Just a quick post as I sit watching the Grammy Awards. (Musicians – I don’t get them but I can’t take my eyes off them.)
Right now country legend Glen Campbell is singing ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ and the crowd is singing along while the camera flashes quickly to the crowd and a shot of Lady Gaga. What contrasts. She is young and early in her career and Glen Campbell is singing in public for one of the last times. She is fresh in her fame and he is a survivor in spite of his fame.
Yesterday when my wife told me the unexpected news that Whitney Houston had passed away, my initial reaction was simply stunned silence and a flood of reflection. Like most, I chafed at the thought of a life and talent lost too soon. It was the same way I felt when I heard of some of the other famous ‘too early’ losses that have happened during my life. There are many of them, but some of them are darker than others. Off the top of my head: Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Karen Carpenter, Princess Diana, John Belushi, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon. How about the short, sad story of child-star Gary Coleman?
Even when their lives don’t end tragically, there are still so many entertainers who just are ‘used up’ by an entertainment culture that catapults them to fame and then empties them (again off the top of my head: Joe Walsh, Brittney Spears, Macaulay Culkin, and oh yes, Princess Leia).
Jim Carrey is quoted as saying, “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” Wow. If only we could actually apply that to our lives. How about Bob Marley’s last words to his son, “Money can’t buy life.”?
Those life-lessons give even more weight to Jesus’ words to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, NLT) Translated more literally, so what if you get all that you want but lose who you are? Chew on that for awhile.
Whitney Houston’s battles with addictions, her husband, and life in general were well chronicled and sad. She, like many entertainers, grew up singing in her church and she often reached back to her roots for hope in times of trouble – but it never seemed to be enough. Why? It’s not appropriate for me to speculate on her now, so I won’t. But for most, I suspect that it has something to do with the foundation we build our lives on over time. The things we choose to worship – truly worship in the depths of our hearts – will slowly come to control us.
As usual, Jesus’ words are penetrating and relevant if we choose to listen and act. “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or worse, stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and will end up being. (Matthew 6:19-21, Message)