Musings on the Tragic Life and Death of Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston died tragically on February 2nd, 2012. Much has been written and examined related to the life and death of Whitney Houston. Many thoughts and statements have been made regarding Whitney. Some have even commented on her standing with Jesus, easily concluding that she rejected Jesus. Barry McGuire made such statements in an opinion piece: http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2012/s12020066.htm suggesting that Whitney rejected the judgmental Jesus of the fundamental church. However, personally not really certain that Whitney rejected Jesus as she has given performances singing boldly of Jesus love including the snippet of her short duet with Kelly Price and the performance in Brazil in 1994 that are readily available on YouTube.

She knew of the love of Jesus. She grew up learning of the love of Jesus at New Hope Church pastored by Joe A. Carter. Her first solo performance was at age 11 when she sang “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah.” So she knew and was exposed to the love of Jesus and personally don’t think her story is one of rejecting Jesus, but rather getting lost and distracted by the things of this world and looking for love in places other than Jesus. She was hurt and turned to things that lead to death led by her own desires. While Whitney grew up in the church, she also group up in a family that valued music and entertainment. Her mother was Cissy Houston. Her cousins were Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Warwick, and Darlene Love. Her honorary Aunt was Aretha Franklin. Music was central to her family and Whitney Houston was created and gifted with a beautiful voice. Her voice opened doors and brought her fame and fortune. However, all that she received did not fulfill her and she was lost and hurting. Yet, at the base level she knew of Jesus love. However, that knowledge appeared to be something that she knew intellectually but did not experience at the core of her being. She knew of the love of Jesus, but did not seem to experience it.

There is a reason that Whitney Houston gravitated toward the simple song, Jesus Loves Me. The words state “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” And that appears to be the level of Whitney’s knowledge of Jesus love. She was told it was true. She sang of the truth but her experience of it was limited. It is clear that Whitney craved deeply love. Her words deeply touched on the human perspectives of love and longing, yet ever missing the true love. Yet, at core she knew that Jesus was where there was true love, yet couldn’t break from the pain and loss and hurt coming from the wounds caused by others. She got hooked into the poison of alcohol and drugs that give momentary relief of those pains, yet she did not experience the healing of Jesus love in this life. She walked a path that lead to death and fully embraced the poison.

Whitney is really not any different than anyone else, other than being famous. She experienced hurt and pain. She wanted love, but what she experienced didn’t measure up. She lived a life that pursued her desires and she was able to have a lot of her desires fulfilled. However, one desire was not fulfilled, to be able to live free from pain and experience love deeply. She craved, it wanted it, sang beautifully about it, yet she did not let the words of her first solo be her path. She chose her own way and it came easy, for she had “THAT VOICE.” We also readily choose our own way and pursue the things that come easy. We go after our desires and do not surrender to God or look to Him for strength. We also at times only have knowledge that Jesus loves us because of what we are told. There is more. Jesus love is real and can be experienced. Jesus love is beyond measure. It can touch one beyond the deep levels of pain and hurt living in the fallen world brings. We all too often go ways that seem right to us, that give us all we think we want but in reality ensare us and trade the promise of love into pain as the promise turns to a cruel and abusive master.

So there is much to be learned from the life and death of Whitney Houston. We all have a story and paths to choose. We can follow God and surrender or we can walk the path of self. Each path has pain and joy. Each path has difficulties. One path leads to full life, one leads to death. Whitney is one of many who only grasp things at a superficial level and go looking for the answers in ways that seem right but are death. Our natural inclination is to choose paths that do seem right, yet are our own destruction. The choice to follow God is always difficult for it involves given up of what I think I want, for we fear giving of self will result in being denied goodness and pleasure. However, it is only truly in the giving of what we think we want that we can receive all that is of good. Whitney missed out in this life, for she walked the path of self. Walking the path of God brings more than can be imagined but it requires all, but in that is true goodness, pleasure, and life. So please, take time and lament the death of Whitney Houston, then examine own life. Open up to surrender to God and being able to truly experience the love of Jesus so it moves beyond knowing about it because one was told about it, but rather that love is experienced moment by moment.

