Thank You, Lord, for the fall...and work that allows me to experience it's diversity across the land.
The farm that they show in the video is the one on which I was raised.
The following is her testimony, and I highly recommend it...
Oct. 18, 2005
South Nassau Christian Women’s Club
“A Harvest of Thoughts”
How are you doing today? I’m doing great these days. That hasn’t always been the case – nor is it always the case. But today, this day, I’m doing great.
It was a little more than 10 years ago, when I sat on the couch in my little studio apartment in Manhattan and contemplated my life. After years of striving, I had finally arrived! I had a glamorous job at a well-known magazine, I had an apartment – albeit small – in Manhattan, I had a boyfriend, who looked like he might actually ask me to marry him, I had everything I had wanted and had planned for.
Why, then, I thought to myself, why do I want to kill myself?
Oh, I knew I would never actually kill myself – too much pain for those I would leave behind – but the wondering was there which led to the natural question – why, if I have all I wanted, isn’t it really what I want? What was I missing?
Turns out, I was missing God! I certainly didn’t think I was missing God b/c, after all, I grew up in a Christian faith, was baptized, confirmed and all that. I even went to church now and again. When that church began to feel empty, I explored other spiritual options --- none of them seemed quite right. No, it wasn’t God I was missing, was it?
At the time, I was working for a woman who was a “born-again.” I had been working for her for about two years, watching her….watching her…
I knew about those born-agains….they’d been after me for years: first in high school, then in college, then in the workforce. They came after me with their big, thick Bibles, those huge wooden crosses around their necks and those long, sad faces. When I met them, I always thought, “No wonder they’re born again….Their lives are so sad, they clearly need God!”
This woman I worked for, though, she was different somehow. Her faith didn’t seem to weigh her down….in fact, she seemed almost joyful! She laughed a lot, didn’t take herself too seriously, even though she was one of the smartest business persons I had ever worked with.
Around the time of my apartment contemplation of my life, I had been working on a big project with her and she noticed that I was disturbed. So she asked me about the project….I told her that from my perspective the project was failing…so many things were going wrong and I couldn’t get it perfect….she told me that her perspective was otherwise and then she asked me an important question. She asked me, “Joyce, what can I do to help you gain confidence?” “Well,” I said, “if I knew that, I would do it. I’m the kind of person who fixes what’s wrong.”
“Joyce,” she said. “I know what is wrong.” And she proceeded to tell me that my problem was that I didn’t know God and His love for me. She took me to breakfast the following day and I will never forget how she used the salt and pepper shakers and the knife and fork to show me how I was alienated from God because of my sin and how Jesus Christ came to bridge that gap between me and God through forgiveness of sin.
Well, I’d heard this before….but it was like I was hearing it for the very first time that morning.
Later that afternoon, I went to her office and prayed that God would forgive me my sins because of Jesus and that He would set my life on the right path.
At my baptism not long after, God gave me my life verse – which has become our marriage verse, as well – from Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
I remember this verse often.
I remembered it when God began the very hard work of cleaning up my life. I found the process of changing my habits and especially changing my opinion of myself, which was bad, to God’s opinion of me, which is a beloved daughter. I remembered it when God called me to forgive those who had hurt me throughout my life … a long season of recalling past hurts and releasing those responsible from my debt by forgiving them.
I remembered the plans God had for me when I was harassed in my workplace by someone who didn’t like God. Ultimately, I was forced out of that job and into one that was less desirable.
I hung onto the promise that God’s plans were to prosper me and not to harm me as my longtime friends found that my faith was too much for them and they began to avoid me. My loneliness and isolation was crushing at times.
I recited this verse: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future,” when I was one of the few people in the company to be job-eliminated – again by the very same person who had forced me out of the more desirable job earlier.
And I saw the realization of this verse, when God served as yenta between my husband Rich and I in 1997. You see, God had called me to be open to dating….I guess that was when I realized that I probably hadn’t been! We met at the most unlikely place – a singles’ retreat! Rich was performing and I was speaking. Mutual friends had prepared the way, by telling each of us about the other. “He’s your soul-mate,” they told me. I think to myself, “Who are they kidding? He’s an actor...I’m a business executive! We have nothing in common!” But the Lord reminded me that my plans for my love life had blown up in my face time and again. It was time to try His plan. His plan works, by the way.
