Penny and I were enjoying breakfast at our hotel on Iona, when one of the guests asked, "Did you hear that Michael Jackson's dead?"
For days thereafter, the entertainer's death was about the only news the British media reported from America.
I'm saddened by Jackson's tragic death. And tragic life.
He was talented, to be sure, but also tormented by demons. The media reported that he was addicted to drugs, including painkillers, following a stage accident several years ago.
I think he was addicted to something else: celebrity.
From a very early age, Jackson was in the spotlight, performing in front of thousands of fans, applauded for his considerable talent.
Who wouldn't get a rush from such attention? Who wouldn't want more of it? Jackson did. At the time of his death, he was preparing for a come-back concert in London.
Something in him needed the audience's praise, even adoration.
We Americans live in a celebrity-suffused culture. We read about celebrities in supermarket tabloids. We watch America's Got Talent and American Idol and dream of our "15 minutes of fame," as Andy Warhol put it.
But seeking celebrity in the way that so many stars do, including Jackson, is like any other addiction, and addiction is a disease process that results in death, unless it's stopped.
The person addicted to celebrity needs increasing amounts of this drug to sustain his or her high. And he or she devotes more and more time and energy to getting that drug, even at great personal cost.
The addicted person believes that celebrity is the only thing that will elevate him or her above the ordinary, bringing value and happiness.
Without fame, there is only nothingness, the celebrity-seeker reasons.
And yet celebrity only disappoints. It's an idol in that sense. It delivers only emptiness, hollowness of soul. And in extreme cases, death.
Watch the film, The Wrestler, and see how the pursuit of celebrity slowly erodes a man's relationships, isolates him, and ultimately kills him.
People can and do recover from addictions, including to celebrity, when they acknowledge their addiction, surrender their lives to their Higher Power or God, and commit themselves to recovery.
The Good News is that we don't have to become celebrities in the People magazine sense to have value and to be loved. We're already celebrities. Real ones in God's eyes.
At our creation, Genesis says, God declares us good, very good. Our goodness is in our creation.
And God shows us that He loves us and that we're inherently lovable in Jesus Christ--through His ministry, on the cross, and in His resurrection from the grave.
God pours His love into our hearts in the Holy Spirit.
Nothing, the apostle Paul says, will ever separate us from God's love for us in Jesus Christ. Not sin. Not death. Nothing at all.
To know real celebrity, and the happiness and contenment that come with it, we have only to acknowledge that we're God's beloved children. And live as His children in relationship with Him.
I pray for Michael Jackson, that now, in the presence of God in Heaven, he knows that he is good, is loved,and is at peace.