Saturday, February 18, 2012

Whitney's Life Lessons: Finding Your Voice

Today as I watch testimonies of Whitney Houston's life while her funeral service unfolds, I am thinking a lot of this beautiful, talented and beloved star. I have chosen not to focus on the drama of her life. I've wanted to think and write about the treasures she left.

What can we learn from Whitney's life as we seek to find our way in the world? Last week, I discussed a few lessons from her legacy. Today I examine a few more. We have a mission here that we all should pursue.

We must get to know the Master Artist

Recently I've adopted a new favorite scripture. It's a popular one that I've heard quoted over and over again through the years. I'll share it here:
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10
I fell in love with this scripture when I read it in the original Greek language. The word workmanship in our language sounds like a piece of hardware, something created in a factory. In your mind's eye, you might see an image of a factory, a piece of machinery being assembled piece by piece on an assembly line.

But that image would be wrong.

The original language paints a different picture. The word workmanship in the Greek is poema, which translates into English "masterpiece" or "poem." This means that God sees us as a masterpiece, an original, one-of-kind piece of art. As a writer, I love using the translation of "poem." To think that God created me as an original poem, a poem with beauty that far exceeds any poem of Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou or Edgar Allan Poe.

So I like to think of God as the Master Artist. Whitney, though she fought her own demons, knew the Master Artist. She knew the Lord. She sang of Him. She spoke of Him.

And we must too.

We have to find our voice

Many call Whitney "The Voice." No one could deny she had an amazing voice. No one could deny her phenomenal talent. Whitney found her voice at a young age.

And we too must find our voices.

Many professional writers and editors tell us aspiring writers that as we write, we must find our voices. We must discover what makes our writing stand out amongst millions of other writers. The writings of a good writer can be discerned amongst any other writer. When I read Toni Morrison, I know it's Toni's words. When I read Francine Rivers, I know it's Francine's words.

And the same is true for the authors of the bible. I've been studying the minor prophets, and now I can hear the voice of Hosea, the voice of Joel, the voice of Habakkuk.

You don't have to be a singer or writer to find your own voice. You may be a teacher, a politician or a chef. No matter what you're called to do, you've got to find your own voice. You've got to follow your calling in Him. He's the Master Artist, and He's got a plan and purpose for you, His masterpiece, His poem.

We must share that voice with the world

Lastly, we've got to share that voice with others. Whitney shared her voice with us for many years, and we're better for it.

Whatever your calling in this life, it's not just for you or about you. When spending time with the Master Artist, reading His words, praying to Him, He pours His goodness, His blessings into us. As we share our gifts, talents and callings with others, we're simply pouring out of His overflowing goodness and blessings.

What does this look like?

Say you feel called to bake. You may feel like your calling is small, insignificant in the world. Yet God can use you and your talents. As you and your loved ones enjoy your delicacies, think of ways that you can bless others. Share some baked goods with a family at your church or in your neighborhood that has recently lost a loved one. Find a homeless shelter or domestic abuse shelter to share your baked goods. It's not only the preacher or the bible teacher that can bless the down-and-out. Any of us can. All of us should.

Whitney did, and so should we.

Love you, Whitney. We'll see you again.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston: Lessons from a Legend

Okay, I know I'm on a hiatus from my personal blog. It's been a great time of rest and release from the pressure to produce. It's also given me time to do a little article writing and time to focus on my new blog for pastor's wives.

Yet today I just couldn't stay silent.

When I heard the news about the death of pop icon Whitney Houston, my heart dropped. I definitely experienced one of those, "pinch me please" moments. I just couldn't believe the news. After a few hours of CNN, the reality began to sink in. Whitney was gone.

Today when I awoke, I was more clear-headed. I began asking myself, what can I learn from Whitney's life? What can we glean from her death? This post is the answer to those questions.

Life is hard

This is probably my no-brainer point of the day. Anyone that's lived over twenty-five years can attest to this statement. No matter what your station in life, life is difficult. Whether you're the server in a restaurant or the restaurant owner. Whether you're a billionaire or a homeless person. Whether you're a multiple Grammy-winning pop star or a custodian at the Los Angeles Staples Center. Life is hard for all of us.

As a teenager, I wanted to be famous. I'd belt out Whitney's "Greatest Love of All" into the end of my hairbrush and dance through the video routines of "How Will I Know?" I imagined myself walking on the infamous "Red Carpet" while blowing kisses to adoring fans. In my mind the life of a superstar had to be perfect.

Now that I'm no longer the teenage girl impersonating famous singers like Whitney, I've come to realize that life deals its share of highs and lows for everyone. We all enjoy happy, endearing moments. We all suffer heartache, loss and trials. None of us is exempt from pain.

Whitney, having struggled with addiction, a tumultuous marriage and now an untimely, tragic death, was no exception.

Life is hard, but God is good

In her later years, Whitney appeared to return to her spiritual roots. Her fans always knew she'd been raised in the church, and that she began singing in her childhood congregation of New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. A New York Times article states, "Shouts of praise and joy mingled with expressions of grief Sunday at the Newark church where, when Houston was a child, the singer's voice first blossomed."

Whitney's last CD gave testimony to her faith in the Lord. Her title song, "I Look To You" spoke of her faith in God to deliver her from her trials and demons. A woman who seemingly had it all had finally come to the realization of her desperate need for God.

Winter storms have come
And darkened my sun
After all I've been through
Who on earth can I turn to?

I look to you
I look to you
After all my strength is gone
In you I can be strong

Like the Apostle Paul, she faced the reality that while she was weak, God is strong. (2 Corinthians 12)

I also recall when Oprah Winfrey interviewed Whitney about her most recent CD and her journey back from drug addiction. Whitney claimed her faith in Christ in no uncertain terms. She clearly professed her Christianity, and I rejoiced in her testimony. Now that she's gone, I'm truly rejoicing in this testimony.

No matter how dark our days, no matter how challenging our vices, God is always, always good.

No matter how difficult our lives here on earth, we can cling to the promise of eternal life with Him.

God is good, but don't stop praying

Do you have family members and friends that have lost their way? Maybe they're addicted to drugs or alcohol. Maybe they've walked out on their families. Maybe they're incarcerated, suffering life-altering consequences for poor choices.

I certainly do.

I won't belabor this last point. We've got to keep praying for our friends and family members that desperately need our prayers. We've got to keep speed-dialing their phone numbers. We can't leave them alone. And we can't give up on them.

Praise the Lord, He doesn't. After all, He hasn't given up on us, has He?

** I'd like to leave you with Whitney's "I Look to You." Keep looking to Him. Don't give up. Don't give up. Don't give up.