And I remembered that God’s plans were to give me a hope and a future when in Feb. 2000, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a non-curable and progressive disease of the central nervous system. I’ve carried this disease for five years, with no visible deterioration. I hang onto God’s good plans with all my fingertips – especially when earlier this year, I developed heart failure because of the medicine I was taking for the MS. Now I’m off the MS meds and on the heart meds.
And I remember these good plans that God has for me when in June I was promoted to a position at my job that has global responsibility….one that expands my sphere of influence to the upper reaches of my company and the outermost parts of the globe.
And I remember these plans when, in July, I went to the hospital for a ambulatory surgical procedure that went awry, leaving me with an incision in my abdomen and once again, drawing upon that great insurance plan my employers provide.
You see, though my life has its ups and its downs, God’s plans for my life – His desire to bless me and to bless through me – have resulted in a harvest of righteousness. I’ve learned through hard experience that God is smarter, wiser and more powerful than I. I’ve learned that though we might have the same goals in mind, his way of getting to the goal is the best way and I’ve learned to allow Him to take control of my life – at least most of the time. Sometimes, of course, I get in the driver’s seat and then, watch out, there is usually some carnage in the streets and whiplash for me.
No, I’ve learned that God’s plans for me are to prosper me and not to harm me, if I relax and let Him lead. I’ve learned that those plans are to give me a hope and a future. I believe that like I believe in God Himself.
When I was spiritually dead, I had a lot of plans for myself. Fortunately, I never acted on the vague thought to kill myself. But now that I’m alive, I’m learning to let God do the planning. I can see now that He always planned that I would love him – He sent me those “born-agains” to soften me up -- so that when the time was right, when my boss told me that I was empty because I had no relationship with God, I actually understood. You see, she told me that I was separated from God by my sin. That Jesus Christ, who is God, lived a perfect life, died on a cross and rose from the dead in order that I could believe in Him. In believing in Him, I trusted Him to forgive me of my sins and make me new again – alive again – yes, born again! By this forgiveness of my sins, I could establish a real relationship with God. I could be remade into God’s image, like it was in the beginning before sin entered the Garden of Eden. I could be set upon a course of right living because I was connected to the source of all living, God.
What I needed to do, though, was to say yes to this forgiveness of sin, yes to this relationship with God, yes to being remade into God’s image. I needed to say yes….it wouldn’t just happen without my yes….it wasn’t enough to have been born and baptized a Christian, I needed to agree with all my being to being in the relationship with God. See I knew the gospel here, but I never knew that God would not force His friendship upon me. I never knew that He was waiting for me to say yes to Him….yes to all His love, His forgiveness, His plans for me.
Stay tuned for more details.
When I was in third grade my parents blessed us with a trip that included a stop in Chicago. The view from atop the Sears Tower at night blew my little mind. I'm sure it was one of the things that God used to plant a love of travel in my heart...and the ability for this farm boy to live on Times Square.
I've performed several times in Bill and Melanie Jeschke's church, just outside Washington DC.
I'll be doing a workshop tomorrow morning in Chicago (no rain here), so if anyone catches the show, please post a report in a comment below.
In Christ alone,
Tune in to the TODAY Show this Friday morning Oct 14 and when they scan the crowd outside of Rockefeller Center, be on the lookout for our dear friend and adopted sister and auntie Inece Bryant (she'll be wearing bright yellow and holding a big sign), her friend Toni, niece Amber, and me. We're going up to celebrate Inece's 50th birthday and she wants to publicly thank my husband Bill for donating his kidney to her so that she could live to enjoy 50 years of life (and many more!) Please read her letter below to the Today Show.
PS Let's hope and pray that she gets her birthday wish and will be on the show!
Author of The Oxford Chronicles
From: Bryant Inece
Sent: Thursday, October 06, 2005 7:41 PM
Subject: Just to say "Thank You"
Hello Today Show!
