Hallelujah

What’s your favorite version of the song Hallelujah? It seems like nearly every popular singer or group has done one from time to time. Since I first heard the song it was an instant favorite, but never did this song hit me quite the way it has in 2020! Who is with me?

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post because…well, because 2020! In fact, after I wrote my last blog, filled with hope and excitement about a new decade and then almost a few weeks later we got the news of Covid 19 and the shut down, I have to say I was sort of in freeze mode or WTF mode as probably was most of the country, even other parts of the world.

And what a year it’s been! I think we’ve gotten to see every side of human nature in the last 5 to 6 months, haven’t we? We’ve seen the people who catastrophize. We’ve seen people who are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. As a therapist, I’ve seen people who believe it’s just gonna blow over really soon and people who think will be dealing with it for a couple of years. I’ve personally known people who have lost family members, and others who think it’s a conspiracy. With all the unrest right now, it’s really difficult to be positive.

We’ve seen the people who believe in conspiracy theories. We see the people who are in denial that it’s even a problem. Meanwhile we see 200,000 Americans dead and political and social unrest. All in all it’s been one hell of a year, and the years not even over yet. I have been thinking for a while about what song could embody 2020. It took me a while, but I arrived at the song ‘Hallelujah’.

The song has a refrain:

🎶 The baffled King composing Hallelujah...🎶 showing us that it’s not uncommon for people to be in disbelief on how their life is playing out, or their reaction to their experience.

I guess it had always been a thing that I’ve wondered how people do; stay joyful through a difficult time? How is that possible? It seems that when those thoughts crossed my mind I wasn’t really aware of the difference between joy and happiness. Isn’t our culture obsessed with being happy? We see coffee mugs and T-shirts and memes and slogans that say things like ‘good vibes only’. I like the way Maya Angelou put it.

So that brings to mind the question; what is the meaning of the word Joy? Joy is not the same as happiness. Our culture is obsessed with being happy. For many it’s a life goal, one that has people living outside of the present, telling themselves, “I’ll be happy when…”. But life was never supposed to be 100 percent happy. Joy is different. Joy is more like a deep abiding. It lies in the realm of authenticity. It is the acceptance of unchosen circumstances over which we have no control or power. It’s an ability to sit in and walk through difficult life experiences with a sense of peace. Allowing us to be present and available for those around us. For me, it’s been a lifelong destination. A practice I’ve begun to hone through desert experiences, rock bottom valleys, and the occasional mountain top view.

Living in America for some people makes it hard to get an accurate view of what life is supposed to look like. For some people 2020 is a struggle, sure, but they’ve been struggling their whole lives. For others 2020 is a big slap in the face for someone who realizes that maybe they really don’t have as much control over their life as they thought they did. Or maybe 2020 is a wake up call for someone who didn’t think racism was a problem, or that a pandemic wasn’t just a chilling movie plot, but something that could affect the entire world.

I do a lot of deep pondering. Not a stretch for an Enneagram 4 who is comfortable in melancholy. And then I heard the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah. The person who recommended it to me has a unique connection to music, but didn’t know about my deep connection to the song. Listening to this version of it for the first time felt like time and space standing still, as I experienced its raw unrefined melody. You see, nothing speaks to me more than live acoustic versions of songs because of their authenticity. The song is like that too though isn’t it? All the ways a person, in this case a man, can go wrong and still end with a bittersweet hallelujah. Whether it’s sung courageously, triumphantly, defeatedly, or barely audible through grief or regret, its a song for every life chapter, inevitable that we’ll hear ringing true if we’re blessed to live a life of any length or magnitude.

🎶 And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
🎶

Regardless of where you stand with how 2020 hit you, it seems reasonable to say that it must have affected you in some way. For me personally, I got to a point where I realized why it’s so important to lay a solid foundation, and to have a contingency plan or to prepare for a future that you don’t have a guarantee will ever happen but realistically know could, or for one you hope for and pain to bring into existence. If 2020 finds you disillusioned Buckley’s version has a verse not found in all versions. It’s one questioning if there is a God above. If you feel that way this year, you aren’t alone.

My hope and prayer for you is that through whatever you are experiencing this year, you will remember God wants us to ask for what we need. Hallelujah!

