the other side, my reflection is cast in the mirror, which hangs above a table that is accompanied by armchairs on each side. A few young adults stand around in the foyer, either chatting in small groups or talking on cell phones. Others travel to and from the contemporary water fountains and restrooms farther down the corridors to the left. My ears are immediately drawn to the constant noise from the crowd just behind the open double doors in the main room, as I walk in its general direction. With each step, the intensity behind the dark room enhances my curiosity. As the energy heightens, a young Hispanic man, who stands in front of the door, firmly shakes my hand and gives me a compact and colorful flyer that shows upcoming events and has an empty space on the back for notes. Establishing sincere eye contact, he says, “Welcome to the Portico.”

The sound of hundreds of people mingling creates equilibrium as I step into the grand room. The orange-colored lights that are implanted in the high ceilings show the far end of the main room to my left, which is the coffeehouse. The patterns of whimsical, floral designs paint entire walls with dark and light creams. Off-white crown moldings powerfully overtake the ceilings and exude opulence; it equally divides the upper surfaces into large squares with the inscriptions of strong, circular craters that are embedded in each. Several chandeliers like the one in the foyer are the center pieces of these divisions. Besides that, the aroma of brewed coffee from Starbucks and prepared food such as the punchy wings from Wing Stop, the irresistibly seasoned seafood from Pappasitos, or other foods of well-known, quality restaurants from the coffeehouse settles in my nostrils. Behind the countertops and cloth-covered tables, humble workers are on guard, moving about and ready to serve the crowd that thirsts and hungers. A variety of ethnicities gather together and dine on the scattered plush couches and low, wooden table tops in the general area while others drink their tasty Frappucinos and steamy Lattes. The energy, which fills the room, engenders camaraderie amongst us. The beam lights that are connected to chrome bars over the black platform illuminate the stage from the far right side of the main room. Rows of generic seats surround the stage and extend to more than half of the room. As I search to find a seat in the front, the service opens up; a black man, who has short dreadlocks and wears pressed slacks and a t-shirt, gets up on stage and begins with prayer, followed by praise and worship as the Portico Band leads. Everyone in the room concludes their interactions and finds their seat accordingly, preparing up their hearts to be receptive. While the band plays and sings, the contemporary gospel music captivates everyone and enlightens our ears with beautiful, soul-shaking melodies from the blasting speakers that vibrate the colorful, floral carpet underneath us. It takes us through an emotional roller coaster, allowing us to show gratitude and honor for God. The group openly sings and shouts in awe; some clap, while others close their eyes and reach toward the heavens. The big screen monitors display the praise and worship team to those who are seated in the far back and in awkward areas of the room. They capture and convey the ambiance and mood that surrounds the room. After worship, Pastor Scott Crenshaw gets on stage to deliver the Word. The group of young adults laughs in unison as the charismatic Pastor uses his impressions to share his prepared message for the night. His emotionally intense and profound messages are down to earth and strongly relative, enlightening, and compelling to my life and the life of every other young adult.

After service, social camaraderie continues as the crowd travels back to the coffeehouse for more conversation for an hour and a half. People break out the board games such as Jenga, Pictionary, and Dominos, meet with friends and make new ones, share their faith and experiences with God to others, eat, and drink coffee. This modern-day Portico is modeled after Solomon’s Porch in the New Testament in the Holy Bible, which was a place next to the holy temple where all could gather, form relationships, and be touched.

Map

The Portico Ministries

Lakewood Church

Electronic Bible

Compaq Center

Christianity

“A Church with True Holy Spirit”: Grace Church of Humble, Texas by Nikkea Porter

7224 N Sam Houston Pkwy E,

 Humble, Tx ( 281)-441-1111

  November 2010 I am attending services one Sunday at Grace Church, in Humble  Texas, when I see a red light blinking beneath the pew in front of me. My daughter and I are sitting in the sanctuary, five rows back from the podium. I was getting ready to enjoy yet another service and listening to the gospel music being played over the speakers when I first saw the blinking light. Now I send my five year old daughter to pick it up; I look at it and realize that it is an earpiece to someone’s cell phone, a bluetooth. I look around to find its owner, but no one is close enough to ask. I shrug my shoulders and say to my daughter, “Let’s return it to the information desk at the end of service.” A few seconds later a man sits across from us, and just out of curiosity, I told Cheyenne to ask the man if it is his Bluetooth that we just found on the floor.