I am part of the millions I like to think of as "family" who enjoy watching you each morning. I particularly enjoy the health, cooking, and human interest segments. However, I must say my favorite is the interaction that happens when the "1st Family" are outside and talk with the many people who come see them.
For that reason I wanted to write you. Next week at this time I will be in New York. I'm coming solely for one purpose and one purpose only. I want to say "Thank You." Please hear me out.
In 1994 I was diagnosed with Renal Failure. I was told that I would probably need a Kidney Transplant within 10 years. In 2003 that came true. My kidney function was down to about 10%. Thousands of people die every year waiting for an organ transplants. When my time came I did not have to wait. I had four people in line to be tested. The forerunner was William H. (Bill) Jeschke. You may wonder why (a) good looking "white" man of nine children would donate his kidney to this single black female. Well, for that answer you need to ask Bill. I personally look at (his picture) and wonder why any one unrelated would be so compelled to donate their kidney. Bill and Melanie have been married close to 30 years and are the proud parents of nine beautiful and talented children and 3 adorable granddaughters. They are both graduates of The University of Virginia (UVA). Bill isthe Pastor of The King's Chapel in Fairfax, Virginia, and coaches soccer. Melanie taught English for two years before starting their family, then became a stay at home mom, homeschooler and writer/author. Bill is one who lives his faith passionately. He's a kind man with a big and generous heart. When I told him he didn't have to do this, his response was, "Inece, this is a no-brainer. You need a kidney, I have two. I only wish I had more I could donate to others." A "no-brainer" he kept telling me. This is still incomprehensible to me. Even though I'd been friends with the Jeschke family for 16 years, I didn't expect this. I didn't even ask him. He just so willing came forward (no pomp and circumstances). In 2001 both Bill and his youngest daughter (who was 18 at the time) donated blood to me when I had to have another surgery. Now, we are more than friends. We are a family bonded together not only by Jeschke blood and kidney, but by a loving God who continues to show us that agape love goes beyond race, gender and class. It looks at the need and heart of humankind and responds accordingly.
I could never repay Bill for what he has given to me, but I intend to thank him for the rest of my life, for my life. Since October is Clergy Appreciation Month, the anniversary of the first Kidney Transplant and on October 14th, my 50th birthday, I just wanted to find a way to thank him (and the many donors and donor families) for the gift of life that's been given to me.
On October 14th I'll be at Rockefeller Center holding my sign with the attached photo on it to say a big "THANK YOU" to this wonderful man with a huge heart. I haven't a clue as to where to stand but I do hope and pray you will see me (and a few other friends including Melanie Jeschke) and put it on for him to see (and the many viewers). He's a special person who deserves a special thanks. I might not have reached 50 if it weren't for Bill and the many wonderful people who prayed for me as well.
Thank you for reading this and thank you in advance for your assistance.
My Very Best Regards,
Inece Y. Bryant
Talitha asked her mom if she could sit on my lap when I played Jesus during the scene pictured here. She told her it was too late to add that to the blocking, but I had the same idea and asked if she wouldn't mind sitting on my lap.
The disciples Peter (played by Juan, who's hand you can see) and Andrew (played by Dave) look on as I portray Jesus teaching about God's provision. Pray for Dave's family, as his father just went to be with the Lord.
One of the prayers prayed at the Feast of Sukkot is for rain. For those of you who don't live in the NYC area, it's pouring! Today is another Jewish festival: Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. As God's cleansing rains come down, pray that many would recognize Yeshua as their final atonement.
Okay, it wasn't this spectacular (as much as a phone cam can replicate spectacular) all the way from Heathrow to JFK, but we chased the sun as best we could.
As I'm remounting Beyond the Chariots, my play about Eric Liddell, I'm adding some phrases in French, Mandarin, and Japanese. Translating the French phrases in France only took three tries, but God sat me next to a Mandarin speaker on this flight! Thank you, Lord! I pray Japanese comes as easily.
By the way, I did discover the sand of Nice. It was like a big beach blanket, 30'x70'. Most people were choosing the stones.