Song Credit Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah

Continue reading “Hallelujah”

It’s been awhile…

🎶It’s been awhile

since I could hold my head up high 🎶

That’s the opening line from the title song by Staind. I guess you might not expect a blog like mine to include songs with explicit lyrics. So if that offends you, I’m here to say that it’s possible the reason people don’t want to come within a 5 mile radius of a religious establish might be because they listen to songs with explicit lyrics and feel like that makes them judged as less than. And maybe nothing Christians are putting out there is reaching them because they just can’t relate. I’m all about meeting people where they are. That’s how God met Saul on the road to Damascus. Right. Where. He. Was. At.

Everyone likes to focus on the reformed Saul, the man who became Paul, an apostle known as one of the greatest of all Biblical messengers. But I think the thing I like the most about Paul was his humility. He’s the first to admit he was the greatest of sinners. In Paul’s own words:

That’s so relatable to me! I don’t see the need to hide all my past sins under a rug, even though I’m not proud of them. It doesn’t make me more relatable to others to act like I’m sinless, at least not to others who aren’t trying to look more perfect than they really are. Have I lost friends because I was authentic about where I came from and the kind of raw person that I am? Yes, on more than one occasion.

But Jesus cautioned against being fake and acting like you’re perfect when you’re not and he had major beef with the Pharisees who acted like they were perfect, yet who played an important role in his crucifixion. I don’t want to look like a hypocrite.

The other day I heard a song that went like this, “There’s a sign on the door that says ‘Come as you are’ but I doubt it.” (Truth Be Told -Song by Matthew West).

If you feel that way, I don’t blame you. I’ve tried to go to a church and be transparent about my past and found out I couldn’t. They were too legalistic. I felt judged, even excluded. If that has happened to you, I’m sorry.

You see, as a therapist, I feel like we’re all a bit broken. I talk a little bit more about that in another blog post here: Broken

I’ve definitely had days when I felt like I’d screwed things up way past the point of saying “I’m sorry”. As the song goes, there were so many times I felt like:

🎶 And it’s been awhile

Since I’ve gone and

F#%&$@ things up

Just like I always do

And it’s been awhile,

But all that s#%$

Seems to disappear

When I’m with you 🎶

Can you relate, trying to fill that void inside with a person? Somebody who makes you feel good and helps you forget your pain?

In the bridge of the song it says

🎶Why must I feel this way?

Just make this go away

Just one more peaceful day…🎶

You see, physically, I’m a weak person. I’ve really struggled with my health in recent years and just felt so un-usable by God. I just wanted the pain to literally GO AWAY.

I was wrong though. God can use me like this. Because maybe some people aren’t willing to meet you where you are, but God isn’t like that at all. Somehow through my weakness and loss of faith in some of the people and things in the world around me, an unexpected thing happened. My faith grew. Exponentially! People repeatedly let me down. I lost trust in humanity at one point. I became rather cynical.

Then I thought about it. God was true to his word:

All the people that let me down didn’t break me though. I learned to stop putting my faith in people; in relationships, fair weather friends, politicians, leaders. It might be hard to believe, but I can now think about the song “It’s Been Awhile” as me telling God how much I’ve screwed up and hear him say “That’s ok child. Nothing you can ever do will stop me from loving you.” Isn’t that what we all need to hear?

Since it’s been a little over a year since I first launched my blog tRUTHfulonline.com (Copyright 2017) I thought it might be fun to highlight some of my “top hits”. You may have noticed many of the titles of my blog posts are titles to songs. I don’t know if you can relate, but I often have what I like to call “the soundtrack of my life” on loop in my head. Plus I LOVE music! If I’m sad I listen to music, if I’m pumped I listen to music. I sing to my daughter daily at bedtime and during daily routines. I definitely sing in the car. I mean who can resist a jam session with three adorable back up singers? Of course now that my soon to be 12 year old likes to play DJ, I don’t always know the words!