“Is this yours?” she asks shyly, in a low voice.

“Yes,” he nods, surprised. Cheyenne comes back over to me and tells me it was his and that she gave it back to him. I think nothing of it and am glad to have done a good deed for someone at church.

About five minutes later he came over and shook my hand, as he places something in my hand he say’s, “Sister, I just want to bless you with something for returning my Bluetooth,” he smiles. Normally I would not accept something for doing a kind deed but since he wants to bless me, and he seems very adamant, I accept it. Still not knowing what he has given me I thank him and say, “No problem,” continue the services feeling rather grateful. I kind of glance in my hand and see that it is money but he has folded it a dozen times and I can’t make out the denomination of the bill. Later when service was over and on my way to my car I look in my hand to see what he has given me, to my surprise it is a hundred dollar bill. By this time I can’t believe what has just happened, “who would do such wonderful thing for a complete stranger like myself?” That is very generous of that man and he didn’t have to do that. I feel very blessed and that God might have something to do with it. I imagine if we could all do such kind deeds for each other, the world can be a different place. His kindness I felt far surpassed returning his Bluetooth, as he could have bought three with the hundred dollars he gave me.

The first time I laid eyes on Grace Church was in August of 2009. I had just moved to Humble, Texas from Hartford, Connecticut and lived on the same street as the church. Churches in Houston are a big deal as Texas is in the “Bible Belt.” I have taken notice of all the big churches here in Houston. Coming from Connecticut, Houston is a vast difference between church goers, some of the differences are the locations of churches, the types of people, and the services. While I was passing on the Beltway one day I noticed how big and beautiful the building appeared to be from a distance. Right then I said to myself, “Wow, I sure would like to visit that church.” It seems like a modern church, like it is newly built, the whole area around the church is newly built. I was compelled to go and see what kind of people worshiped there. The parking lot that was large enough to park hundreds of vehicles, but the building just looked so inviting to me. I always imagine what it would be like to attend a large church, would I get a personal feeling if there are too many people there. I guess I will have to go and find out for myself. 

 On Sunday morning we all got up around 10:00am and we decided to make the 11:30am service. We arrive at the church parking lot at 11:15am and already the lot is full, there are people looking for parking spots, parking lot crews directing traffic, and golf carts riding people to the front door from their cars. Everyone looks great all dressed up for Church, the crowd consists of all different ethnic groups of all ages scurrying to get in on time to their seat. I see golf carts carting people to the front door, I am amazed. Many Americans assume that Texas is big and Texans do things big. I say to my husband, “This must be something only done in Houston, everything sure is Big in Texas” and we laugh. We never saw such first class service from the churches where we come from. We park furthest from the front door so we can just get inside on time and of course we take the golf cart to the entrance. I thought that was very nice because the Texas sun was already hot that morning and the far walk would have caused us to work up a sweat. My daughter thought the golf cart ride was the best thing she could have done that day because all day I had to hear “Mommy are we going to ride that cart again?”

We arrive in the front glass doors and instantly I feel comfortable. The air conditioning was cool and nice and there was a fresh clean smell in the air. We were next greeted by a smiling faced woman who is passing out program flyers. I asked her if there was Sunday school for the children. She pointed to the stairs and said the daycare is upstairs. There are flat screen televisions in the halls for people who want to watch from outside the sanctuary. As we go up the stairs I notice how nicely decorated and organized the church is. At the daycare there is a check in for parents to get there child into their appropriate class. I am greeted by an elderly man who asked what her name and age is he proceeded to write it on a sticker and put it on her dress. I then had to fill out a form with all my pertinent info. My daughter was now escorted with the children in her age group; she seemed interested in playing with the other children.

