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The pop singer Whitney Houston has been making a much-publicized comeback in the last few weeks. C’mon you know you have heard it on television, seen it at the checkout counter. We all want to act like we don’t care about such things, but many of us are drawn to these celebrity disasters. Hey, if there is a People magazine in my vicinity or TMZ happens to come on television I am like a moth to a flame. I have made peace with my obsession with pop culture. All I have to say is that fortunately I was traveling for the most part during the 25 hour Michael Jackson coverage or I would have never produced a sermon or come to the office. Now we have moved to Whitney. It is her nearly ubiquitous revelations of excess, verbal abuse and redemption. It is all inspiring stuff. She has capped it off with 2 days of revealing interviews with Oprah Winfrey. We all know that this is somewhat choreographed for the cameras. We have come to expect it, but boy do we love it, hey I love it.
We are a country obsessed with celebrity’s problems. The drug overdose of Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson’s current overdose death and rock star Kurt Cobain’s suicide represent cautionary tales of excess and tragedy. While Whitney Houston represents a long line of people who have publicly come clean about their problems and sought out to change their lives. CNN asks will Kanye West’s rapid apology for his interruption of Taylor Swift’s MTV video music award video be enough? Is Chris Brown’s community service enough for brutally beating the singer and his ex-girlfriend Rheanna? Do these things really matter more than for their entertainment value?
So, what do we take from being national peeping toms? As Americans we love a good story arch, one that has someone finding redemption at the end. We also love cautionary tales of those who could not get their lives together. So, aside from the real personal stories I think there is some type of yearning that our obsessions show us about our human conditions. I think that we yearn for redemption, but fear that we cannot change and will go the way of the cautionary tale. We love it when it is on the small screen of our television, or the small screen of our computer, but not when it is in the wide-open spaces of our lives.
It is hoped that Houston has the experts, support, money and spiritual change to be one of the relatively small statistics that have long term recovery from addiction. It is when we move from the small screen to our large lives that producers, handlers and publicists do not exist to make the story more palatable. We are the ones who have suffered the abuse, the mental illnesses, the broken homes and the addictions. The statistics show that the well-adjusted family was either a myth or something that you should thank your lucky stars. Most of us have sat in the emergency rooms, detox centers, with bruised sisters in the bedroom hiding and talking with the doctors inside the mental health unit after someone’s suicide attempt. Sometimes we are just barely holding it together ourselves underneath the surface and are doing everything that we can to make sure that it looks all right on the outside.
What is to be done? Where is there relief? How can we be honest enough with others if we cannot be honest with ourselves about our conditions? Jesus and James know two answers to those questions. They are surrender to simple faith and sacrifice. You see all of them are advocated in both of these texts. There are many people who have a variety of views on transformation, but not one of them includes denial, evasion or passive aggressiveness.
So, Jesus talks about simple faith, the faith of a child. You’ve heard the song, “I believe the children are our future.” Although the sentiment for children may be good, that line always seems to me to fly in the face of Jesus admonition to bring the children unto him. That to enter into the kingdom we must come to him like a child. It seems that children possess something about faith that we lose in our desire to not be seen as vulnerable. They possess wonder, trust, the ability to learn and most of all a tendency to live in the present moment. When was the last time that you were able to focus on nothing for an hour without being distracted? They can live in the present moment enough to be honest, sometimes brutally honest. You have heard it up here when children answer my questions with the truth and not the sanitized answer. They have not yet layered themselves with a protective covering that allows them to avoid the reality that is right in their midst. Simple acceptance of our true situation is an essential beginning to surrendering our lives to God.
Then James brings the spiritual life one step further. James knows that faith without works is dead. According to James these good works yield but equality and peace. We cannot stay merely in the childish state of accepting faith, we must progress forward toward something greater than ourselves. What is that? It is service to others.
Drama is good for the stage, for Oprah but not so good in life. If you are tired of live being a rollercoaster get off the ride. If you are looking for a life with meaning it is time to become like a child, get real about your life and ask other’s for help. Then you cannot stay a child in faith, but must growing in good works toward others that display equality and peace. It is this spiritual path of wisdom that will give life meaning and begin transforming your life.
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