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.

Musings on a Night at the Orchestra

This weekend I had the pleasure of spending some time at the Minnesota Orchestra at an inside the classics concert featuring music of Maurice Ravel.  In particular, the concert included orchestration from Chloe and Daphnis and the music poem, La Valse.  The evening was educational and intriguing. The music of Maurice Ravel is unique. He uses complex harmonics, repetition of simple strands of music, and gradual building to a full crescendo in his orchestration. An a piece composed by Maurice Ravel, there are groups of instruments that have specific sounds that make up the whole, and within that group the instruments may very differently with complex harmonics contributing to the whole of the sound. 

In terms of the way Maurice Ravel puts music together, my thoughts go to the similarity of how the body of Christ, the Church, is supposed to function.  We all have gifts and talents. Those talents all several similar functions but may differ slightly.  Each gift serves a role.  And just as in any orchestration, any one piece can be critical to the whole sound, so it is in the body, what each of us have is crucial to what God intends. It may not seem like much to the naked eye but to God it is crucial.  In fact, the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that it is the parts that seem inglorious that are indispensable. A piece of Ravel orchestration highlights how that plays when one sound deviation can be key element to the overall sound intended.

The night at the Orchestra also illustrated another brought my mind to another key point.  The element brought up is that of distraction.   During the performance there was a family in front of us with a couple children, a brother and sister, close to each other in age.  The children were having difficulty attending to the music and the father had fallen asleep during the music.  Well, one thing led to another and the family ended up engaging in behavior that served as a distraction for others. There were those who attended the concert with me and who love classic music but were distracted by the behaviors of those in attendance.  The thought comes to mind is that is often the points where we are being selfish, disengaged, or purposefully disruptive that can distract others from attending to the true picture of the good news of the Gospel.  It does not take much to distract others and we maybe oblivious to the disruption we cause others, but rest assured that disruption happens. Now, rest assured there were consequences for varied members of the distracting family, and in the same way, there are consequences that occur for each of us when we distract from the Gospel, for God does discipline those we love and some times what we say or do greatly impacts the perspective and views of others.