Personal Musing: 9-11-2001 to 9-11-2011: Thoughts on ten years of change and choices

Today, 9/11/2011 is the ten-year anniversary of the collapse of the twin towers after airplanes ran into them. Tributes, memories, and stories have been playing on television on varied stations. It is also a time where can reflect on where at on that day emotionally and where are today. God showed both the illusion of perceived peace of the world as well as His sovereignty. Each person in the United States had to face how he or she perceived safety and some took time to examine relationship with God. God also showed that pride does come before a fall. People thought nothing could ever happen; pride was strong. Then towers fell. Things have changed. Ten years have brought a world more insecurity. There have been wars, financial struggles, and everything shaken. There were cries for change and disillusionment. In addition, whether we like it or not, change happened. Ten years ago the world is not the same as it was, this country and the world is a far different place than it was ten years ago.

For me and my wife, we had been married for just over a year. There were lots of hopes and dreams as we were working on growing together and getting started. It was a strange thing waking up and then learning what happened on the internet. The action shattered the perception of “safety” and awareness of pervading darkness was strong, particularly for my wife. Fears were pervasive. In the midst of that, as we sought God, He gave us a lesson and a promise. The story is found at this previous article https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/reflections-8-years-after-9-11-2001/. Quickly the lesson was twofold. People are bound in darkness, listening to lies and need the truth. The second is that God is aware of the encroaching darkness and is always simply a request away. He will provide safety in the darkest times if one turns to Him in surrender and calls on Him. The promise was personal to the desires of me and my wife with the promise of two children.

Looking back ten years, the promise still stands awaiting fulfillment. In the past ten years, the calling on God in need at times missed; succumbing to the darkness happens easily. Yet, we have changed and grown. We live each day aware of the fragility of this life. The things that have transpired have worked in our lives to shape and change us. We both have areas of needed growth and moving toward overcoming the own things that bind us. We are free in Jesus but He has us work out the healing and growth. It is easy to lose focus and at times, we certainly have; yet God brings us reminders, draws us back, and urges forward on His path. We know that as we walk through life in this dark world there is joy and pain. We can choose to focus on self, and on pain, or walk the path God sets before us. When we follow God’s way, ultimately there is fruit. When we go our own way, we struggle. It is easy to fall into the path of pride. It is easy to embrace unbelief. It is easy to be selfish. Honestly, there have been moments of each. There also was been moments of great change and repentance. Today, we face a challenge to move forward on God’s path. A challenge to trust in God and move forward on the path with what God puts before us. A challenge to spend more time calling on him and be filled with the light of His love. Each day needs to be a day to move forward. He will renew and uplift but there needs to be responsible forward movement while depending on Him. The choice is ours as it has been each day since that fateful day. Either shrink back and be overwhelmed in the encroaching darkness, or to walk in faith taking the steps as God leads. And these choices are not just for me and my wife but for each us. For tomorrow everything can change in a moment.

Every day each of us need to remember the He who promised is faithful. We live in days of encroaching darkness. Things will continue to change. A time is coming when right is called wrong and wrong right, even more than what is in evidence today. People will lose sight of God’s path and walk their own. People will embrace promises of safety that will crash. Some people will embrace illusion and lies. Other will see and speak truth. As much as things have changed, more change is to come. People will either embrace the darkness of find God’s light. As for me and my household, we are seeking and serving the Lord and His way. Take time and reflect where you have been, where you are, and where going. Are you seeking God or seeking self. Walking in God’s light, or lost in the dark. So here is the challenge, seek, examine, and pray. Ask God to show you where may be bound and what you need to turn over to Him. Seek him and move forward in your relationship with God and touching those in the world around you. Each day is a new day and new choice. Move forward or shrink back. Faith or fear. God’s light or chains of darkness. Truth or lies. God’s love or despair. Resistance or surrender. Self-determined path or God’s way. What do you choose?

 

Musing on the Tragic Death of Amy Winehouse

Well yesterday, 7/23/2011, the pop music artist Amy Winehouse died. Sadly, not one person is truly surprised at her death for she was living on borrowed time, long ensnared by addictions to drugs and alcohol. It was simply a matter of time. She continued to use and ultimately she died. Sadly, her one hit was the song “Rehab” which she essentially wrote and sang about her rejecting a plea for her to go to drug rehabilitation. Her is a fact, while Amy’s life and death was tragic and while many can easily sit in judgment over how sick she was and proclaim if only she would get clean, each of us are really no different. When it comes to making changes, we too often protest “No, no, no.” There are things we like, we enjoy that we really just do not want to give up. We resist calls to repentance with the reply “No, no, no.” It takes brokenness and a realization of the truth to move toward change. We all have choices to make. There are many paths to death and destruction beyond the likes of alcohol and drugs. We are selfish and walk paths even with full knowledge that it is not good. We all have trouble embracing changes and turning from the paths of death. Ultimately there is one choice each person needs to make and sadly the refrain there is too often “no, no, no.” And that choice is surrender to the Creator, to Jesus the King of Kings. All to readily the response is “They told me to submit to Jesus” and “I said no, no, no.” See, for the appeal of self-direction and choosing own life, even if well aware of the pain and emptiness with lack of true peace, is alluring. Any life that dies apart from surrender is tragic. It is the path of many, not just Amy Winehouse. It is a sad day that such a hurt and broken soul reached the death point. It is too late for Amy, it is not too late for you. Please do not cry out “No, no, no” any further. This is true even for those who have submitted to Jesus yet God is stirring you to change and let go of areas of sin in your life. Stop saying “no, no, no” and repent, for the rejection only brings more pain. Surrender, say yes, it is worthwhile!