We go back downstairs to the sanctuary and find a seat; there are ushers there to seat us right away. I look around and see that there are flags of every different nation hanging in flagpoles at the top of the walls. I see three projection screen with serene landscape pictures on them, there is hundreds of people inside already and everyone seems nice and polite. The air is cool and fresh, one the stage there is a drums set, keyboard, and all kinds other speakers and musical equipment. The band comes out and takes their positions on stage and begins to play music. The sound was great and they looked very professional. The choir comes out and the rest of the lead singers and they begin to sing a gospel song. Everyone stands up and starts clapping and swaying from left to right. My husband and I stand up and look around; I for sure was surprised how good the choir and the band sound. They sing four or five songs and the preacher comes up and starts thanking everyone for coming into the house of the Lord. He thanks and greets all visitors and says that we should stop out in the lobby to receive a gift from them.

During the sermon I feel good, I feel like this was a genuine Church with true Holy Spirit. I like how the bible verses are quoted and put up on the projection for all to view. I love the seats and design of the building. My husband also thought this could be a church that we can attend more often. After the sermon was over we went back upstairs to pick up our daughter. She came running to us with all her paperwork that she had colored during service. I was glad that she was also learning in her own capacity about the Lord and that she was able to interact with the other children as she is an only child. We went down stairs to the visitors greeting area and where given a gift and signed our names and information on a visitor’s card. The woman who was speaking with us is such a nice lady and invites us to come again. We have continued attending the church for a year now and have become members.

I now sing in the choir as an alto and have such a good time at it. I have become president of our church chapter of Toastmasters, which is a public speaking club. On the contrary Houston has lots of excitement and many varieties to fit ones preference. I am meeting so many like mined people and doing the things that I have always wanted to do with my life. Houston really has lots to offer differently from . My first thoughts of attending a large church have vanished and will never be the same. Great things are taking shape in our lives and I am glad I went to Grace Church. It was the best experience for me and my family.
View Larger Map

 

Links

Grace Church

Bluetooth

Beltway

Projection Screen

Toastmasters 

Author Bio:

Student of UHD Majoring in Communications, currently working as an Independent Senior consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics. Loves spending time with her friends and family and making genuine relationships with others.  A mother of a five year old girl and wife to a wonderful husband from Jamaica. Spends vacations on the Isand of jamaica enjoying jerk chicken and fish by the beach. Her future indeavors are to become a Independent Sales Director with Mary Kay Cosmetics.

 





 

Lonely Night Hideaway: Lee Road

Lee Road Southbound
Humble, Texas 77396

January 2004–A lone girl emerged from the drivers side door with a pen, notebook, and one of those little lamp lights that you can clip onto your book and read in the dark with. I sat and watched her from the opposite side of the lot as she climbed on top of her hood and began writing in her notebook. Every once in awhile she would stop and watch a plane land, but then she would get right back to her work. I wanted to know what she was doing all by herself on top of her car in the middle of the night, but she didn’t look as if she wanted to be bothered. With the coming and going of a few more cars I decided it was time for me to go too.
I went back to the same spot the next day when the sun was out. I noticed that none of the other cars heading southbound on Lee Road paid much attention to the little gated area off to the side that I had been to the night before. All the surrounding area of Lee Road is used for the airport. All the open space around it is the runways for the planes to land on when coming back to Bush Intercontinental Airport. I’ve found, just as the mystery writer I mentioned before, that sitting in your car at night at that little spot off Lee Road , the sight can be very relaxing, and quite spectacular. When the sky is dark and starry, and you can’t actually see the plane itself, just the lights, it makes a stunning night sky. It’s one of the best places to go when you just want to get away from it all and relax.