*tRUTHful Greatest Hits*

The Show Must Go On – Queen

Reckless Love – Cory Asbury

Broken – Seether

Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift

Live Like You Were Dying – Tim McGraw

Mama’s Broken Heart – Miranda Lambert

I Will Remember You – Sarah McLachlan

Nothing Else Matters – Metallica You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi

I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash

Give Me Something to Believe In – Poison

(this one is a bit of a teaser because I called in Give Me Something to Believe in, but also referenced Forgiven by Alannis Morissette and Not Guilty by Mandisa)

Poker Face – Lady Gaga

Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Ray

My “album” even has some original tracks:

Old New Blue Jeans – Inspired by a couple of old country songs about Blue Jeans

Taste and See – Inspired by Hillsong/Oceans

Weed Em Out – Inspired by my garden

Burnt Buttermilk Biscuit – inspired by Sir Mix Alot

The Inspiration – inspired by Chicago

I hope you will enjoy checking out my labor of love over the past year. I leave you with my favorite bible verse containing the word Greatest.

So these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭

You Give Love A Bad Name

Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame, You give love a bad name (bad name)…
When I listen to that song I can just feel his anger, and that brings to mind a parallel idea. It’s become very obvious to me that as soon as many people hear the word “Christian” their reaction is one of disgust, anger, maybe even fear or hurt. Damaged by the church and now completely resistant to ANY Christians because of what some people did in the name of Jesus. Begin to mention your spirituality and they respond,”Nope, I know the likes of you and I’m not interested”.
So sad that this has all happened in what was supposed to be the name of Love!
     The Free dictionary defines Christian as an adjective: Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus, especially in showing concern for others.
There’s also a definition that describes a Christian as: One who lives according to the teachings of Jesus. 
Jesus had a lot of teachings but I think the most basic is this:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NIV‬‬ http://bible.com/111/jhn.13.34-35.niv

IMG_7794
photo credit Alexandria Bouillon http://alexandriabouillon.zenfolio.com/

But what if they can’t tell because they aren’t getting “LOVE” from you?  Can you blame them for not wanting to hear what you have to say?
     I overheard a conversation where two people were talking about how the world is so much worse now and how we are clearly in a bad time to be living. I was sitting there thinking that I am excited about the moves many people are making to love everyone regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation or political philosophy.
Isn’t that what Jesus said to do?!?
If we really want to represent Christianity to others, we aren’t going to be successful by coming up with a long list of rules and judgementally wagging our fingers when we see people doing things that are different.
     It’s cliché now and people may laugh when they hear it, but I still like the adage “WWJD:What Would Jesus Do?”
 I mean, Jesus mixed with all sorts of people, shunned no one, welcomed everyone, labored tirelessly, and made the ultimate sacrifice. What a cool dude!
So, what’s wrong with displaying kindness, tolerance, and grace to others?
If anyone judges you for loving others that is their issue, NOT yours.
I mean, it’s not a club.  WE don’t get to decide who is worthy of salvation based on what WE think is right or wrong.  And representing Christianity that way makes it sound exclusive when its meant to be ALL INCLUSIVE!
     The great thing I think about being a follower of Christ for me is that gives me the freedom to love others without judging them. Why? Because it simply isn’t my job. Nope. And I recall a great quote by one of the greatest women to ever walk out Christianity, Mother Theresa, when she said,”If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
I find this to be a very freeing concept.
What a great legacy to live and teach my children. I can think of no better compliment than if on my gravestone the words “Known for love” Were inscribed.
     If you want to look at it from a psychological standpoint, lets explore the idea of unconditional positive regard. What it means is that you respect the person as a human being and give them the same kind of dignity you would like to receive. Basically assuming that everyone you meet is likely fighting some sort of battle and give them the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the best they can with what they have. What most people want from us is just to be heard and understood.  They are probably dealing with their own internal thoughts and what they probably need more than anything is a smile. Not a solution such as “You need Jesus”  (interpreted as judgement) or a solution to their problem.
 As Christians, we are told “Love your neighbor”. And who is your neighbor?
EVERYONE is your neighbor.
     Being a Christian holds me to a higher standard than just liking people who are like me; that’s easy and anyone can do that. Personally, I find it enlightening when I take the time to look at something from a perspective different from my own, and gaining new understanding helps me to apply the concept of appreciating everyone, even if they do not think like I do. Finally I know my “job” as a Christian is to love others, and I leave the rest up to God.  I challenge you to do the same.
And because I know the song that inspired my title will put you in a good mood, check it out here: Bon Jovi – You Give Love A Bad Name
Photo Credit: Love One Another by Alexandria Bouillion http://alexandriabouillon.zenfolio.com/

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