sNews Commentary: Reverend David Wilkerson Dies in Car Accident

 Wow, just learned that David Wilkerson died today in a car accident.  Regardless of what you think of David Wilkerson, He was a man of God and humble servant of our King of Kings.  He no longer faces the suffering of this world and is on to what is ahead, whatever God has for Him.  I remember as a child hearing of the story of Nicky Cruz and the story Cross and Switchblade.   He also was instrumental of the founding of the Christian based alcohol and drug recovery program, Teen Challenge.

Apparently he changed lanes and ran into a trailer truck who tried to move out of his way. His wife apparently is in critical condition, so prayer for her as well. The story of his death can be found http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2011/April/Rev-David-Wilkerson-Killed-in-TX-Car-Crash/.  For updates from his church home go to: http://www.tscnyc.org/pastor_david_wilkerson.php.  Also according to reports his wife was His last words to the church body as a whole were posted on his blog today entitled: When all means fail.   This death today points us all to the temporariness of this life.  Any one of us could die tomorrow. Life is short and but a vapor. It is interesting that Reverend David Wilkerson was posting and talking about dealing with the storms of life and when things do not go the way we think and coping with difficulty, when God called him home as he was focused on sharing those words.  It appears God through David’s death is continuing and emphasizing the message.  God will and is using this death to further bring Him glory.  Now, I do pray for God’s peace to come upon his family and for the church body.  Doing a search on David Wilkerson found an article of his circa 1979 entitled “The Ultimate Healing” that gives a good treatise on death.  Appropriate words to read as he has shed the mortal coil.

One thing we should all do is stop and think and dwell on the words Reverend David Wilkerson spoke challenging the church. He call for Holiness, Repentance, and looking to God and God alone.  Word all his words and actions perfect, nope, he was flawed as we all are, but He loved God. He pursued righteousness. He called others to go deeper in relationship and surrender. 

It seems fitting to include a few video selections that have been posted that call us to deeper surrender to God Almighty.

A Call to Anguish

Full Sermon: Raised From the Dead

News Commentary: Mr. Frank Vennes Jr. Indicted- An Exposed Wolf in Sheeps Clothing

         Soon after this blog was started the Tom Petters ponzi scheme was exposed.  One of the individuals involved in the scheme was Frank Vennes Jr. a professed evangelical who had ties to Teen Challenge, a prison ministry called Charis, and Northwestern College in Minnesota.  The initial article[i] called Mr. Vennes Jr. to task for being a wolf in sheeps clothing and those who knew and supported Mr. Vennes confronted this writer for jumping to conclusions and passing judgment without facts on Mr. Vennes. I recognized that my initial response did come from some anger, but the anger was related to what appeared to be blatant deceit.  The anger was recognized leading to a published apology.[ii] In January of 2010, this writer wondered what did Mr. Vennes actually know and commented about how we all need to stand for truth[iii]. See Mr. Vennes friends and voraciously defended the man and his reputation that doubt was caught on the initial impressions and anger.  It turns out the impression and anger was righteous and justified.

            His friends pointed out the fact that Mr. Vennes was not indicted no did he seem the target of the investigation.  It was that one fact that led to questions. Well, now there are questions no more.  As. Mr. Vennes has now been indicted. Apparently his finances had long ago been seized in relation to the fraud.  Sure, an indictment is not “proof” but the points of the initial articles were relevant and on target. See the question was always whether Mr. Vennes was a man conned, or an integral part of the con.  The current allegations point to his being an integral part of the con.  The Star Tribune article[iv] states that Mr. Vennes is on tape stating the empty warehouses will cause the scheme to “implode” and that the whole thing is “a little paper manufacturing plant.”