Lee Road also, probably no surprise to any of you reading this, is often occupied by the cars of young lovers trying to get some “alone time”. Those who are not quite old enough to have their own place yet, but old enough to have their own car. The scene plays out just like that of the stereotypical teen movie or sitcom. The couple finds a quiet little place that they can go and park their car and not look suspicious, and of course end up in the back seat. Predictably when asked what they were doing at Lee Road the girl will blush and say that they were “watching the planes land”, what else would they be doing at Lee Road? On a more serious note , it is quiet surprising how many people actually do come to Lee Road to watch the planes land. Lee Road has seemed to have gotten a bad reputation, because all that is ever talked about are the above mentioned people. Everyone that only hears these stories, and has never actually gone out there themselves, probably has this twisted idea of what it’s like to got to Lee Road. It’s not just young couples everywhere. There’s older people, people by themselves, families, etc. I remember going there as a little girl with my family. My sister and I would lay down in the bed of my Dad’s truck and watch the gleaming lights of the planes as they would disappear into the night sky. That might not sound like your idea of fun , but if you come out to Lee Road you might surprise yourself. There’s no other place where you can go and spend time with your friends, talk, relax, and just get away from it all ,that‘s FREE , like Lee Road. It gives people a break from the loud music, neon lights, and drunken peers that is night life. Don’t get me wrong, that’s fun and I ‘m all about a good party, but it’s nice every once in a while to get a break from it all. To go somewhere and just relax. True, it doesn’t look like much, but the possibilities are endless.

Since Lee Road is never occupied by cars during the day, I decided to go back later that night. When I arrived there were only two other cars in the lot, so I just parked my car over in the corner and sat there for awhile. Both cars were occupied, but the people weren’t coming out. As I was getting bored of these two cars, one little blue car came flying into the lot and found a spot right in the front of the lot. Soon the windows were rolled down and two teenage girls emerged from the car and laid down on top of it. Since the windows to the car were rolled down you could still hear the ever so familiar chorus of David Banner and Lil’ Flip’s “Like a Pimp”. As the two girls laid on their backs starring into the sky they would occasionally burst into laughter about something one of them said, or point to stars in the sky. This went on for some time until Mya’s “My Love is like…Wo” came blasting out of the windows and one of the girls jumped down to the ground for an impromptu lip synch. The girl that was left on the car almost fell off because she was laughing so hard. Even I was laughing. I couldn’t help but laugh thinking about how ridiculous this girl was looking in front of all these other people, but then again, I don’t think they really noticed. I had been so busy watching the girls that I hadn’t even noticed that my mystery writer had once again shown up. She sat and indiscreetly watched the girls next to her sing along to the radio for awhile, but she eventually opened up her book and went to work. Though I waned to go talk to her, the singing girls seemed more approachable , so I decided to get out of my car and ask them a few questions. “I come out here and chill all the time,” one of the girls said as she sipped on a bottle of Vanilla Pepsi. When asked why she wasn’t out at a club she laughed and drank more of her Pepsi, “That just gets old sometimes, you know? Its cool sometimes to just go somewhere with a friend and just chill, not have to worry about getting yourself lookin’ all cute for stupid boys who are gonna bother you, or worry about paying for stuff. Its real relaxin’ to come out here and just chill. Everybody needs fresh air sometimes.” Nodding in agreement the girls friend added, “Nobody bothers you out here. Everybody just goes about their own business. None of them cars over there come bother us when we singing, we don’t go bother them when they makin’ their cars rock, you know? It’s just got the whole do your own thing vibe. I like it.” As the girls were talking I noticed the night sky getting darker and darker, so I decided it was time for me to leave.

Wondering more and more about what brings the girl with the notebook to Lee Road over and over again, I drove out there one more time. When I arrived there were two cars parked in the far right corner, and another one off to the left. The car off to the left was surrounded by teenage boys who each had a bottle in their hands. They were laughing and being really loud until a police car drove by. They all stopped and looked at the car for a minute, and when it began to turn around, they all jumped in the car and spilt. I found this quite humorous and was laughing when I noticed another car pulling in. Watching silently, I was not surprised to find that it was once again the mystery writer I had seen before. I decided that I was finally going to go talk to her. I asked her what it was about Lee Road that made her keep coming out here all the time. She looked kind of surprised that I was asking her questions, but she answered anyway, “I’m a writer. I can’t ever seem to write in my house though, its always too busy. There’s too many people and they can’t ever be quiet. I used to go to the library and write, but the library closes at night, and that’s when I like to write the most. Coming out here is relaxing to me. I can just sit outside and look at the sky and organize all my thoughts.” Satisfied with this answer , I got in my car and left.

