Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Michael Jackson: The Magic & the Madness (book review)

Michael Jackson: The Magic & the Madness (Author: J. Randy Taraborrelli)

I woke up one morning to the memories of the King of Pop being recalled over radio – Michael Jackson. Even before I heard the words announcing his death, my mind asked the question... and then it was confirmed: “Michael Jackson is dead at age 50.”

For some very strange reason I felt such a sadness about this. I came across a biography about his life and decided to find out more about the man. How did he become who he was?

The magic and the madness is a good description, depending on what your definition is of “magic”. “Madness” there was plenty of!

In general I thought that the book was well written. The author has befriended Michael as a young boy, before fame and fortune. He had become rather well acquainted with many of those who were sources for the book. I thought that he gave a lot of attention to quote as accurately as he could, or merely referring to it, indicating that it was according to close friend/relative/etc. He creates the impression that he wanted to write with integrity and I think it rightfully resulted in him creating the kind of work that the Daily Mail described as “The most authoritative book ever written about Michael Jackson”.

I enjoyed the photographs that were included in the book, even though rather limited for the life of Michael Jackson. Sadly there are simply too many, but the ones included gave good visual meaning to the story (people and events) as written about in this book.

In a few ways I thought that Michael was a brilliant talent – such phenomenal creative ability – and yet in more ways I thought that Michael was broken, lonely, wounded, scarred for life. He never seem to have found out what real love is, yet he yearned for it all his life, and he tried to give it as best as he knew how. But how do you give something that you don’t have...? His pursuit of it, though, cost him dearly, and much more than could ever be measured in currency.

Around the three quarter mark the events became a little repetitive. You almost didn’t care that it was millions anymore, because virtually everything was millions in Michael’s life. The only thing that started being of any significance was how many millions – whether a record deal, earnings from record sales or other sources, concert tickets sold, spending OR paying to settle a law suit of some sort.

One has to be so careful not to pass judgement, but I thought his life story one of brokenness and tragedy. By the time he was thirty five he had made his fair share of mistakes, but then he made a fatal one: he started repeating them. One can’t know whether he was unable to learn from his mistakes, or whether he plainly and stubbornly refused to do so. Either way it still cost him dearly. Almost ironic that he had spent so much in pursuit of love and acceptance and yet never seem to have found it – not the real McCoy anyway.

The fact that he never seem to be able to even love and accept himself created quite the challenge for the little bit of joy and happiness that he experienced doing the one thing that he was brilliant at: his music and performing. Being perfect is a heavy burden to bear; when nothing is ever quite good enough... and yet, in the eyes of the world he was the “King of Pop”!

The best description of Michael, I thought, was “man child”. For the kind of life that he lived I can understand how one would feel a yearning to never grow up; how Neverland could be your ‘heaven’ and Peter Pan your hero.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hebrews and the honeymoon phase

Long term relationships are a big focus in my life in this season. They are the kind in which you have fights and disagreements and you don’t, or can’t, just walk away. They are the kind where you have to learn to be vulnerable and honest; to learn to work it out. You need to be willing to change and grow together all the time if you want your relationship to be lasting and fulfilling. They are the kind that I have never been good at.

My relationship with the Lord is one like that, except that He is always right. I always smile when I think, “Thank God, He’s perfect, because if it wasn’t for that, our relationship would never have come this far. Where would we be if He had hang-ups and baggage like me? I’m grateful that He is perfect enough for both of us.”

Unfortunately relationships become imperfect the moment imperfect humans become involved, but thankfully all hope is not lost.

Quite recently the Lord and I haven’t quite been on speaking terms. I felt angry and disappointed and it was hard for me to be close with Him. But God knows all about long term relationships and He knows all about me. In the process of mending me and us, He showed me Hebrews 3:14: For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. It made me think of the early days of our relationship.

When you first fall in love you want nothing but to spend time together, doing everything together. You almost lose sight of all your other friends, your hobbies, etc. (even if just temporarily). These things simply seem to fade into the background while you have only one focus: each other.

Then you decide to get married and things simply seem perfect. Each one puts his best foot forward. You look deep into each other’s eyes, you are sincerely interested and you listen intently. You make a big fuss over every special occasion and every anniversary; you buy gifts and flowers for no reason, guys open the car door and pull out the chair at the table. Neither seems to be capable of saying or doing anything wrong and you shower each other with devout love and affection. Everything seems like moonshine and roses. This season of seeming ‘perfection’ is often referred to as the honeymoon phase. But then the inevitable happens: life.