            See this shows appearance can be deceiving.  It illustrates that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. If you think you know a person, even had his deep faults confessed, he still can be seeking after that which is crooked and deceiving.  And Mr. Vennes is not really any different that any of us.  Each of us are capable of deceit and betrayal.

            In retrospect, there are lessons to be learned. While caution is always in order, there is righteous judgment and discernment.  The truth can be known without evidence of all the facts. Mr. Vennes is alleged to have actively conned others, and this writer believes that to be true.  He put both Teen Challenge and Northwestern College in positions that impacted them and threatened their existence. The root of the actions and deception was all in order for a handful of people to make a lot of money.

            Another point is no matter how well hidden things seem to be, sooner or later all the deeds in darkness will be exposed. Some, like the Petters scheme will be exposed in this life time before all. But when Jesus returns, every little evil will be brought into open. Nothing hidden! 

            It is also worth noting how easily any of us can be if we operate based on experience.  We think we can know a person, view their actions and conclude they are seeking after pure motives. Yet, there are many like Mr. Vennes or Ananias and Sapphira, or Judas that more is going on then the initial experience. With the disciples, none but Jesus knew what was in his heart, even when he left the last supper, pointed out as a betrayer, the disciples see were unaware of the darkness in his heart. He followed Jesus.  It is due to revelation of the Holy Spirit that Ananias and Sapphira were exposed and brought to death.  Some think that God is cruel for such actions. But it is that deep deception, the deceitful appearance and heart that God knows impacts and corrupts many. Their death was an act of love and righteous wrath. Now, I hope and pray that Mr. Vennes is not like Judas or Annanias and Sapphira. It is not too late for true repentance. However, the man has conned many for a long time and the veracity of anything coming from the man will need to be questioned.  For it is not the appearance of good works that is the fruit of repentance, it is true surrender to Jesus. Mr. Vennes faked it fooling many, but He has been exposed. The story serves as an example for all.  And if there are friends who still seek to defend the man, take it up with the creator, for Mr. Vennes in my mind is a deceiver and wolf in sheeps clothing that fooled many.

Musing on Moss returning to Minnesota: The Joy of the Return

For readers of the blog it should be no secret that this writer is a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. Yesterday was a day that had most Vikings fans feeling good.  It is the day that Randy Moss came home.  Sure, Randy Moss can and will display a selfish attitude.  Yet, when he is motivated he is a wide receiver like no other.  Yesterday’s trade is one that brought feelings of happiness and hope.  The season looked to be headed in the direction of failed expectations, to one of excitement and a desire to see how things play out. The trade was one that uplifted the fan base.

In thinking about the Randy Moss homecoming, thoughts go to how God reacts when we come home.  Each of us at one point or another go our own selfish ways. We leave God’s path and go our own way.  Yet, God always provides a way of return.  When anyone who has been away from God returns, it is a time of great joy and elation.  This is true for all. Each step of return and repentance brings elation and joy.  And unlike the return of Randy Moss, the end result is no.  When anyone returns to God, the victory is already assured.

Obama’s “Christian by Choice”

Recently President Obama made public comments about his faith in response to a question.  Yet, the response shows very limited understanding of essential Christianity and rather points to the same sort of “eternal principles” that echoed throughout Glen Beck’s speech.  He really points to “finding our own” grace, loving others, and finding humility. None of which serve as what is essential to Christianity, which is the true humility of turning to self from God.  Rather it takes the sacrifice of Jesus, trivializes it, and includes in among many paths. So here, President Obama has chosen the “Christian Ethos” from many paths.  Yet his words indicate he is far from Jesus. He is about  the “Imago Dei,” the seeing God in other people and encouraging others to “find their grace.”  The ONLY place grace if found in Jesus. And one can only truly see God in another when they indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Anything else is a twisted, distorted image that has not been straightened. Read the words for your self, let me know what you think.

“I’m a Christian by choice,My family, frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church, so I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. Being my brothers and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

 “But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people, and do our best to help them find their own grace. That’s what I strive to do, that’s what I pray to do every day.’’ Yet he said that as president, he also “deeply believes that part of the bedrock strength of this country is that it embraces people of many faiths and of no faith.’’

“I’m also somebody who deeply believes that part of the bedrock strength of this country is that it embraces people of many faiths and of no faith,”  “This is a country that is still predominantly Christian. But we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists and that their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own.”