Map:

 

Praising the Heavens: Lakewood Church by: Cindy Macal

~moved to Compaq Center, Buffalo Speedway and US 59~
P.O. Box 23297
Houston, TX 77228

April 2004–When someone considers joining a church, they normally possess a concrete idea about what the church atmosphere and schedule should be like. Formally dressed in a heavily-starched Sunday attire, one walks into the sacred church with a bible in hand and a notepad and pen in the other, sits quietly, listens to the father preach for almost two hours, pray a final prayer, and leave. Lakewood Church does not fall under that “typical church” category. The last time I attended Lakewood Church was almost three years ago on Easter Sunday 2001. So much changed since the last time. In contrast to popular belief, this sanctuary actually exceeded the 7,500- seat limit, which answers the question of why Lakewood Church bought out the Compaq Center for $70 million dollars, which is to be renamed the Lakewood International Center (Alnor 2). An unexplainable excitement overwhelmed me when I returned to Lakewood Church on Sunday, December 14, 2003, the groundbreaking weekend service at Lakewood ’s new home, the Compaq Center .

I decided to attend the 8:30AM service because I figured that traffic would be hard to find. However, hundreds of people attend church that early in the morning. Of course, the first thing to expect on the way to Lakewood Church is traffic, considering that the Compaq Center sits at the second busiest intersection in the city (700 Club 2). Cars appear parked on the service road from so much traffic. After what seemed an endless wait of 20 minutes on the feeder road of 59 South, everyone exits their cars and they head off with ecstatic energy to the sanctuary like ants race towards a piece of sugar when it is in sight.

The moment the clear Lakewood doors open, an immediate feeling of power, glory and faith is present by all those who enter. There are several door greeters dressed in royal blue Sunday attire, who appear bathed in so much perfume that it starts to smell somewhat cheap. Their dove-shaped name badges stay pinned on the left side of their vest, and they shake everybody’s hand and utter, “God Bless You,” with such grace and kindness.

After circulating around the Compaq’s circular-shaped arena and deciding which of the many entrances to enter the summit, the first thing I took notice of, obviously, included the popular white and blue Lakewood podium with the dove in the middle that Pastor Joel Osteen preaches on television in the front center of the sanctuary. Even though the Compaq Center is somewhat old, there existed a new smell to the arena as we entered it part of the Lakewood Church . A huge white screen with the Lakewood dove symbol on it hung behind the stage. I assume the technology crew created that particular effect on purpose for the television viewers.

I could hardly believe my eyes. After two years, I wasn’t watching it on a 19” Sylvania television screen anymore; I was at Lakewood , and not the old Lakewood off of 610-East and Wayside. It was the new Lakewood : the Compaq Center !

I looked around for a moment and saw the hundreds of seats in the arena, which seemed quite endless and I remember saying to myself, “There is no way that this place fills up completely.” Wrong. The sanctuary sure filled up, and fast too.

This specific Sunday, my sister and I fought through the crowd, and, with the greatest luck ever, we found two available sits in the second row on the left side of the stage. It was the perfect view since the cameras don’t reach out that far and they are unable to block the view. A woman seating directly ahead of my sister and me turned around and asked, “Have you ever been to Lakewood before?”

My sister and I explained to her that we normally watch the service on television because we live so far away (in the Woodlands) and because I normally work on weekends. She completely understood and replied with joy, “Well, I’ve been coming here for five years and I still can’t stop crying at every service. You’ll love it! I promise you!!!”

When the service finally began, the choir started to sing with such praise and glory that the room vibrated and roared with faith. The only available sound is the sweet gospel voices from the choir, all dressed in a royal blue gown. The whole sanctuary enhances itself with the mixture of voices singing, hands clapping, feet stopping and the occasional “Hallelujah” shout after certain verses. Forty-five minutes elapsed from singing and cheering, praying, and prayer-partner praying, and Joel began his preaching, in which he always has the tendency to start off with something kind of funny. He told his joke, everyone laughed and giggled, and then the people joined him in the Lakewood Prayer by holding their bibles high in the air and praying, “This is my bible. I am what it says I am, I can do what it says I can do. Today I’ll be taught the word of God. I boldly confess. My mind is alert. My heart is receptive. I’ll never be the same. Never, never, never. I’ll never be the same, in Jesus name, Amen.”

