In the new book The Whitney I Knew gospel singer BeBe Winans tells the story of his friendship with Whitney Houston. The book arrived just before the release of Houston's final movie, Sparkle, opened in theaters. This is the final excerpt from Chapter 3: Bloodlines, Elvis, and Her Eternal Fan.
Whitney always recognized God and his impact on her life. That’s why she beamed when I asked about her church. That’s why she often told the media that it was important for the men in her life to love the Lord. It was a gospel song that broke Whitney into singing to begin with: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” That wasn’t just a song to Whitney. It represented her prayer and desire. She pursued God and loved her gospel roots.
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about how so many people that I meet in the entertainment business grew up in the church, and yet, for whatever reason, many of them have left it. Who knows why? Maybe the church hurt them or they just grew to resent God. Still, it’s interesting to me that even though so many revile the church or never find their way to it to begin with, they end up walking down the aisle in a church to speak vows to the person they love. And then, eventually, they sit beside family and friends in a pew listening to people eulogize someone they loved.
Life tends to drive us to church, at least on occasion. Even more, life tends to drive us to God.
I think Whitney would have loved to sing and say something at her funeral. She loved being in church. There she found Jesus, and there she stepped into her calling, singing the gospel numbers like her own lifelong doxology.
That night in Detroit when I first met her, I knew she would have to walk out of the church and into the world. She had a job to do—to let the people hear what church sounds like; let the people hear what God sounds like. Ironically, I think the world got a sampling of that at her funeral. At her church.
What does God sound like? Whitney singing the high-soprano line in a song? Well, maybe. But in all seriousness, I think God sounds like the gift he’s given to each one of us. We’re free to use our gifts in any way we see fit, but God’s plan for those gifts—his desire for those gifts—is for you and I to return them to him by using them, and then by giving him the honor he is due. I also think we honor him with our gifts when we employ them to show compassion to the less fortunate—by serving the impoverished and feeding the hungry, as Whitney did so many times through her charitable work and appearances. Many people don’t know that she formed the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children and also supported the United Negro Fund, the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, St. Jude’s
Children’s Research Hospital, and various other causes.
Famous or not, when we use our gifts for God’s glory, we accomplish something amazing: we change the world’s view of what love looks like, of what love is. The Bible says that love is patient; it is kind; it gives sacrificially. In my mind, such resounding love is exactly what God sounds like.
“Whitney was not just a friend but a sister, and I am going to miss her voice and her humor, but mostly, her friendship.” - CeCe Winans
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