Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where is Whitney?

Yesterday I had a long list of to-dos in preparing for a busy week of business travel ahead of me, but my day's plans were changed as I got a breaking news text that Whitney Houston's funeral was going to be broadcast live. I decided to tune in, just to say I saw some of it. Whitney hit the charts in the late 80s when I was in high school and college and we both are close in age. And so I did. And I went to church.

In the 4 hours of this funeral broadcast, I heard the gospel presented - in music and spoken word - and many of those closest to Whitney, shared personal stories of her life and faith. We all have heard the negative...the addiction, the loss of her voice and career because of her addictions. But I hadn't heard the stories from her family and close friends of her love for Jesus...until yesterday. Tyler Perry has only known her the last decade...probably the lowest points of her life. He testified of meeting with her and she'd share with him her struggles and before he could encourage her, she'd say "But the Lord is merciful..." Her bodyguard, who went with her everywhere, shared that she had a Bible, "raggedy" as he called it, that when you opened it up, the pages were loose and she'd marked it all up. But if they headed out on the road and she didn't have it, they'd go back. He said there were times that if she couldn't get that Bible in her bags, clothes would be removed to make room for it. No one truly knows where her stand was with the Lord, but many stood to testify yesterday that she had begun to turn her life around and get back on track. Sadly, maybe too late.

The question was posed to me today..."Do you think Whitney is in heaven or hell?" I try not to judge where anyone is once they die unless I know them personally enough to testify of their faith. And, the Scripture speaks of the thief on the cross that Jesus forgave and assured him he would be in paradise with Him that day. But if I have to choose, well, let the discussions begin.

As a girl, I think her downfall began from a choice she made. A choice to marry Bobby Brown. He wasn't the most optimal choice given his background, but the fame she had as she fell in love with him, probably thinking "oh he'll change" caused her to make a choice that changed her life...and not in a positive way. She began a road of addiction to drugs and the career that had so many more heights to achieve began to crumble. Bobby Brown isn't to blame for her sin - he's accountable only for himself - but because of that one choice, I believe she chose a road that wasn't the road God would want her to take. This is so powerful for me as I counsel girls (and remind myself) that marrying the man God has for you is so important. And that we not let the hearts and flowers pull at our heart stings away from what we know is right and true.

My friend, Alisa, wrote an amazing blog post on Whitney and her addiction. She points out that people with addictions get into a pit they can't get out - even when they know it causes more pain than pleasure. People with addictions are ruled by the addiction and not by the living God. This, sadly, is where I believe Whitney lived in recent years. Kevin Costner, her leading man in The Bodyguard, made a powerful statement in his words at her funeral. He encouraged all young girls with dreams, including her daughter Bobby Christina, that if Whitney was here, she would say "Pursue your dreams, but protect your bodies." If she had it to do over, she would.

So do I think Whitney is in heaven or hell? If I had to choose, I'd say heaven. If I had a famous life like her, I'm sure all the sin in my life would be the headlines, not the positive. Living in the spotlight of fame isn't easy. None of that excuses the sin in her life, but Psalm 130:3-4 says "If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness." and my prayer that is in her final days, her heart was repentant and turned toward Christ. I heard testimony of that yesterday, which allows me to say I believe she may be in heaven. In either case, the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached for 4 hours on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC yesterday, and I doubt that happens again until Jesus returns and takes reign over this fallen world.

One day I'll know if she's in Heaven. And if she is, I suspect she's singing Jesus Loves Me at the feet of her Savior.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Five Minutes: Delight

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Delight.

Ready. Set. Write.

What a happy word "Delight" is. When I say it, my eyebrows raise, my eyes get wider and I can't help but smile. I've described something as "so delightful" and that phrase just makes me happy.

The first thing that came to my mind besides the happy face I get from merely saying the word is the Scripture from Psalms, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." That verse is a balm for a weary soul when God doesn't seem to be providing me those desires I so long for. It doesn't mean that as long as I read my Bible, pray and go to church, the Lord will give me whatever I want. It is a verse to remind me to deepen my "delight" (that happy wonderfulness) in the Lord. What happens when I do that is He molds my heart and desires to what is truly the best for me. It's as if my delight in Him creates this happy balloon around my heart that protects it from hurt, guards it from long-term disappointment and makes my heart glad.

You may say "that is impossible, you will still get hurt, you will still be disappointed." Indeed I will because I'm human and far from having the mind and heart of Christ. But I know the more I delight in Him, the more my heart is free from the selfish bondage of my wants. May my heart be glad in desiring exactly what He wants for my life.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Five Minutes: Trust

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Trust.

Ready. Set. Write.

If there is one lesson I seem to never learn from God is trust. It seems like that age old dance of two steps forward and three steps back. God is always there to catch me, yet I fail to put my wholehearted trust in Him. It reminds me of why we are compared to of the dumbest (albeit cutest) animals around.

I love the story of the Israelites exodus out of Egypt and how God used a stuttering leader like Moses to remove His people from bondage. The remarkable miracles that were done should instill the strongest of trust in any weak soul. Yet, they barely had left the Egyptian soil that they began grumbling to the Lord about taking them out of their comfort. Then moving to Moses with all their complaints. I read that story and think, "Didn't you people just see God's Hand all over the place? Where's the trust?" And I stop and think about my own life. Even though I've not had locusts descend upon my enemies, nor have I seen the waters literally part to provide a crossing of dry land, I have seen Him do the unexplainable in my life. And, I can say to myself "Didn't you just see God's Hand all over the place? Where's the trust?"

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Eleven Things - Part One

My fellow friend and blogger, Katrina, tagged me in a post to answer eleven things. There is a myriad of rules and just reading through them all I got distracted. Being the unconventional soul that I am, I am doing it my own way. (Cue Frank Sinatra) Part One will answer the 11 questions Katrina had to answer and Part Two will answer the questions she posed to those she tagged. One day my rebel spirit is going to get me in trouble. But Katrina gave us the liberty to do as we wish, so on to Part One...