Before actually starting his speech, he took a couple of minutes for a moment of silence to thank the Lord for the new home He has given Lakewood . Joel, his wife Victoria, his mother Dodie and the rest of his family lined up at the front of the stage for the ceremonial groundbreaking event. Each took a shovel, shoved it into the dirt that was planted in front of the them, and turned it around as a symbol of breaking ground at the Compaq Center. At the end of his wonder 45-minute life lesson about looking at life in a positive way because human beings will get further in life that way, he offered his genuine and honest help to anyone that needs it. He also said, “If you just want to stop by and say hi, we would be more than welcome to have you as well.”

My sister and I for sure weren’t going to pass up the one-time opportunity to meet the Joel Osteen of the Lakewood Church . So, we immediately got out of our velvet colored seats and headed towards the north side of the church to meet one of the people I most admire in the world. A rather long line formed in front of me, curving around in each direction possible like a snake often does when it slithers, but it was well worth it. It took no longer than ten minutes anyway. As we approached Joel, also known as one of the top 20 influencers of the Pentecostal/charismatic community, I realized that he stood about 5’10” even with those black shiny shoes he wore (Alnor 1). His intensely curly dark brown hair probably added an inch to his height as well. He gave us a warm welcoming smile, looked straight at us with his ocean blue eyes, and said, “Hello. How are you doing today?”

“Hi Joel. It’s nice to meet you. My name is Cindy and this is my sister, Brittany,” I started. “We just wanted to meet you in person. We watch you all the time on our home television, but we don’t have the opportunity to come and visit as often because we live on the north side of town. We just wanted to meet you and let you know that we love what you do and your words always help us get through tough times.”

“Well, I appreciate you telling me that and I’m glad that everything is okay with you,” he said with excitement.

Once again, the fight against traffic started and this time, worse because there are two sets of traffic going on at once; the ones leaving the first service and the ones coming into the second service. The police lead us out and our Sunday morning at church came to an end.

The last time I presented myself at Lakewood Church , I just wanted to see what Lakewood was all about, but this time my intentions completely changed. I was looking for a permanent non-denominational church and I think I found that at Lakewood . According to Joel Osteen, “…We don’t push some kind of religion…all we push is joy and peace and victory through Jesus Christ” (Alnor 2). Also, at that time, probably because it was my first visit, the ceremony wasn’t as personalized as the groundbreaking ceremony. The place crowded itself so much that my family and I sat in the far corner to the left of the stage. Joel represented a little black dot to us from our seats.

However, there are those who feel anti-Lakewood and their supporters. According to Rand Winburn, “Joel Osteen, an Oral Roberts University dropout, exudes confidence and success. Certainly, in worldly terms, he has achieved this at the young age of 39, thanks to the multitudes of deceived tithing Lakewood churchgoers” (Winburn 2). This character twisted the true situation to fit in his puzzled argument. Sure, Lakewood asks for tithes, just like any other church. People choose to donate that money; they are not in any way, shape or form obligated to give the church money. Those who are against Lakewood , should at least research a little more and know what they are talking about when they are going to argue against it.

Starting off as a small and unknown church on Mother’s Day in 1959 by Pastor John Osteen, Lakewood Church has accomplished new heights never imaginable by the common people ( Lakewood 1). His son, Joel Osteen, took the position of senior pastor in October 1999 (Alnor 2)( Lakewood 1). Every step that Lakewood Church has taken has only been possible for two reasons: to keep faith and spread faith. Lakewood has nationalized itself through television recordings, tape recordings, international visits, and now the big move to the Compaq Center , the old home to the Houston Rockets. As of the year of 2005, after 12 months of remodeling, Lakewood Church will move into the new Lakewood International Center (700 Club 2).
Map:


Links:

Lakewood Church

Compaq Center

The 700 Club

The Christian Sentinel

Anti-Lakewood