I hope that all is well with you. I have had an amazing week, and had to share it with you. A dream come true. An idol met. An incredible experience. Unforgettable moments.
It all began in a hotel room half a dozen years ago. In New York, while visiting my children, late at night looking for something to watch on TV, I happened across a preacher speaking on television, and watched for a few minutes to listen to his message. He was young, attractive, sounded intelligent, and I was impressed by how simple and clear his message was. It was a huge dose of hope, mixed in with common sense, and made faith palatable to people of almost any religion, or even none at all. I was enormously impressed, watched the whole show, and liked it enormously. The preacher was someone I’d never heard of (then), Joel Osteen. The message stayed with me for several days, I mentioned him to one of my daughters, who said she had read something about him in the New York Times. I left New York 2 days later, and was walking toward the gate at the airport, past the book store, when I saw his book on the bestseller shelves, and quickly bought one before my flight. I loved the book, and once again his strong clear message of hope, and how to lead a better life. EVERYTHING he said appealed to me and made sense. I soaked up the book’s message like a sponge. I can’t remember what was happening in my life at the time, but undoubtedly the usual challenges of being the single parent to many children, a major career with the pressure and challenges that entails, a recent embezzlement at the time, and the usual problems we all face every day, which can range from discouragement to occasional despair. I found the book, and Joel Osteen’s message helpful in a down to earth, warm, practical way, and it stayed with me. I applied the principles in the book to my life, and found that they had a strong positive effect. I’m a religious person so was open to it, but even someone not of a religious bent, or of any faith, would have found it appealing. Who doesn’t need a positive attitude about their life? My admiration for Joel Osteen began then.
When I got home, I looked up his other books on the Internet and ordered them all, and read them avidly, and loved each one. I read his new books as they came out and was never disappointed. I told people about them, and gave them to friends. If anyone was struggling with problems, and everyday life, I sent them one of Joel’s books. I read those I had for a second and third time. His stock in trade was hope, practical advice, and his positive attitude was contagious. If I was having a tough time with anything, kids, work, life, I grabbed one of his books and read it again, and my life seemed to improve immeasurably whenever I did. He had a smooth writing style, his sincerity flew off the page, and the books were not only helpful, but fun to read. And I was intrigued by his mentions of his family, all of whom were in some way engaged in their family ministry. He had inherited it from his father, his siblings and in laws work with him, his wife, and children, and his mother. And from a small church, he managed to acquire one of the largest buildings in Houston, where his ministry is based, and they moved to the Compaq Center in Houston, where his church, following and ministry grew exponentially. By then, he was far from unknown, and his books hit the bestseller lists every time. My only knowledge of him was through his books, occasional interviews, and his televised sermons when I saw them.
Fast forward the film to a few weeks ago when I learned that he was going to be addressing his fans and followers at AT&T Park, the baseball stadium in San Francisco, when I was planning to be in town. I bought two tickets immediately, and mentioned it to a friend who by some miracle knew his literary agent for his books, and then by another miracle, the wheels of destiny were set in motion. I mentioned in passing that I would love to meet him one day—-it was a dream, a wish, not an expectation, or even a wish I expected to be fulfilled. And within days I had a contact number for a member of his family who works for him. I called, with little hope that Joel Osteen would have either the interest or the time to see me during his trip to San Francisco. He was going to be addressing more than 40,000 people at the ballpark, and undoubtedly would have no time. I didn’t expect to meet him, only to see him from my seats in the ballpark. And then magic happened…..a call….telling me he would like to meet me too, and a meeting was arranged at my home, and it would be brief, because he had so much to do in his ministry (meeting other pastors and visiting the homeless) during his brief trip, and he also had to prepare for his show, which left no spare time for social pursuits. But he had actually agreed to come to my home for half an hour with his wife and brother in law. Amazing!!! I was in a total flap over it. If you had arranged for a flock of movie stars to come to my home, or a modern day saint, I wouldn’t have been as excited as meeting this man whose books I had devoured for nearly a decade, and who had kept me going and improved my life when nothing else could. (My favorite books of his were “It’s Your Time”, “Become a Better You”, “Every Day a Friday”, and one that I read every day, with daily brief entries called “I declare” that has become my spiritual food daily. All his books were dog eared by then from reading them so often, and even my dog had gnawed on several of them while I read them.
