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"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

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Living and Leading By Example

Pardon me while I indulge in the freedom of having my own blog to share some of my deepest thoughts.  It is my hope that this, too, will be a blessing in your life!

June 2006 my husband and I visited the Brooklyn Tabernacle for the first time.  It was a life-changing experience that left us thirsting for more.  What a beacon of light in the midst of the chaos of this world and that city!  We decided to return to the Music Conference at Brooklyn Tabernacle that same year in October.  We found out about their prayer band, a group of dedicated brothers and sisters (laymen just like you and me) who took turns praying for specific prayer requests all around the clock... yes, you read right, 24/7!  Impressed by their level of service and devotion, I decided to share with them my most innermost desire: that they help me pray for us to have a child of our own.  It had been 6 years since we lost our little angel in the second trimester and although the doctors had given up, we KNEW God would make a way!  So the prayer band prayed, we prayed and our church prayed.  I would periodically email the prayer band and joke that the next time I walked into their sanctuary I would not be walking alone, but with a baby either in my womb or in my arms...

We returned for a second Music Conference in October 2007 and to the glory of God, I walked in the door 4 months pregnant... with our beautiful Nathan!  It was there that we heard the Southern Gospel group, The Greenes, for the first time.  We had NO idea what to expect; we'd never heard of them!  When TaRanda Greene stood up there and opened her mouth to minister in song, I was covered in goosebumps and I am still in shock to this day.  HOW HAD WE NOT HEARD OF THIS PERSON BEFORE?!?!?!?

Instantly I felt a kinship with TaRanda, not because I can sing even close to her skills, but because at that time she was 5 months pregnant with her second child.  TaRanda was married to Tony Greene, the leader of the group.  They had a beautiful 3 year old and another little one on the way.  She was due the last week in March and I was due the second week of April.

I could not get enough of their music.  We bought every CD and their one and only DVD.  Their music was so inspiring to me, so honest, so sincere, straight from the heart.  We actually met all 4 members of the group in the bookstore that day.  It was like talking to old friends, so humble and just as friendly as can be!  It's been many a day since then that I have sat in my car being blessed by their music.

When I went into early labor on March 4, 2008 my husband brought with us my iPod with a little dock to play music out loud.  In all the madness I only remember hearing one song that day:  "When God Has Another Plan" by the Greenes.  Again, this couple was ministering to us in this moment of uncertainty, fear and pain.  Nathan came 6 weeks early... and we took him to church for the first time on the very weekend TaRanda's little girl was born.

Where am I going with this???  This week I found out that TaRanda's husband, Tony, passed away last September.  He was 41 years old.  He developed end-stage renal failure soon after we saw them at Brooklyn Tabernacle.  Tony needed to have a kidney transplant and it was TaRanda who turned out to be the best match as a donor!  But... God had another plan.  Tony went to Heaven leaving behind his beautiful young wife along with their 5 and 2 year old daughters.

So, you ask???... I am deeply saddened by this.  First of all, because of the loss.  Second of all because this happened so long ago and I am just finding out.  I see this as a wake-up call from God.  Time to get out of my hole of despair and isolation because of my son's issues.  I feel like someone slapped me in the face and back into reality... to stop complaining and use my experience for the glory of our God!

Today I took some time to watch Tony's "Homecoming" service (the celebration of his life after his passing).  I have no words to describe how I felt as I watched TaRanda sing live and cry out to the Lord in prayer.  In this clip, though just a part of the service, they played a video where Tony shares his experience and the faith and strength he'd found as he walked the difficult road of his terrible illness.  Pastor Jim Cymbala, from Brooklyn Tabernacle (who happened to be Tony's favorite pastor... as he is mine!) spoke at the service.  I want to share this clip with you today.

No matter how deep in the hole you think you are, no matter how bad you think things seem, there is hope in our Lord, Jesus Christ!  It is only He who can allow the kind of strength you will see in these people you will see in this video.  It is easy to stand and talk; to travel singing pretty songs about joy, hope and faith.  It's another thing to stand in your most difficult hour, praising God and thanking him even in the midst of your heart-wrenching pain.  Living and Leading by example.  I've been there... and the peace is so overwhelming, it jettisoned me into starting this blog.  Even if only ONE person sees this and is lifted up and brought closer to God, then it is worth it.  And if NO ONE reads it... the glory is to God as I lift up His name in praise!

Here is the link to the YouTube video of Tony Greene's Homecoming Celebration.  Get your tissues and get ready to be pulled out of your hole!  God bless you!!!