The bills need to be paid, work is stressful, it sometimes demands some overtime, one comes home feeling tired or upset (or both) and you don’t necessarily whisper words of love and kindness. Feelings get hurt and misunderstandings happen. Special occasions that once would never go unnoticed, might be forgotten, even if only once...

All of the misunderstandings, disagreements and hurting is not easy to deal with when you’ve promised to be faithful till death do you part. These deep relationships in our lives are not that easily tossed out of the window and just forgotten about. They are the ones in which we love passionately and also feel passionate hurt and anger when things don’t quite go according to plan. This partner becomes the closest person to your heart and then they become the same person who has the ability to hurt you most in that deep special place where it matters most. How do you walk on without walking away...?

I’m learning that in these times the best thing you can do is to work it out in love!

Staying put takes a lot of courage when all you want to do is run away. These are the times to communicate when you least feel like it. These are the times to give the benefit of the doubt when you so badly want the person to be guilty so that they can owe you emotionally. These are the times when feelings of guilt have to be off loaded and forgiveness has to uploaded. These are the times when mercy and grace becomes real to us when we realize that we had disappointed and disobeyed many times, and on the other side of it we had found grace and forgiveness from a loving heavenly Father.

It is the worst feeling when you’ve been wrong and there is NO WAY you can change or reverse it. How do you go on when you can’t turn back the clock even when you desire to do so with all your heart, and you are at the mercy of the one that you hurt; the same one that you love with all your heart?

There have been times when I’ve been through difficult experiences with God when I felt so much anger and shame that all I wanted to do was run. There’s been many of those times that I felt as if God and I have been shut away in a room, just the two of us, isolated from the world outside. In my mind’s eye I’ve always imagined this little girl sternly folding her arms over her chest and sitting in the furthest corner of the room, with her back turned, openly displaying her hostility. She has decided, “Alright, I will s-i-t, but I’m doing nothing else!”

However, in these images I could never imagine God any other way than having such indescribable love, patiently waiting for me to be ready so that we could work it out. In the end I’ve always come around, we’ve always worked it out, I’ve always grown richer for the experience, and I’ve always felt a deeper connection with the Lord because He was so willing to love me despite of my imperfection and issues. I don’t think it is humanly possible to resist God’s perfect love, even if you try to do so for a while. It breaks through all your defenses. His love is relentless.

In this difficult place with the Lord Hebrews 4:6 helped me remember just how much I actually love the Lord and how that was more important than the issue that I was angry about. The Lord showed me why I was angry and how we need to mend the brokenness. I had to make the decision to put the anger aside and to allow my love to be stronger, and also to allow myself to be loved. I had to choose to let love be bigger than my anger.

Being separated from the one(s) you love most is just as painful as the hurtful experience that you’ve had with them. Even more heartbreaking is when you see the person’s remorse and you know that there is nothing they can do to fix things – there is nothing they can do to fix you – how can we hold it against them still and refuse to forgive and reconcile? In the end we hurt ourselves even more when we push away so that we cannot be hurt again. In the end we are the only ones sitting alone behind the brick walls that we erect.

I’m learning to say, “Lord, all I want to do is withdraw, but I know that it is not the way forward. Give me the courage to forgive. Give me the courage to overcome, and mend the brokenness. Give me the grace that I don’t ruin all the good for the few bad. Teach me to love like You. Teach me to forgive like the many times you’ve forgiven me. Teach me to never position myself where I cannot receive Your unconditional love for me, Lord.”

All things come to an end, but love goes on forever. God’s definition of love resonates in my heart as I decide to go on that ‘second honeymoon’... 1 Cor 13:4-7: Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when other do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him...

There are three things that remain – faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:13)

Just because it is not perfect, does not mean it is not (can not be) beautiful!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

For but by His grace there go I...

For the past week I’ve been feeling such anger and frustration towards God. I don’t hear a lot of people feel this way about God, and I felt guilty because I dare did. The guilt did however not change how I felt or why.

Actually I didn’t really know why I was feeling this way.