The Day came, and Joel Osteen arrived at my home for the promised visit with his wife Victoria, and brother in law, and it was one of those rare encounters when everything clicks, you know you have met kindred spirits and you will never forget the moment. Our exchanges were on every subject, his books, his ministry, our families, the way we each write, how much his books mean to me. He was modest and direct and as wonderful and inspiring as his books, his wife Victoria was warm and equally wonderful, and the brother in law interesting and personable too. They stayed for an hour and a half, and I was flying when they left. I had met my idol, and one of the few people I truly admire unabashedly and without reservation. And Victoria was as impressive as he was. I was deeply grateful for the time they spent with me, and they insisted on placing me in a box they had at the event, instead of the tickets I had bought.
Two days later, I went to the big event at the ballpark, Night of Hope, so aptly named, and I was treated like royalty, met by their security on the street, ushered to the box, the stadium was full, and the event began at 7 pm, and was opened by their children and a number of other singers and musicians, singing music they had composed. The Osteen children were as talented and impressive as their parents, though only16 and 20. The young people involved were terrific, talent abounded. Victoria did some speaking and ministry throughout the evening, with Joel accompanying her at times, (they make a dazzling and endearing couple), and his mother Dodie spoke about her recovery from terminal cancer 30 years before, and was a lively energetic intelligent woman of 81. Every member of the family was impressive. And the meat of the evening was Joel himself, with his message of hope, and assurance that with faith and the right attitude, one could overcome just about any obstacle. He convinced us all that no matter what our age or circumstances, there were still plenty of good times ahead, anything is possible, and hope is the key to a turnaround in our lives if we just hang on. Forty thousand people soaked up his message of love and hope like a sponge. Everything he says resonates and makes sense. I was as bowled over by the evening as I had been by meeting him, and reading his books before that.
The evening was everything I had hoped for and much more. I went with a friend, and we sat riveted in our seats for 3 hours without moving, or leaving for an instant, and the program unfolded smoothly. And I don’t think anyone was left where they’d been when they walked in. He exudes faith, hope, love, and the certainty of better times ahead, and assured us of our ability to handle whatever obstacles life puts in our path. And at the end of the evening, an immeasurable gift: I got to go backstage and meet Joel’s mother and sister, his children and a niece, I was warmly greeted and embraced by all, got to talk to Victoria again, and to Joel. I can’t begin to tell you what it meant to me, how wonderful it was, how kind they all were, how welcoming, how everything they are and believe in embraces you from the moment you meet them. Joel’s mother has written a book too, and Victoria, and they gave them to me. I spent an hour with them all, and hated to leave. And before I left, Joel had gone to shake hands with an endless line of his followers, who had been given the opportunity during the evening to contribute to an organization that supports children in dire need in Africa, and for those who signed up to help them, Joel took the time to thank them personally: He was planning to thank 5,000 people when I left and I’m sure he did. I have met many important and famous people in my life, but meeting Joel Osteen meant the most to me, I was deeply impressed and profoundly touched. He is life changing, in the best sense of the word, through his books, his preaching, and his ministry. I will remember the night, and meeting him and his family forever. They are all truly remarkable people, giving themselves to the church and ministry they serve. It was an honor to meet them, and Joel, and a remarkable gift. I was a fan before The Night of Hope, and am more so now. And I hope to go to Houston to see him and his family again, and see him preach at his home base, Lakewood Church. His doctor brother is part of the team as well, when he’s not in Africa, carrying out his own ministry. And two of his sisters have ministries as well. There is no limit to some people’s goodness and their talents, and dedication to serving others whole heartedly. Joel Osteen is one of those people, I felt blessed to meet him, to see him speak in person, and to be there at all.
I am infinitely grateful for this remarkable night, and for the blessing of meeting Joel and all of the Osteens I met. It’s impressive too that the entire family is deeply engaged in their ministry. And hopefully, I will go to Houston and see them again…..and in the meantime, I am grateful and in awe of having met him. It is rare that our heroes measure up to our hopes when we meet them. Joel Osteen was everything I believed him to be and more……what an incredible Night. Truly a Night of Hope, and I move forward now, with new energy, renewed faith, and a sense of joy over what a gift it all was. It was one of the best nights of my life,