1. Would you rather be in prison for the rest of your life, or stranded on a deserted island with your closest loved ones for the rest of your life? (Assuming this is a tropical deserted island with plenty of food and such.) This is clearly a no-brainer. On a deserted island. I'm separated by miles from so many of those I love that if I could arrange them on a deserted island it would be one step from Heaven for me.

2. What was your biggest worry in high school? (Friends, grades, boys, acne, sports, something else?) High school is so far away in my memory that I truly don't remember. I would say that boys were a worry, though those closest to me wouldn't have dreamed that because I was happy go lucky. I never had a ton of worries in high school, but maybe that's because the worries I have now make those teenage worries pale in comparison.

3. If you had to be a character in a movie, who would you want to be? Ah, I love movies and see myself in almost every female character I watch. I need to segment this into animated and non-animated. For animated, I would want to be Cinderella, because I have always waited for my Prince Charming. Or, Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I just love her character. She loves to read and she has unconditional love for a very hard-to-love Beast that pays off for her in the end. For non-animated, I would want to be Maria Von Trapp. I'm not a nun in a convent...that vow of silence thing would get me...but I do try to devote my life to the Lord. Having a Captain fall in love with me as I cared for his mother-less children, all while singing along the way, is just about the coolest story ever. And Christopher Plummer was hot in that movie and is still quite the handsome man.

4. Would you choose an all-expense paid trip around the world (as many destinations as you want, for however long you want it to be, including your spouse and family if you want), or would you rather have $1 million cash here and now? As much as traveling is alluring, I'd probably take the $1 million dollars. I'd love to donate a portion to charity and invest the rest. Financial stress and strain is something no one wants to deal with. I'm so thankful how God provides, so having that windfall would be yet another provision from Him. Plus, if I invested correctly, I could take that all-expense paid trip.

5. If you had to go a year and eat only 5 foods, what would you choose? (Let’s assume your nutritional needs are taken care of by a vitamin of some sort.) 1. Qdoba - anything at the restaurant, 2. Nutella on Eggo Whole Grain Waffles, 3. Diet Soda (is that a food?) which could be Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, Diet Mountain Dew 4. Vegetables - I can't pick one, I crave certain ones, certain times, so my favorites available would be good. 5. Peanut Butter - My Granddaddy lived on this stuff way up in his 80s.

6. What is your favorite physical feature on yourself? My eyes and my lips. I'm sure you are asking yourself why I'm still single.

7. What is your very first memory as a child? This one is tough. I don't remember much pre-Kindergarten. The first memory that comes to mind is being in the church nursery and eating saltine crackers for snacks and doing splatter painting pictures. We had little screens that we would put over paper, then dip toothbrushes in tempera paint and scrub over the screens. I was a little Picaso.

8. If you had to move to another country, which country would you choose and why? One that provides excellent healthcare, which may be tough to find. One with beautiful scenery would be amazing too. Hawaii isn't another country, but sometimes it feels like it is and would be a fun place to live. My elementary school music teacher lived there for a while and I was enamoured by her stories that I always thought it was an enchanted land.

9. What movie can you watch over and over and over again? There are a lot of these, but just to name a few...Steel Magnolias, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, While You Were Sleeping, Sound of Music, Runaway Bride, My Best Friend's Wedding. I could go on, but let's just say that if I like a movie well enough, I could watch it endlessly.

10. What is one job that you’d like to do, but can’t or wouldn’t because of circumstances? (circumstances such as: it doesn’t pay well enough, the hours are bad, you don’t live in a place where there’s a great need for marine biologists, you don’t have the body type to be a professional figure skater…) I would structure a job that looked like this...I would be a daily columnist, writing my ruminations and reflections for the world to read. When not writing my column, I'd be working on various book projects. I'd teach as an adjunct at the college level, mentoring and guiding students that want to determine their career and life path. I'd lead more Bible studies and invest more in young women. My other alternate career would be a wife. Sounds simple and 1950-ish, but since I've been single for a long time, if God blessed me with a man, I'd want to devote my life to being his helpmeet. Planning meals, taking care of the home, and probably still writing that column and writing that book.

11. What is your secret phobia? (I’m not talking spiders or being alone or public speaking, I’m talking about the weird and totally irrational one that you don’t like to admit to.) I'm quirky, so I'll pick just one. I'm always phobic about someone following me home at night so I am very cognizant of the cars around me and following me when I'm driving. I've been known to divert my route to try and lose a car that I suspected was following me.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Five Minutes: Real

Each week Gypsy Mama chooses a word to write about for five minutes. No editing, stream of consciousness. Today's word is: Real.

Ready. Set. Write.

I seem to battle on a daily basis with doing what my sanctified soul knows I should do and what my sinful flesh wants to do. It's a constant struggle and has become more evident in recent days as I've asked God to convict me in areas of my life where I fall short in obedience to Him.

In those moments when I stress, I remind myself that admitting this - to my Lord, and to those I'm accountable to - shows I'm real. I live in a real world with real hurts, real pain, and real problems. I can put on the happy mask and tell someone "Oh, God is working everything out for your good in the end." or I can say "Yes, life stinks and there are days when I question what God is doing, but when I'm curled up in my fetal position longing for God to embrace me, I know He is there, working behind what I see to bring out the best for me. It's just sometimes painful to get there."

I can't be anything other than real. I fail at fake. Oh I can put on a happy face when needed and provide a resilient spirit, but over the long haul, the reality is...I'm a sinner saved by grace. And, you'll hear real words from me. Because real words are more comforting than standard phrases that leave you empty.