I knew it had to do with a decision that I’ve made three months ago – a choice I felt was in obedience to a request from God; a choice that took (and would take a lot more) faith. I got out of a proverbial boat in my life. Now, three months down the line, it is not that exciting for me anymore. Instead I have started feeling subtle feelings of inadequacy, of being flawed. I began feeling like I was failing at the whole ‘thing’ of having faith. Then it progressed to feeling like I was failing at everything. I was busy letting God down...

I felt angry because I’ve been trying soooo hard, and it was as if God just wasn’t ‘coming to the party’. If nothing else, I needed Him to tell me why I had to step out of the boat three months before. I felt like I was slipping, and He couldn’t care to speak to me about what the hell I was doing, or where I was going. I didn’t take this step knowing all the answers. I took it because I thought God had a plan, and now, after all this time, I still didn’t know what it was.

I felt hurt and lost, as if God has just left me to my own devices. I felt lonely, deserted in the middle of nowhere; I felt forsaken, even though I know that God says He will never ever do that. I felt disappointed nonetheless.

At first I didn’t want to lead God on to thinking that something was wrong. Imagine that! Not wanting God – who knows everything – to know that something was wrong with me! I felt like I wanted to hide my failure from Him. With all my heart I didn’t want to disappoint Him and be like the Israelites who didn’t get their promised land. In my mind I dare not fail. More than anything I desire to see God’s plan for my life to be fulfilled, and now that He needed me to believe I was falling flat on my face.

Some of the promises that have been in my heart I’ve received as long as 12 years ago. Many days I’ve wondered whether I have not already ‘missed the boat’. Had I not taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way before and I was never going to live those promises anywhere in the future? I have often felt this anxiousness, and I really feel like this is a determining time in my life, and I was not ‘cutting’ it.

I eventually felt so frustrated that I wanted to swing my fist at God, shouting “speak to me, damit!” I started asking, “Did I do something wrong? Why are you ignoring me?” All the while I felt like I had really tried my best. There is nothing more that I could think of and still I didn’t have what I thought I needed: for God to tell me what I’m supposed to do next. (Along the way God had spoken to me about various things, but not the one thing I wanted to hear, therefore I felt that He was not speaking to me at all!)

In the midst of lying face down in the mud I became merciless towards myself – no room for error – and I basically viewed it as if that is how God was looking at me. I failed at having ‘enough faith’ and now I was angry at God for it.

Because of my perfection I find it very hard to make right with God. Isn’t it just more simple if you behave in such a way that you don’t have to apologize – I suppose in a perfect world this would be true – but the world is not perfect, is it?
In my relationship with God I felt like an old married couple who had an ugly fight. Initially I wasn’t quite on ‘speaking terms’ with God, but eventually I realized that I would rather swallow my pride and mend our relationship – l loved Him too much, and I missed Him, no matter how much it hurt.

So I came near the only way I know how: real and honest (asking that God would show me what the real reason for my anger towards Him was), and He did.
Works of the flesh equals frustration (Joyce Meyer). I have been trying really hard.... in my own strength.

I felt like He had abandoned me, but all along I was on my own ‘faith mission’, trying so hard, that I didn’t really involve Him anymore. We weren’t doing it together. He says that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. He never expected me to do it on my own...

I wasn't just obeying God anymore. I was trying to earn God’s showing me the details of His plan, like winning a prize. It was me pushing too hard, demanding too much. God is all too well aware of the fact that I have limitations. Was I going to be humble enough to admit it to myself, and ask for God’s help? Imagine not wanting to tell God that you’re struggling because He might think less of you. Where on earth (on anywhere else in the universe) would you expect to go for help?! At this point I realized that it was actually very serious.

But watching the way in which God has again lovingly corrected me – not with condemnation – just amazes me again how much He cares. I cannot resist love like that. I don’t want to. Instead I want to be as close to it as I possibly can – not for trying to earn it, but for accepting that He knows I’m not perfect and He is still accepting of me like no one else can or will ever be!!

Lord, forgive me for being so proud and wanting to be so strong and able, even for You, that I would think that I need to do things without You. Without You I am nothing. How can I even remotely feel or think otherwise. Forgive me for trying on my own. Help me to walk this road with You – together. Give me enough faith that we might achieve whatever it is that You have in mind with this journey. Help me to remember that Your grace is sufficient for me, and that it shows up best in my weakness; to remember that it is not about me being fallible/imperfect, but about You being glorified in me and through me as God, and that nothing can separate me from Your love!